Pollyanna Roberts delights in the magic of director Greta Gerwig, also noting how the perhaps ‘obvious’ feminist message unfortunately still rings very true.
Greta Gerwig is a master of creativity, with a feminist punch to all her work and characters that are both raw and complex. When I found out Gerwig was combining her skills to direct a film about the worldwide plastic sensation that is Barbie, I was enthralled and extremely curious as to what was to come. Like most people, I had no idea what to expect with this upcoming film- but I knew to trust in Greta.
Barbie stars Margot Robbie as the titular character and, I must admit, this was perfect casting (Robbie is our Barbie dream girl). It begins in Barbieland, where all the Barbie and Ken dolls live harmoniously in this ‘perfect’ pink bubble and the Barbies do everything. The Barbies are the doctors, the lawyers and even make up the Presidential cabinet. The Barbies believe that Barbie dolls have solved gender inequality in the real world- their delusion is admirable and offers a respite from the very much unsolved sexism in our reality. When Barbie (Robbie) starts to experience depressing thoughts of death and (god-forbid) cellulite, she must enter the real world and find the owner of her doll-self and fix the problem. Her journey into the real world, with her friend-zoned Ken (Ryan Gosling) by her side makes for an entertaining sequence. All the transitions were made with real artwork, rather than special effects. I loved learning this detail and it made me appreciate the film production a lot more.
The Barbies believe that Barbie dolls have solved gender inequality in the real world- their delusion is admirable and offers a respite from the very much unsolved sexism in our reality.
The film holds a truthful, gut-wrenching message and wraps it in pink bows and pink dresses. At points the film made me audibly laugh, such as when Barbie relies on a construction site in the real world for ‘girl power’, or when she downright refuses to take the Birkenstock sandal and enter the real world in the first place. Gerwig is witty and has created a piece of film that is accessible to everyone.
However, the feminist message wasn’t anything fresh (women have been well aware that they are constantly straddling double standards for quite a while now), in fact, it was quite surface-level. Yes, America Ferrera’s speech was emotional and touching and I agreed with everything she said, but it was everything I already knew. Perhaps this was done as an introduction to feminism for younger audiences, but, as someone well aware of why feminism is so important, more could have been said. Yet, Gerwig did include more subtle hints of sexism that have a larger meaning if someone were to investigate them. For example, when Barbie gets arrested in the real world, for the first time in her leotard, the police officers (who are meant to represent safety and security) are openly objectifying her as she stands before them, getting her fingerprints taken. Only moments later, when arrested for the second time, those same officers are commenting further on her body and how they can see more of her. It is disgusting and highlights something seriously wrong with the world. If we cannot trust the people trained to protect us, how can we trust anyone? Subtle moments like this are what made Barbie a bit darker, moving beyond the pink perfection.
The film holds a truthful, gut-wrenching message and wraps it in pink bows and pink dresses.
Gerwig’s casting was phenomenal. As stated before, Robbie was an excellent choice for Barbie. She is the perfect Barbie. I loved how the narrator broke the fourth wall and addressed Gerwig’s casting choice; there is something quite frustrating watching Robbie claim she isn’t pretty enough. Her smile is contagious, and when it begins to falter, you feel the pain in the audience. Her naivety is gut-wrenching as she gets a severe reality check in the real world. Ryan Gosling was a magnificent Ken, and I thought it was incredibly clever how he essentially ‘fell’ for the patriarchy in the real world and wanted to take it home with him to Barbieland. His ‘himbo’ nature was a perfect caricature for a real problem where men seem unable to be satisfied with a second-rate position when that’s the card women have been dealt for centuries. America Ferrera was also brilliant, and her raw honesty and emotions were trademark Gerwig, which I’m a sucker for. Her relationship with her daughter was a story arch that was immersive and heart-warming, as they began to grow closer and their negative perspective of the world began to lift as their hope started to grow.
Barbie’s promotion was incredibly well executed and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing groups of women of all ages, coming together, wearing as much pink as possible to watch the film. It made me feel safe and proud to be a woman. Female solidarity is really heart-warming. However, the backlash Barbie has received is telling of the patriarchal society that is still very much prevalent today. Men have made videos dissing the film and even destroying Barbie dolls; how fragile are their egos? Some even suggested that if a film was made with the roles reversed, where the women were put in so-called ‘second place’, there would be feminist outrage. But isn’t this almost every single film ever? Where women are just there for eye candy, with no actual substance beyond their appearance? Ironically, Oppenheimer, which I saw after Barbie, highlighted exactly what Barbie was addressing. The female characters in Oppenheimer are either naked, crying or drinking. The male gaze is the film industry and I’m glad Gerwig made Barbie- and made misogynists quiver.
The male gaze is the film industry and I’m glad Gerwig made Barbie- and made misogynists quiver.
Barbie isn’t about female superiority, it’s about equality- not every night is girls’ night, nor boys’ night. So, for those people getting their knicker’s in a twist, I suggest relaxing and enjoying the film for what it is, a piece of entertainment with a message you can listen to or not. Barbie is an excellent film and I think people will be talking about it for a long time.