I don’t think I’m alone when I say it’s a good time to be alive. To have the chance to watch two extraordinary movies (reaching that status even before their public release) about iconic historical figures by fantastic directors on the same day in cinemas is a rare opportunity (Dark Mamma fans make some noise). But, at the same time, we can’t forget the SAG-AFTRA protests storming Hollywood. Movies have been a huge part of culture since their genesis, and they’re usually a reflection of the world around them. Don’t know about the 1980s? Go watch a movie and get a hint. If you want to learn about important figures, watch a biopic. Whatever you need, there is a myriad of picks that will give you exactly what you need when you need it. Barbie has had a deep cultural impact ever since she was first showcased in 1959.
Barbie has had almost 250 careers in her life span of 64 years and counting. She had even traveled to space in 1965, which is almost four years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. If this isn’t legendary status, I don’t know what is. But apart from what Barbie has achieved in all these years, there are many problematic things around her too. The doll has been criticized for promoting unachievable beauty standards and an unrealistic body image. Sound familiar? While these things are very true for Barbie, and she also didn’t come in other colors until many years into her popularity, Mattel never changed her long legs and perfect hair. Whatever it may be—critique or admiration—Barbie has always been a medium of conversation, and not just among kids. As Margot said in an interview, human beings are strange because we created a doll and then decided to blame her for all our mistakes. To put this into perspective, it was never Barbie’s fault that she was made the way she was.
When it comes to the live-action movie, it’s rather strange that such a project has never been thought up before, or perhaps it has been, but nobody was ambitious enough to actually make it. The trailer for the film asks audiences who love and hate the movie alike to come to watch it, telling us to step into the world of Barbie Land with our eyes and hearts wide open. As a Zillennial, I almost feel like this movie was made at this time of my life, just for me. At a time when I find it hard to keep up with the world but simultaneously hope to try 500 new things on a daily basis because I don’t know what I truly want for myself, Barbie feels like a pep talk. And this is all coming from just watching all the promotional material for the film. During an interview, Ryan Gosling said that when he watches his daughters play with Barbie, he sees different names and backstories.
Every child has a story to tell, and more often than not, dolls tell a big part of it; you just have to view them the right way. Considering the movie has synchronized dancing and the fact that everyone mentions “uplifting” when they’re describing this movie, I’d like to presume it’s a cheer for the world to be themselves. While the doll may have been long forgotten, or at least not as popular today as it was back in my day, Barbie is still extremely relevant today. The movie challenges stereotypes and addresses patriarchy in a completely unique way. When you think about it, Barbie has been omnipresent for a long time; she’s almost like God! Everyone’s talking about her, whether it’s good or bad; people believe in her, people hate her, people think she’s dangerous, and others think she’s a lifesaver. It’s remarkable what an IP can do. Barbie is also a fashion icon; products in the color pink have skyrocketed and already peaked as the movie releases. Children have handmade clothes for her, and I may be wrong, but isn’t it the best outlet of expression for them when their parents are picking out clothes for them?
When you think about it, this film is helmed by Margot and Greta, two women who basically said, “We’re going to do this the right way or not do it at all,” and that’s mind-blowing. I couldn’t imagine anybody else making this movie, and I haven’t even seen it yet. When Margot gets asked why she chose Greta as the director for the film, she mentions a few things about Greta that really prove why she’s the perfect choice. Greta is well-versed in the filming world; she’s got her history down, she knows how to use the camera, and she has a vision that is different from anyone else’s. But, more importantly, Greta’s movies are always: 1. extremely present; 2. Filled with heart (emotions are a must); and 3. Humorous, thus proving my hypothesis of the film being a cheerleader for the world.
The Barbie doll was released when America was thriving in post-war economy. It seems there couldn’t have been a better time to make the movie than now, come to think of it. I’m sure there is so much attention to detail in every shot that we may be sitting down for hours to pick them apart, but an interesting point Greta made regarding “disco” and the film had me thinking. She called Dua Lipa’s music “tragic disco,” and it makes a very compelling argument about the movie as a whole too. Now, I’m sure Barbie is not a tragedy because Ken needs his redemption and Barbie must return to her “real” world, but all I’m saying is that underneath all the sparkles and pink that led to a scarcity of the color (an actual global shortage of pink paint!), there’s an emotional message that you are good as you are that frankly everyone should hear.
If that doesn’t convince you, Greta’s use of practical effects and what she calls “artificial authenticity” can be reason alone to give Barbie a go. In an anarchic world where there is still order but no balance, how will Ken find his place? From what we know from the bits and pieces in interviews and trailers, Barbieland hopes to become egalitarian in any way possible. You definitely want to know. America Ferrera, who plays a human in the film, says Barbie emphasizes the fact that gender roles deny people a part of their humanity. This is why on the posters, every Barbie has something she loves to do and is defined by, whereas Ken is just Ken. We need to go on this epic journey of self-assurance with Ken and Barbie, who will learn that she’s not as beloved anymore as she steps into the real world, to get the full picture of this mastery. Be vulnerable and go see Barbie. It seems like she can do both heels and Birkenstocks, but you need to see it to believe it. Get enchanted by this visual representation of words of affirmation and then form an opinion on it! I know I’ll be seeing it at least twice to take in all the details.