Can someone please give Barbie a hamburger?
'Barbie' got us thinking about what it means to be human, but is this summer's blockbuster really all that feminist?
Hi, readers! Have you seen “Barbie” yet? If you haven’t (and don’t want any spoilers), you’ll want to hold onto this week’s newsletter until after you’ve seen it.
But if you have seen “Barbie” — or are simply curious to read some thoughts on the biggest movie of the year — read on…
Before I launch into some observations and a few critiques about the film, I want to say that, overall, I did like the movie and am grateful that director Greta Gerwig convinced Mattel to make a movie that so directly, if flatly, addresses “the patriarchy” and even makes fun of the company that created the Barbie empire.
So, I want to start with the Barbie world I grew up in.
As a cisgender white woman who grew up in America in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I was one of those tomboy girls who felt pressured to play with — and in many ways, be — this ultra-thin, straight-haired doll that I didn’t really identify with. I might have achieved things that Barbie told me I could achieve, but I felt terrible about my body (and hair) while doing it.
The movie helped me see just how ground-breaking Barbie was when it launched because it gave little girls something to play with other than a baby, and that certainly helped the feminist movement expand young women’s imaginations about what they could be.
Of course, the physical ideal of how those young girls should be didn’t really shift much over the years, even as Barbie added physically diverse dolls and dolls who were not white.
I was surprised that the movie addressed these tensions and anxieties, but it didn’t really do much to push us beyond naming them.
The movie, unfortunately, took too many pages from the “girls rule, boys drool” playbook. Kens and Barbies were divided along a gender binary that feels frustrating to a woman who exists outside the strictly femme space. I wanted to see short-haired professional athlete Barbies who would never wear heels. I wanted to see Kens who paint their fingernails. I wanted to see one of the Kens become a Barbie or vice versa.
But mainly, I wanted to see Barbie eat.