Nuance in Plastic: A review of the movie, “Barbie”.

Let me be frank, I don’t like Barbies. Now that this important bit of information has been conveyed, I will say what I really want to say and that is, the “Barbie” movie might just be my favorite movie I have seen all year. I went to the theater fearing I was going to watch a pink nightmare, full of plastic legs and doll jokes. I wasn’t quite wrong; these do feature in “Barbie”—and yet the movie took me by surprise. I thought of writing a long intro subtly leading up to my point, but let me leave subtly to the movie’s director Greta Gerwig who is masterfully subtle in this film. “Barbie” is a movie evaluating feminism, and perhaps the best of our time.

There is not enough I can say praising this film. The movie is visually masterful. Gerwig carefully creates beautiful yet artificial looking sets in each scene to emphasize the appeal of the impossible. The script is hilarious, completely random and yet somehow it manages to comment on ideals, desires and fears present in our society. But better than anything else, is Gerwig’s careful examination of feminism through Barbies. I have never seen a film that is so subtle and so nuanced that it can both be a celebration and criticism of an ideal.    

It’s a comedy, but I nearly cried watching it. Every character was so confused and messed up by their inadequate ideals and their responses to them. Ken was undervalued and so he tried to dominate others through patriarchy. Barbie was given every dream, yet left in confusion the moment she stepped outside those dreams. The movie ends with Ken being instructed by Barbie that he must leave her, and Barbie moving to the real world with no clear way of surviving there. 

This is what makes the Barbie movie so strange—so complex. The movie makes it clear, we must dream. And more importantly, women must dream. And we must celebrate these dreams. It is not wrong to call the movie a celebration of the Barbie doll. And yet the movie also argues that the dream, the feminist ideal which exists in Barbies, is fundamentally flawed. 

It’s flawed because the dolls lack genitalia. Well, it’s flawed for a few more reasons than this, but this is emphasized in the film in order to demonstrate what the feminist movement forgot, the unique problems men and women face separately. Barbie’s final line, “I’m here to see my gynecologist,” is her finally facing this reality. It’s uncertain what will result from this action, because it is not certain if a Barbie doll can need a gynecologist, yet there is some triumph in Barbie attempting to be a real woman, not just an unrealistic idea. 

You should watch this movie. Geriwg’s use of symbols is much more complex than the simple sketch I have laid out above. I didn’t even get to write about what “Barbie” says about men. If you watch it, hunt me down so we can chat about it.  

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