This article contains spoilers
It’s safe to say that Barbie has taken the world by storm. With a marketing campaign seemingly tinging everything pink, it has been hard to avoid the buzz surrounding the highly anticipated film. Try googling ‘Barbie’ and even your screen will turn pink and sparkly (seriously, try it!).
I recently joined the masses of people donning pink garments and heading to the cinema to see what all the thrill was about. After intentionally trying to avoid spoilers myself, I went into the film not knowing what to expect at all.
I assumed it would be a wholesome trip down memory lane to sitting on the floor of my very pink childhood bedroom, playing with my Barbies in their Barbie Jeep. In reality, what I watched was a film that perfectly encapsulated how it feels to be a woman in this day and age, and that is exactly why I loved it. Wrapped in a blanket of comedy, the film got deep and incredibly meaningful, taking our childhood icon and transforming her into a feminist figure validating our current experiences of womanhood. Director Greta Gerwig explores the two ends of the Barbie-spectrum, playing with both the glorification and the criticism of Mattel’s Barbie brand.
With the film already surpassing the $1 billion dollar mark at the box office, I think it is safe to say that many people have already seen the breakout film. But, in case you haven’t had the opportunity yet I want to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but there is some important context you need to know:
We first join ‘stereotypical Barbie’ (played by Margot Robbie) in the pink and perfectly plastic world of Barbie Land. In this world, surrounded by her Barbie friends and subsequent Ken’s, Barbie is under the impression that they have changed the world for the better for women. Their diversity and impressive range of careers have supposedly shown real-world girls that they can be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do. They rule the world. But things soon start to change when Barbie starts to have somewhat of an existential crisis (including the addition of sudden flat feet and cellulite, of course) and is forced to head to the real world to find her owners and get to the bottom of her new feelings.
If you’ve read some of my other articles on Inspire the Mind, you would be no stranger to the fact that women’s safety is something I am very passionate about. I loved the touches in this film that summarised so well the contrast to the male experience as Barbie and Ken first hit the real-world rollerblading across the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Ken (portrayed by Ryan Gosling) starts to realise that he has more of a place as a man in the real world, where men appear to have a lot of power; while Barbie is immediately placed in unease with leering looks, catcalling, and sexual harassment in stark comparison.
Along the way, Barbie meets owner Gloria (America Ferrera) and her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) ultimately learning the root of her new emotions. What stood out to me most was one moment in particular. In fact, the very moment I decided to write this article. While Barbie is struggling with feelings of inadequacy, feeling that she is not good enough for anything or to be interesting, Gloria, our real-world woman, steps in with a monologue perfectly detailing the push and pull of womanhood. The expectations vs reality. The struggle of feeling like we should be doing things a certain way, but also never feeling like we are getting it right.
“It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.
You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.
I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”
The monologue shared a reality of societal pressure and the impact it can have on us, and was almost cathartic to many who have heard it and resonated so much.
I won’t spoil the rest of the film for you, but it channelled all of this frustration and put it back in our hands, uplifting us with a sense of empowerment and togetherness that was very much needed. While the contrast between the perfect bubble of Barbie Land may seem stark in comparison to the reality of the real-world above without the context of the rest of the film, Gerwig shows us the best parts of being real women in the real-world ending with a prominent line,
“I want to be a part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that is made.”