The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The ‘Barbie’ movie is a whimsical, empowering adventure transcending expectations

Lindsey Komson

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie proves that life in plastic isn’t always fantastic, but the film absolutely was.

When Warner Bros. Pictures announced in 2019 that Australian actress Margot Robbie would take on the role of the 63-year-old fashion doll in a live-action film adaptation, saying fans’ expectations were high was an understatement. 

At long last, we finally get to take a trip to Barbie’s world in “Barbie,” which premiered in theaters on July 21. Gerwig, best known for her work on “Lady Bird” and 2019’s “Little Women,” directed the film. Gerwig also co-wrote the script with her partner Noah Baumbach. 

If you’ve watched Gerwig’s work, you might have noticed that she commonly uses her films to comment on a woman’s role in society and the ridiculous expectations set for humanity. The “Barbie” movie is no exception, fitting nicely into Gerwig’s cinematic universe. 

Barbie has become a staple item in toy chests nationwide for generations of children since she was launched in 1959 by Mattel. However, Barbie had all the makings of controversy among parents who blamed the doll for not being a positive role model for girls because of her unattainable perfect image. Society would rather blame the 11.5-inch tall toy for its problems than face them head-on.

Negative connotations for Barbie only grew every decade. Meanwhile, Barbie has only added to her impressive resume with over 200 careers. Barbie has been an astronaut, a homeowner of over 20 estates and a pioneer of the notion that girls can do anything. 

Still, many parents couldn’t get past her hyper-feminine and glam exterior. Despite being a fictional woman, even Barbie wasn’t free of criticism, but whether you loved or hated her, everybody knew Barbie.

The film begins with an introduction to Barbie Land, a fictional, seemingly-perfect society free of the classical four elements where all women are self-confident, independent and successful. All the Barbies hold all the critical positions in Barbie Land, from doctors to lawyers to politicians, while their Ken counterparts exist to perform beach activities and impress the Barbies. 

The film does an exceptional job of building an environment that mimics what anyone would expect Barbie’s world to be. Every Barbie has her own pink dream house with no walls or stairs. The food is plastic, the showers are waterless and everything is bright pink and looks like a Barbie toy aisle came to life. 

The whole set is fantastical and represents a place anyone would want to escape to. It emulates what it’s like to be a child playing with their Barbies and all of the fun accessories and playsets that complete Barbie’s world. Every Barbie Land resident’s wardrobe is equally exceptional and does an excellent job of storytelling. 

In addition, the costumes hold a lot of different easter eggs for long-time fans of Barbie. From a Ken dressed as the controversial 1993 Earring Magic Ken, also known as the “gay Ken” to fans, to the 1975 Growing Up Skipper that is best known for her growing breasts feature making a cameo, it’s clear Gerwig did her homework.

Robbie, who portrays Stereotypical Barbie, does a phenomenal job of bringing her character to life, exemplifying that the “I, Tonya” actress was made for this role. Her Barbie has the most significant character development in the film, and portraying a character experiencing human emotions for the first time can’t be easy, but Robbie does it effortlessly.

Like all the Barbies in Barbie Land, Stereotypical Barbie favors nothing more than independence, female empowerment and an orderly society where Ken is merely an accessory and mistakes and flaws only exist in the Real World.

However, Stereotypical Barbie’s positive outlook on the world crumbles as she thinks about death amid a dance party; I don’t think Barbie has ever been more relatable. She soon can’t complete her usual daily activities, her skin is no longer unmistakable and worst of all — her pointed feet, synonymous with the Barbie doll, turn flat.

Stereotypical Barbie then takes the advice of Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), which is to travel to the Real World to find the child playing with her and revert everything to normal. Stereotypical Ken (Ryan Gosling) decides on his own accord to join his Barbie counterpart on this mission. 

McKinnon plays one of the most loveable characters in the film. Her natural comedic talents and awkward demeanor mesh well with Weird Barbie, the imperfect outcast of Barbie Land. 

In the Real World, everything is quite the opposite of Barbie’s world. Men are in positions of power, and Stereotypical Barbie is objectified and sexualized by men instead of idolized. In Barbie’s world, women are construction workers, the president and every supreme court member. 

The contrast between Barbie’s world and its portrayal of our world exemplifies a woman’s versus a man’s idea of a perfect society flawlessly. Men generally seek subjugation, whereas, in a women’s ideal world, men exist but typically have no interest in dominating them. 

Sure, this doesn’t exemplify every woman and man’s legitimate desires. Still, it is an exceptional commentary on how our world operates compared to how women are only seen as higher up in the matriarchy and only hold male-dominated roles in Barbie Land, a fictional universe. 

Gosling’s character, who has only existed in Barbie’s version of reality, is inspired by men having a more dominant role in the patriarchy of the Real World. He carries that idea to Barbie’s world and brainwashes the Barbies to take on submissive roles. Gosling reverts to his “Mickey Mouse Club” days during this escapade and is the only character with his song and dance number, much to my surprise and appreciation. 

Gosling’s approach to Ken stood out, and I enjoyed Gerwig’s ability to comment on gender roles in a thought-provoking and creative way with his character. He’s a character who lacks an identity or purpose. In Barbie Land, women can be powerful and feminine, and men can be vulnerable, goofy and simply supportive of their female counterparts. This is seemingly impossible without the stigma of sexism, patriarchal toxicity and misogyny in our world. 

Since Ken isn’t a favorite amongst Barbie fans, the wrong actor could’ve easily made Stereotypical Ken boring and just a douche. Instead, Gosling made Ken likable because of his comedic talents, but not necessarily his actions. Through his attempts at turning Barbie Land into the most insufferable place to be, he still managed to win my heart by the end. Who can stay mad at Gosling? 

One of my favorite parts in the film was when Barbie’s discontinued dolls, another stand-out character Allan (Michael Cera), Gloria (America Ferrera) and her teen daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) team up to regain Barbie Land’s systematic power.

In an attempt to motivate Stereotypical Barbie, who is experiencing her extensional crisis, Gloria gives one of the essential monologues in the film about the contradictions of American femininity in society, which the Barbie doll has been a victim of since her inception. 

With this speech having the power to revert all of the brainwashed Barbies, the Barbies manipulate the Kens in a hilarious beach scene on Barbie Land and earn back their roles. 

The film concludes with Stereotypical Barbie choosing an unexpected path for herself and arguably the best final line of any movie to date.

I immensely enjoyed this film; it was funny, unexpected, immersive and colorful. It made me smile, laugh and even cry. Its strong message on gender roles and society will have you leaving the theater with a whole new respect for the pioneer of the fashion doll industry and a different understanding of the world around us. 

Aside from the stellar casting, writing and cinematography, the film’s soundtrack was another major highlight. With songs like Lizzo’s “Pink,” Dua Lipa’s “Dance The Night” and Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For,” the film has a series of remarkable music perfectly fitting the film’s tone, and I can see myself jamming out to the album on my own time. 

In addition, I enjoyed all of the PG-13 jokes, and overall, the film seems like something made with adults in mind rather than the toy’s attended audience, which I appreciate as a 22-year-old man with an everlasting love for Barbie.

On the negative, Issa Rae’s character, President Barbie, was heavily underutilized. As a long-time fan of Rae since her 2011 comedy series “Awkward Black Girl,” she deserved more screen time. However, she stole the scene when she was on screen. 

“Barbie” is a film for anyone, whether you hate or love Barbie. It’s over the top and, in some ways, precisely what you expect from a Barbie film and other forms, very unexpected in the directions it takes. 

The “Barbie” movie is a must-see in theaters and lives up to the hype. If anything, it might be the only time you can rock a head-to-toe pink outfit without getting side-eyed, so why not take advantage of that while you can?

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
David Matos, Arts & Life Editor
Lindsey Komson, Associate Design Editor

Comments (0)

All The Quinnipiac Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *