About 10 years ago, in the basement of the Momany household, sat one of my most prized possessions: my Barbie Dreamhouse.
I have two sisters, and over the course of our childhood we grew quite an impressive Barbie collection complete with dolls, clothing, shoes and accessories. So when the first trailer for “Barbie,” directed by Oscar-nominee Greta Gerwig, was released in December, I couldn’t wait to buy my ticket.
And I did buy tickets, for three different showings only 48 hours apart.
Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, is the stereotypical blonde-haired doll who lives in a dreamhouse and hangs out at the beach all day. She flirts with Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, and has dance parties and sleepovers with the other Barbies.
In Barbie’s world, there is a female president (Issa Rae), an all-female Supreme Court, female construction workers, etc. Everything in her world is perfect, until there is a breach between the human world and the doll world, and it’s up to Barbie to fix it.
Barbie and Ken travel through the continuum and experience the harsh realities of the “real world,” also known as California. There, they are met with a crude truth that men dominate everything, including business, politics and construction.
Barbie finds her human owners Gloria (America Ferrera) and Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), and they return to Barbie Land, but they are met with a terrible surprise: Ken has established the “patriarchy.”
The Barbies that once were president, doctors and lawyers are now serving and attending to their Kens. It’s up to Barbie to restore Barbie Land, but throughout the process she discovers who she really is — and spoiler alert, it’s more than just a plastic doll in a really cute outfit.
Gerwig, who previously directed “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” has been vocal in press that this movie was a passion project for her, which led to the precision in small details from costumes to the casting.
I found Gerwig’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity throughout the film refreshing. Although the first Black Barbie didn’t come out until the ’80s, “Barbie’s” cast includes actors and actresses from a variety of racial backgrounds.
Gerwig also includes visibility for women with disabilities as a Barbie in a wheelchair is spotlighted during one of the dance parties. Barbies with a variety of body shapes and sizes are also included, despite common criticism that Barbie promotes unrealistic body standards.
Although I think there can always be room for improvement, specifically with the lack of LGBTQ+ representation, it is hard to disagree that Gerwig created an avenue for women of diverse audiences to be seen.
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Where Mattel’s representation may have lacked in the past, Gerwig’s movie makes up for it, but I have to say one of the most enjoyable parts of “Barbie” was its commitment to the franchise's history.
The second time I saw the movie, I went with my younger sister and my mom, and throughout the movie we pointed out some of the Barbies and accessories we had that were in the movie. Our impressive Barbie collection was confirmed by the amount of times we said, “We had that!” (I sincerely apologize to the people sitting around us).
From my mom, who owned Barbie’s sister Skipper and Totally Hair Barbie, to my sister and me, who owned everything from stereotypical Barbies to weird Barbies, there was a much appreciated tone of nostalgia. We even had the video camera Barbie and Weird Barbie’s dog.
As if the star-studded cast and attention to detail wasn’t enough, the accompanying soundtrack practically makes the movie the success it is. From Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s “Barbie World”, a twist on Aqua’s famous “Barbie Girl,” to Lizzo’s “Pink,” the soundtrack follows the lighthearted, upbeat tone of the movie. Other highlights include Colombian singer KAROL G’s “WATATI” and Billie Eilish’s breathtaking song “What Was I Made For?”
But with the music, cast and nostalgia aside, what truly made this movie a hit for me was its theme of female independence and “girlboss” nature.
To help reprogram the Barbies to reclaim Barbie Land, Ferrera’s character delivers a powerful monologue about the societal expectations women are traditionally taught to uphold. She ends with arguably the best line in the entire two hour film:
“I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us.”
The first time I saw the movie, the entire theater broke out into applause.
When I was a little girl playing with Barbie, I could make her anything I wanted her to be. She inspired girls at a young age to become doctors, lawyers and even construction workers. Despite criticisms of materialism and sexualization, it is undeniable the societal contributions Barbie has had in the modern feminist movement.
And Barbie didn’t just inspire me. She inspired my mom and my aunt and my grandma. Barbie’s impact is generational.
But despite the film’s feminist overtones, Gerwig warns against one gender prevailing over the other. When the Barbies ruled Barbie Land, the Kens had no sense of identity, and the opposite was true when the Kens ruled the land.
In order for both to thrive, there has to be mutual respect. The overarching theme of Gerwig’s film isn’t female independence, although that does play a part. It’s about equality — something in which women have historically fallen short in comparison to men.
However, if you aren’t looking for a film that will spark a societal revolution in your femininity, "Barbie" still fits the criteria of a fun, lighthearted summer movie.
On my third watch, I didn’t think too hard about it. I just sat in my seat, watching as people clamored into the theater decked out in pink, and enjoyed a truly great movie.