Barbie: a shallow attempt at profundity

“It’s literally impossible to be a woman.”

As Gloria (America Ferrera) gave her climactic monologue on the hardships of womanhood in the 2023 blockbuster hit “Barbie,” I couldn’t help but sigh. Her speech, while undoubtedly moving, wasn’t anything revolutionary — more like a cliched regurgitation of what feminists have been saying for decades. While I merely nodded along in agreement with Gloria’s monologue, the older woman sitting beside me had a stronger reaction.

“Oh my God,” she muttered to herself with wide, teary eyes glued to the screen.

In this response lies the importance of the “Barbie” movie; while critics have shunned “Barbie” for its lackluster attempt at celebrating feminism, the movie’s message about the patriarchy — albeit watered-down — is important because it brings conversations about feminism out of radical activist spaces and into the mainstream. No matter your age or gender, the movie’s message touches everyone in some way. While the movie falls short of how far feminist theory and activism has come, any portrayal of feminism on the big screen is impactful.

Directed by Greta Gerwig, an artist known for exploring themes of girlhood, motherhood and feminism in her work, “Barbie” has been well received by audiences, achieving an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Some loved the movie’s pretty pink visuals, others liked the catchy soundtrack and many appreciated its feminist message. Yet, though Gerwig has said “Barbie” is “most certainly a feminist movie,” many critics question the movie’s feminism. There are many details throughout “Barbie” that deliver a questionable message in terms of feminism. For instance, Barbie’s fate: Throughout the movie, Barbie grapples with her purpose, ultimately deciding to leave Barbieland for the real world and become human. So, Barbie leaves a place where she is respected in order to live somewhere where she is constantly objectified and harrassed? All because “humanity is special?” And the one thing she is shown doing in the real world is going to the gynecologist? As put by gender studies scholars at Women’s Agenda, by making this storytelling choice, “female identity is reduced to being a biological phenomenon.” Further, the Barbies gain back control of Barbieland from the Kens by luring them with docile behavior, suggesting the problematic message that women use sexual prowess to hold power over men and that women can benefit from the patriarchy — a system specifically designed to oppress them. 

The most glaring failure of “Barbie” are the portrayals of Allan (Michael Cera) and Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon). Both characters clearly lie outside of the gender binary of Kens and Barbies, but this difference is never meaningfully explored, resulting in a missed opportunity to address gender and sexuality as it relates to the patriarchy. And with such an obvious message about the struggles of women throughout the movie, this oversight almost feels pointed. Allan’s non-hetero sexuality is constantly alluded to, but never addressed. The audience is forced to wonder: ‘Is this representation?’ Rather, Allan and Weird Barbie are used for comedic relief, resulting in failure of intersectionality within the movie’s message.

Undoubtedly, “Barbie” scratches only the surface in its portrayal of the patriarchy. Widely lacking in intersectionality — defined as an analytical framework for understanding how a person’s various social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege — the movie’s message is mild, clearly made more palatable to appeal to the general public. From its “edgy” quips about women hating women to a trite moment when the Barbies trick the Kens by acting confused about “The Godfather,” “Barbie” is so chock-full of reductionist stereotypes that the movie feels more tone-deaf than radical — or even productive.

While the patriarchal themes of “Barbie” are certainly superficial, the movie’s feminist message has also been criticized in the opposite way as well, with many seeing the film as an “anti-male” flick. For instance, Piers Morgan, in the New York Post, wrote an article titled, “If I made a movie that treated women the way Barbie treats men, feminists would want me executed.” Yet, one must ask, is that not the entire point of the movie? Barbieland is a satirical alternate reality to the real world, one where all gender roles are reversed. One is not meant to applaud the absolute dominion that the Barbies hold over Barbieland. Instead, the jarring inequality of Barbieland is meant to highlight the problems with such an unequal social structure in order to criticize patriarchal society — even if this criticism is meekly expressed. The movie is not meant to serve as an insult to men, but rather a mirror in which to consider the gender-informed power dynamics of modern society.

Despite its shortcomings, “Barbie’’ and its subpar feminist message are important to the social conversation about the effects of the patriarchy. While the movie certainly is not radical nor revolutionary, any depiction of feminist theory is impactful if shown on the big screen. When a mainstream movie discusses such topics, the message reaches a wider audience, transcending demographics of age and gender. From the validation the woman sitting next to me in the theater felt to the outrage expressed by Morgan in the Post, these reactions are evidence of a larger conversation, one that showsthatwehavealongway to go in furthering the feminist movement. Thus, “Barbie” can serve not only as a springboard for more conversations about feminism in the mainstream but also as a sign that there is more work to be done.

54 thoughts on “Barbie: a shallow attempt at profundity

  1. Wow, incredible weblog structure! How lengthy have you been running a blog
    for? you made blogging glance easy. The entire look of
    your site is magnificent, let alone the content material!
    You can see similar here sklep online

  2. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing
    this post plus the rest of the site is extremely good.

  3. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m
    trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use some
    of your ideas!!

  4. You can certainly see your skills within the work you write.
    The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe.
    At all times follow your heart.

  5. wonderful publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the
    other specialists of this sector do not realize this.

    You should continue your writing. I am confident,
    you’ve a great readers’ base already!

  6. Somebody necessarily lend a hand to make severely posts I
    might state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and so far?
    I surprised with the analysis you made to make this actual publish
    incredible. Great process!

  7. Hi to all, the contents present at this site are in fact awesome for people knowledge, well, keep up the
    good work fellows.

  8. I feel that is one of the so much important information for me.

    And i’m happy studying your article. However wanna remark on few basic things, The website taste is wonderful, the articles is in point of
    fact great : D. Good job, cheers

  9. That is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate information… Thank you for sharing this
    one. A must read article!

  10. Good day! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give
    a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy
    reading your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that
    deal with the same topics? Appreciate it!

  11. Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog
    and I’m impressed! Extremely helpful info specially the ultimate section 🙂 I
    care for such info much. I used to be looking for
    this certain info for a long time. Thanks and
    good luck.

  12. What you posted made a great deal of sense. However, what about this?
    what if you were to create a awesome headline? I mean, I don’t wish to
    tell you how to run your blog, however suppose
    you added a title that makes people want more? I mean Barbie:
    a shallow attempt at profundity – The Falconer is kinda plain. You could look at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create article headlines to
    grab people to open the links. You might
    add a related video or a pic or two to grab readers excited about what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it
    would bring your posts a little bit more interesting.

  13. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog.
    I am hoping to see the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well.

    In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged
    me to get my own blog now 😉

  14. If you wish for to obtain much from this piece of writing then you have
    to apply these methods to your won web site.

  15. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a
    nice blog like this one these days.

  16. Having read this I believed it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this informative article
    together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both
    reading and commenting. But so what, it was still
    worthwhile!

  17. If you are going for best contents like I do, simply go to see this
    web site every day since it presents quality contents, thanks

  18. This design is spectacular! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well,
    almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how
    you presented it. Too cool!

  19. Link exchange is nothing else however it is only placing the other person’s weblog link on your page at proper place and other person will also
    do same for you.

  20. Турниры стали неотъемлемой частью культуры азартных игр, где игроки соревнуются за внушительные призы.

  21. У нас вы найдете классические фруктовые машины, а также современные видео-слоты с захватывающими сюжетами и специальными бонусными функциями.

  22. I’m curious to find out what blog system you happen to be working with?
    I’m having some minor security issues with my latest site and I would like to find something more risk-free.
    Do you have any suggestions?

  23. Simply want to say your article is as surprising. The clearness to your post is simply excellent and that
    i could assume you’re knowledgeable in this subject.

    Fine with your permission let me to seize your feed to stay up to date with impending post.

    Thank you 1,000,000 and please continue the enjoyable work.

  24. If some one wants expert view concerning running a blog after that i recommend him/her to go to see this web site, Keep up the nice job.

  25. Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i
    was just wondering if you get a lot of spam remarks?

    If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can recommend?

    I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any support is very much appreciated.

  26. I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly.
    I’m quite sure I will learn plenty of new stuff right here!
    Best of luck for the next!

  27. Hello there, I found your site via Google while searching for a similar subject, your web site got
    here up, it seems to be great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

    Hi there, just become aware of your blog thru Google, and located that it is
    really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful in the event
    you proceed this in future. Lots of other people will
    likely be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

  28. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.
    I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back sometime soon.
    I want to encourage continue your great posts, have a nice weekend!

  29. It is truly a great and useful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us.

    Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Hello there I am so delighted I found your website, I
    really found you by accident, while I was researching on Digg for something else, Anyways I am here
    now and would just like to say kudos for a incredible post and a all round entertaining blog
    (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go
    through it all at the moment but I have saved it and also added
    in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a
    lot more, Please do keep up the superb work.

  31. I am sure this piece of writing has touched all the
    internet people, its really really fastidious paragraph on building up new weblog.

  32. Right now it appears like Expression Engine is the preferred blogging platform out there right now.

    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

  33. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and
    I am impressed! Very helpful info specially the last part :
    ) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular information for a very long
    time. Thank you and good luck.

  34. Thank you for any other informative site. Where else may I get that type of info written in such a perfect approach?
    I’ve a project that I am just now working on, and I have been at the glance out for such info.

  35. Hello, yup this paragraph is actually fastidious and I have learned lot of things from it regarding blogging.
    thanks.

  36. My programmer is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP.
    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on several websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another
    platform. I have heard good things about blogengine.net.
    Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into
    it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!

  37. Особое внимание к деталям, инновационный подход к использованию технологий и постоянное стремление к улучшению делают Dragon Money привлекательным выбором для игроков различных уровней и предпочтений.

  38. I have been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners
    and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be
    a lot more useful than ever before.

  39. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it
    seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.

    You clearly know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos
    to your blog when you could be giving us something enlightening
    to read?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Teacher Feature: Abby Brown
Next post A fresh canvas