Step into any movie theater this month and you are sure to find people of all kinds dressed in various, coordinated pink outfits waiting to see the new film “Barbie.” Released July 21, the highly anticipated movie directed by Greta Gerwig has drawn in large audiences, with the biggest opening weekend for a film this year. Celebrating womanhood and femininity in all forms, “Barbie” gives the viewer a look into one of the most explored ideas in the media: girlhood.
The plot is simple: Margot Robbie’s Stereotypical Barbie, the most popular Barbie, begins to notice that things are off in Barbie Land. After visiting Kate McKinnon’s Weird Barbie, a doll that looks a bit disheveled after being played with roughly, she learns there is a loophole to fix this. To make things right in Barbie Land, she must travel into the real world and find the child playing with her to rectify the situation. Ryan Gosling’s Ken, who only can be described as her long-term, longing guy friend tags along in an attempt to aid Barbie and win her over for good. What both dolls come to realize is that their journey into the real world will bring about unexpected realizations regarding themselves and their world.
Barbie enters the real world and realizes things aren’t quite the same as they are in Barbie Land. The idea of a matriarchal society where the Supreme Court is composed of nine women and men exists to benefit all Barbie’s lives is not the reality to us. Barbie encounters a girl and her mom who show her that things aren’t quite what it seems, and show her the power in womanhood. Ken, unsurprisingly, discovers the patriarchy, and learns that there is a world where he doesn’t have to be doting and unsuspecting, and brings this back to Barbie Land.
In a bizarre turn of events Barbie Land becomes a male-centered, patriarchal place. Barbie, the mother-daughter duo she encountered earlier and Weird Barbie team up together to discover their power as women. They all return Barbie Land to its rightful state: a place where feminine power is prioritized and free to shine. The film’s script is smart, remaining fully self aware of how silly this notion really is in the world we live in. Call backs to Margot Robbie’s appearance and how women really are viewed reminds the watcher that Barbie and Mattel are aware of their perception in our world, too. The film’s visual appeal immerses the viewer in a fairytale world.
Visually, Barbie immerses you in a bubblegum pink world with costuming that evokes memories of the dolls one played with as child. Costume callbacks to dolls throughout history and casting women of all kinds to represent what Barbie has become. The film imagines a world where the predominant visuals are that of a little girl’s dreams.
Sonically, the accompanying soundtrack peaks with pop dance numbers and character singalongs. Billie Eilish’s moody “What Was I Made For” draws the viewer in at the most emotional moment, and keeps you hooked as Barbie and the audience look back at the women that have made them who they are. As credits roll, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s “Barbie World,” blares in the background, a salute to Minaj’s popularization of Barbie in pop culture throughout the twenty-first century.
Gerwig’s greatest directorial strength is showcasing what it means to be a girl. Her 2019 picture “Little Women” tells a beautiful story of four sisters growing from girls to women in war-torn nineteenth century America, finding the beauty and strength in womanhood throughout the film. Disguised as a campy story about a doll trapped in the real world, “Barbie” manages to do the same, reminding the watcher that without the women who shaped who they are, they would be half the person they are today. Ultimately, Barbie Land is only returned to normal by women banding together to remind the Kens how things really should be.
Seeing a figure that has been pegged as “the perfect woman” for generations going through the same struggles girls feel today shows the camaraderie amongst us all. When Ken proposed the idea of Barbie being his “long-term long-distance low-commitment casual girlfriend,” I could feel myself and the other women wince in the audience. What girl hasn’t felt as if they had to adhere to others standards to themselves in someone else’s lives? Barbie has been there, and so have I.
Barbie presents a world all too familiar to women today. The idea that women have to be everything, but not too much of anything, and really leans into the power in femininity and womanhood. Assimilating to what the world wants from you and meshing that with who you want to be is just a normal part of growing up as a girl, and a journey even a girl as perfect as Barbie has embarked on.