Barbie (the doll) first hit the scene back in 1959. Throughout the years, she has evolved into being a toy icon to a symbol of “capitalized sexualism” to being a figure of women empowerment and then to being a culprit for unrealistic body standards. It’s a never-ending, complicated battle of “you win some, you lose one.”
Fast forward to today, the fashion doll and its mothership, Mattel, Inc., takes a deep (not to mention, spectacularly pink) dive into all of these and what she aspires to be for children in the future–all in the span of one hour and 45 minutes.
Barbie (the movie), directed and co-written by Greta Gerwig, is an extraordinary summer splash, combining technical brilliance with a powerful and thought-provoking narrative. The film serves as both a delightful escape and a bold call for change. Gerwig's attention to detail is impeccable, creating a visually stunning feast that demands multiple viewings to appreciate all its nuances—from the incredible costume design by Jacqueline Durran to the vibrant production design led by Sarah Greenwood. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto further elevates the film's aesthetic with a glossy and polished look.
At its core, Barbie explores the complex journey of self-discovery and empowerment. The movie introduces us to Barbie, played by the talented Margot Robbie, as the iconic character faces an existential crisis, leading her on a transformative quest to understand her true purpose. As she navigates the human world with her companion, Ryan Gosling’s Ken, the movie cleverly integrates fish-out-of-water humor and pop culture references, resulting in hysterically funny moments that resonate with audiences.
The film thoughtfully acknowledges Barbie's historical impact, from being hailed as a trailblazer in 1959 to facing criticism for promoting unrealistic beauty standards in later years. However, Barbie skillfully subverts this perception by portraying her as a feminist icon, celebrating her versatility, empowerment, and adaptability. This is reinforced through the encounter with Gloria (played by America Ferrera), a character who sketches innovative Barbie ideas, reflecting the movie's embrace of diversity and inclusion.
While Barbie impresses with its ambition and witty humor, it does experience moments of unevenness. As the film delves into more serious themes, it occasionally slows down to elaborate on its ideas, slightly disrupting its initial energetic pace. However, this exploration of toxic masculinity, female empowerment, and societal expectations is commendable, presenting important lessons for viewers.
From Barbie, we learn that there is no shame in unapologetically embracing who we are. So what if you're a stereotypical Barbie—the kind that you immediately think of when someone says, well, the name Barbie? You can like pink and be a headstrong leader. You can wear big fluffy dresses and be a Nobel prize winner. You can even look perfect all the time and completely own it up to self-love and what makes you feel good.
You can be all that you want to be or you can simply try to figure it out as you go.
At some point in our lives, we've all been told that, "You have to find your passion and follow it!" It's a constant banging pressure deep in our minds (that sometimes gets a little too loud). But, what if there's nothing that you're incredibly, completely passionate about? What if you're more the type to explore lots of little bits of passion in stages of your life? That's okay, too. It's perfectly fine to be ordinary. It's perfectly fine to just be a good person. And it's also perfectly fine to keep discovering and rediscovering passions, figuring life out as you go.
In the context of Barbie, her enduring popularity and impact go hand in hand with the struggles women face in a patriarchal society (yes, it still is; men just got better at hiding it) and the movie does a good job reminding us of why feminism is the good fight. Through her presence, Barbie stands as a symbol of hope and determination for women, encouraging them to never give up on the pursuit of a more inclusive and equal society.
To sum it all up, Barbie is a visually dazzling and thematically rich movie that sparks joy and reflection in equal measure. Greta Gerwig's genius celebrates the icon's legacy while challenging perceptions and empowering audiences to embrace their individuality and dreams.
Have you had the chance to watch Barbie, Besties? We’d love to hear what you thought of it!
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