Few toys are as confusing as Barbie dolls. Selling daughters to mothers is a source of protest slogans (“I’m not your Barbie”), goofy blond images (“Math class is hard”?), and even a catalyst for eating disorders. But Barbie is also a lawyer, pilot, astronaut and president. She has never been married, lives alone, and has no children.
Greta Gerwig’s film debut was a huge public success and, paradoxically as it may be, a film about the world’s most stereotyped doll aims to break down stereotypes and certainly sparked debates from both aesthetic and ethical perspectives.
For those who haven’t seen it, Barbie happily lives in the perfect world of Barbieland, a world built on “matriarchy” where the most prominent positions are held only by women. There are chairmen, judges, and Nobel laureates are all women. The men of that world, the Ken family, were irrelevant.
The story takes a twist when the main character starts to appear “imperfect”: she thinks about death, she can’t walk on her toes, cellulite appears. The solution is to travel to the real world, since these imperfections seem to be the fault of their human master, who has passed on her pain and worries. Everything is different there, women don’t own, they don’t dominate, they are in constant tension, they are attacked, men squint at them, even say dirty words to them in the street, she slaps anyone even when he is against her, But ended up being arrested.
He visits Mattel, which makes the product, where he realizes that all executives are male, experiences the glass ceiling, and suffers male preaching (sexist condescension) in his own flesh. As if that wasn’t enough, her owner’s teenage daughter accuses her of being a capitalist sexualizing archetype, of holding back the feminist movement, of destroying the planet by promoting consumerism, and of being a fascist. Also, Ken learns what patriarchy is and tries to impose it on all women when he returns to Barbie’s house.
The question that arises is, are we dealing with a satirical entertainment film, or a Simone de Beauvoir thesis?
Gerwig roams free in Barbie’s Garden of Contradictions, making a film that seeks to examine the conscience of gender roles and male-female patterns in which there is no room for understanding and cooperation between men and women. Gender Manicheanism betting on very bad men and very good women betting on political success.
There is no shortage of trans and queer messages, such as the claim that neither Barbie nor Ken has genitals, defending that the status of man or woman is not given by biology but by social construction. The abortion agenda is also strong. The film begins with girls all over the world throwing dolls into the air with hatred and violence, only to be described as eccentric and outdated later on, when the pregnant Barbie doll appears.
I have a daughter and I am the number one defender of her rights and I want the world to belong to them. But I don’t want to see her turn into a Barbie, neither the old Barbies with sequins and mononeurons, nor the new Barbies who are at war with men forever.