Barbie Is the Movie Feminism Needed

The social discussion it generated was the marketing byproduct that society wasn’t expecting.

Daniel Silva
The Point of View

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Source edited on Canva

Barbie came out as a huge box-office success and that should not be surprising at all, since the marketing budget of 150 million dollars surpassed the movie budget itself and teamed up with many other platforms and brands, like Airbnb, Spotify, and Zara.

The machine was well-oiled and continued its fantastic work, with Mattel granting hundreds of licenses to several other brands, resulting in various exclusive versions of Xbox products, skates, burgers, and even pet accessories.

Nonetheless, despite being a case study of capitalism marketing success, the main discussion the movie would generate is: Is it too feminist?

The patriarchy is the enemy

Whether people would like to admit it or not, the patriarchy is not beneficial to either women or men of this world.

And yes, it exists. However, it only benefits some men who sustain positions of power. This means that also men fall prey to the patriarchy.

Barbie exploits this perfectly, centering Ken — and not Barbie — as the main victim of playing along with the patriarchy game.

When Barbie and Ken venture into the real world, Ken grows fond of the patriarchy, realizing men hold some sort of power that allows them to be or do anything they desire, and decides to bring it back to Barbieland, establishing his own “Kendom”.

By the end, we understand Ryan Gosling’s character resorts to the flashy manifestations of the patriarchy, like wearing fur coats or riding horses, to disguise the disempowered feeling of loneliness since he doesn’t have a real purpose outside of Barbie — a perfect meta-commentary on the state of modern-day masculinity where so many young men have found misguided solace in the patriarchy.

Ironically, it’s a woman (Barbie) who helps Ken realize that he is “Kenough” and that he needs to reassess his own desires outside of his need to both control and depend on her.

On this note, Allan was already the man Ken accepted he could be since Allan couldn’t care less about playing a role in the patriarchy. He was just Allan before Ken realized he was just Ken.

The concept of determinism in Barbie

Barbie is a movie about self-determination before being a female-centric film about feminism.

Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, stated “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” In the movie, all versions of Barbie are what they want to be, except for the main character.

The point lies in the name “Stereotypical Barbie”, meaning that Margot Robbie’s character, in the sense of the word, has the qualities that others usually expect of a particular type of person or thing — basically, society influenced the course of her own development.

The main character becomes aware that she was robbed of her own free will and the role she plays doesn’t suit her values. She is expected to wake up every day in her perfect house, take a shower, eat her toast, ride to the beach, and finish the day enjoying a pajama party with the other Barbies.

One could argue that all the other Barbies accept their own routines, regardless they do that on their own accord and don’t question their imposed roles — maybe because they already found their purpose.

This leads Margot Robie’s character to question her own existence so she begins a quest for self-determination.

I’ve seen comparisons of this story with the likes of Pinnochio, yet Barbie ends up having more control as she is the one who decides to become an actual human, unlike Pinnochio who became a real boy thanks to the intervention of the Fairy in the dream.

Her quest for self-discovery and the courage to defy her predetermined role highlights the importance of valuing one’s own individuality and making choices that align with personal values, irrespective of societal pressures.

The feminist “Barbie”

Barbieland is basically a feminist utopia where equitable rights and humane living through female empowerment, free from patriarchal patterns, were achieved.

Despite being solely ruled by Barbies, Barbieland doesn’t diminish the Kens — unlike many reviews I’ve read.

First and foremost, Ken is simply the male friend of Barbie. Secondly, the Kens are seen as equal by the Barbies, even though the vast majority of high societal status positions are occupied by the latter.

The point is everyone is deemed equal despite their social status.

In the real world, the scenery is much different.

Western societies might be the most advanced in terms of the Feminist agenda, but equality doesn’t stand just for women to be equal to men. It stands for the opposite as well, since it aims for quality of life for both sexes, and people seriously need to understand this.

Feminism is near-universally credited as such due to the movement’s achievement in terms of women’s suffrage, gender-neutral language, and reproductive rights for women.

The Feminist movement aims to achieve equality of the sexes in political, economic, personal, and social standards.

The latter two are still far from being equal, and Gloria’s monologue is the prime example of why Feminism needs to exist and why it still mainly focuses on pushing women to be on the same scale as men.

It doesn’t undermine men’s struggles — well portrayed in the above-mentioned sub-plot led by Ryan Gosling’s character — in opposition to highlighting the much more fracturing struggles women have to face throughout time and space.

In conclusion, the narrative of the Barbie movie serves as a powerful reflection of the far-reaching impact of the patriarchy on both men and women. So no, the movie is not too feminist.

The movie presents a nuanced perspective, emphasizing that the patriarchy’s effects are not confined to one gender; rather, it perpetuates a cycle of unequal power dynamics that harm everyone involved.

Despite the glossy success of capitalism-driven marketing that surrounds the Barbie franchise, the central theme of the film resonates deeply with the recognition that feminism is not solely about advancing women’s rights but also about reevaluating gender roles and collectively dismantling the patriarchal system that negatively impacts both genders and that limits individual growth and self-determination.

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