Starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell, Emma Mackey, and Simu Liu
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Running time: 114 minutes
Rated PG-13 for suggestive references and brief language.

Author’s note: This review contains spoilers.

The trailers and advertising for Barbie painted a colorful, lighthearted, easygoing family comedy with cheeky, self-aware humor and a message about girls learning the power of their own potential. The reality of director Greta Gerwig’s 2023 summer flick, however, is completely different.

The film establishes that all the Barbie and Ken dolls live together in Barbie World, a kind of magical counterpart to the real world. Barbie World is portrayed as a peaceful society in which the Barbies do all the jobs. They take on such roles as Barbie President, Barbie Mailwoman, and Barbie Officer.

It’s notable that the creator of the Barbie doll, Ruth Handler, originally intended Barbies to cater to young girls and show them that they could take on traditionally male roles. This helped Mattel (the toy’s manufacturer) compete with other toys typically targeted at young girls, such as baby dolls. The Barbie movie, however, takes this honorable intent and perverts it. The Kens are portrayed as having no value. They contribute nothing. They have no power or say in how society is run, and the Barbies look down on them as silly and irrelevant.

The movie introduces our protagonist, the iconic “Barbie” (Margot Robbie), who is busy partying with her friends and treating her boyfriend, the iconic “Ken” (Ryan Gosling), as an accessory rather than someone she values romantically. Ken constantly pursues Barbie and tries to express his affection for her, but Barbie always shoots him down, though she never outright states that she does not want to be in a relationship with him. Then Barbie suddenly begins to experience physical and emotional changes, such as cellulite appearing on her body and mood swings. It’s then that we learn how Barbie World is a reflection of the real world and that a Barbie’s appearance changes based on how her real-life owner plays with her.

The only solution for Barbie is to travel to the real world, find the girl who plays with her, and make her happy again. Ken tags along—because he lives only for Barbie—and the duo magically arrives in the real world.

Unfortunately, the real world turns out to be an oppressive, patriarchal hellscape utterly dominated by men. . . .

The trailers and advertising for @barbiethemovie painted a colorful, lighthearted, easygoing family comedy. The reality of director Greta Gerwig’s 2023 summer flick, however, is completely different.
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