Barbie Review

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike Barbie wouldn’t exist.

There is a moment in Barbie where Barbie asks someone if she can be something and the person replies “You do not need me to tell you what to be.” I’m paraphrasing and being vague because it is a great moment in the film but I don’t want to give anything away. This moment encapsulates the meaning of Barbie and the movie. As a parent we want our children to have any career they want to have but sometimes society only sees them as one thing and prevents them from following their true passions.

While the Barbie movie seems like it’s going to be full of singing and dancing, it is not. There are some good dance numbers, “I’m Just Ken” comes to mind, but the movie is deeper than just bright-colored sets and outfits. What happens to Margot Robbie’s Barbie, known as Sterotypical Barbie, is she has an existential crisis when an outside source changes the way they feel about her. Barbie’s perfect world starts crumbling down and she has to go into the real world to try to correct it.

Ken, Ryan Gosling, decides to tag along with Barbie because he wants to prove to her that he is more than “Beach”. (Trust me. That will make sense once you see the movie.) In Barbieland, Ken’s are second-class citizens and are not part of the patriarchy. All the key roles belong to other Barbies and the Kens are just there to hang out with and are not taken seriously. Does this sound vaguely familiar? It’s almost like something that we see every day in our world.

MARGOT ROBBIE as Barbie in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

What happens in the real world is that Barbie is shown the truth about what her image has done to women. Meanwhile, Ken learns that men are taken seriously here and wants to share what he has learned with the other Kens. This causes a chain of events that Barbie must rectify with her newfound friends, Gloria, America Ferrera, and Sasha, Ariana Greenblatt.

(L-r) RYAN GOSLING as Ken and MARGOT ROBBIE as Barbie in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Halfway through the film, we get an impassioned speech by Gloria (America Ferrera) that point blank shows the struggles and the duality of women. Women have to act a certain way or else they will be seen in a certain way. This is a stand-up and applaud moment but it also shows how all of these issues are projected onto the Barbie doll itself. This is the moment that Greta Gerwig shows us that this movie is about more than a doll. This movie is about how perceived notions of each other either hold us back or move us forward. This is also the moment that Barbie realizes what is her purpose in life and wakes up to realize perfection is not always the answer.

Final Thoughts: Barbie is a great insight into the duality of women’s lives and how it is all projected on this doll. The theme of living your perceived role and how you can elevate yourself may be too much for certain viewers who expect this to be a movie just about a doll. Greta Gerwig masterfully uses the symbol of Barbie to show that being perfect is not all that you expect it to be.

Kid-Friendly: Some of the topics covered in the movie might go over the head of younger viewers. There is some suggestive language amongst the Kens when talking about “Beaching each other off” and when Barbie and Ken go into the real world and men use cheesy pick-up lines on Barbie

Violence: There is no violence in the movie. There is a fight between the Kens that is more of a choreographed dance than a fight.

To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken.

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