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August 1, 2023

Lessons Learned from the Barbie Movie (2023) (2 minute read)

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By Trish Arab

Initially, I wasn't overly interested in the Barbie movie when I first heard about it last year.  Even after my favourite Canadian Ryan was cast as Ken, and some of the fab neon fashion photo stills were leaked, even Simu Liu being cast as Ken wasn't enough to make me pay too much attention.

Then the marketing machine powered by $150 million started.  Soon Barbie was everywhere, and Barbie truly became everything.  Most didn't even know what the movie was about, just that they had to see it.  Let's stop here for a second; the marketing budget exceeded the actual movie budget.  A move which has proven to be genius.  This movie shattered opening weekend box office records, toppled the equally popular, albeit more sombre movie "Oppenheimer" (review on that one to follow shortly) and left fans and critics divided on if they liked the movie or not, with no one falling in the middle of that question.

Those who love the Barbie movie love it, and those who don't absolutely hate it and everything it stands for.

I have to laugh - I've read all sorts of reviews, read into all of the nuance critics and fans (or anti-fans) feel exist within the movie, I've even watched interviews with the cast and the brilliant director Greta Gerwig (who was a huge part of the reason why I decided to see it)

People are at war over the movie - which is so typical - the world we exist in today is constantly in battle.  It's exhausting, quite frankly, the left and the right at each other's throats in politics and family dinner tables isn't enough, now it needs to creep into our guilty entertainment pleasures.  I'm over it.

Barbie is a satire, an overly exaggerated movie about the reality of our world.  I don't care if you're woke or if you're fast asleep, the messaging in this movie is accurate: the Barbies in Barbieland thought their sheer existence showed girls in the real world that they could be and do whatever they want and, in turn, created a real world where girls were in charge, only to find out that this wasn't the case and that women and girls are still very much less than in a world that is still male run.  Does that make me a male hater for saying so?  Does it make the movie?  No, it's just the facts.  Men are valued more than women in our society, business, and social constructs.  It is what it is.

Sure, in the movie, this social dichotomy was extremely exaggerated.  Stereotypical Barbie's (Margot Robbie) experience in the real world was quite exaggerated.  But so was the treatment of the Kens in Barbieland.  Kens there were relegated as second-class citizens, less than afterthoughts.  Maybe haters of the Barbie movie who are so against the "woke feminism" they are terrified of missed that part?  The Ken's being treated poorly isn't right, either.  

Without spoiling too much of what truly is an entertaining movie, I'll leave you with some of the lessons I learned from this movie:

  • In 2023, women still feel like they have to be everything, encompass everything, and do everything, but just not be seen doing it.  There is not one woman I spoke to that didn't agree or relate to the monologue made near the movie's end.  Does this point get smashed over your head?  Yes, but maybe it must in order to resonate with some who clearly have theirs buried in the sand.

  • Equality is not an overly complicated concept.  No matter how you identify, people want to be treated with respect.  If we could manage to respect each other and each other's perspectives, maybe we wouldn't live in such a lopsided and confusing world.

  • Those who live on the extreme believe that everyone who isn't there with them must be on the other end of the extremity.  The far left is just as bad as the far right and just as suspicious of them.  If our attitudes towards each other don't start moving towards the middle again, we will be left with nothing.  Growth can't come when we are so far apart.

  • Stereotypical Ken was blonde.  I had no idea.  My Ken dolls were always brunettes like me.