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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

‘Barbie’: A Big Bust?

Image from IMDb

This review contains spoilers. 

It was Friday, July 21 when “Barbie” finally arrived in theater. I went to see the film on the next day with my sister, my friend, and her younger sister; of course, we all dressed in pink. As the lights dimmed in the theater, we all held our breaths to watch the movie of the year, if not the decade. 

At least, that’s what the advertisements told us. I really enjoyed “Barbie,” but I just don’t think it lived up to the hype. I personally think that the marketing for the Barbie movie was way more impactful in creating a cultural reset than watching the actual movie itself. 

Let’s be real here — the movie had many different plotlines with none of them tying together in the end. In the first half, the Chief Executive Officer of Mattel is evil, and Barbie’s mission is to fix the relationship between stressed mother Gloria and angsty tween Sasha in the real world. In the second half, Ken suddenly turns evil and tries to take over Barbieland; most strangely, Barbie states that she wants to be a real human even though she hated being a human and feeling emotion. 

The issue with movies that have female leads is that most of the time, the lead does not have a supportive partner. The film either starts with a boyfriend cheating or turning ‘evil’ halfway through for no reason. Single women are shown in the name of ‘female empowerment.’  

I don’t think filmmakers understand what empowerment is because they always set up the expectation for women to choose between having a partner or a desired career path.? Must it always be a choice? Is it impossible for a woman have a healthy relationship and follow her dreams?  

“Legally Blonde” is a great example of breaking the mold. Elle Woods, the main character who aspires to become a lawyer ends up with both a caring partner as well as a career that is one of the most respected in the world. This idea of choice is mentioned in “Barbie” towards the end, when Gloria is force-feeding information about women’s struggles.  

This was also another issue that I had with the movie — there was a lot of telling and not enough showing. There were also two different depictions of the real world; Ken sees it as an amazing male-dominated world, while Barbie sees it as a miserable place. This begs the question of why she even chooses to be a human at the end, as it would have made more sense for Ken to want to be a human. 

Barbie’s founder, Ruth Handler, tells her, “Ideas live forever.” Living forever seems like a pretty sweet deal, but if I were asked the same question, I would want to be a human, too. The issue is that with my nuanced life experience, this makes sense, but Barbie experiences nothing but misery in the real world.  

The message that the filmmakers tried and failed to convey was that although being a human can be unpleasant and not everything works out, humanity is also beautiful because bad emotions are the reason why nice emotions get to shine. I think that point could have been expressed better if the movie were more focused on Barbie and Ken trying to fix the relationship between the mom and daughter in the real world.  

With that, I arrive to the part that annoys me the most: the Kens, or rather the way they are treated in Barbieland. As a woman living in a society that was built by men, for men, I feel empathy towards the Kens, who are depicted as stupid men with many insecurities. When the Barbies start to use the Kens’ insecurities to take control, it hurt my feelings, because it shows little boys that women are manipulative and will never be interested in a serious relationship.  

Also, Barbie always spending time with her girls instead of Ken shows that women will always be emotionally unavailable. This feeds into the stereotype that women are evil; there’s a misconception that men gatekeep more powerful positions from women because they are afraid that women will treat them the way Barbies treat the Kens — something that this scene enforces to its viewers. I also don’t understand why the Barbies and Kens must be enemies fighting for the right to rule. 

I was really hoping that in the end, the Barbies would realize how mean they are being to the Kens and try to involve them more in important decisions. I think this would have been a better message because it shows that women are willing to meet men halfway.  

I also don’t understand why Ken ditched Barbie in the real world without making sure that she was okay. It just breaks my heart because as a little girl I shipped Barbie and Ken so much when watching “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse.” Unlike in other media like “Toy Story 2” and “Barbie,” Barbie and Ken have a very cute relationship with mutual respect in the show. 

There is nothing wrong with a woman wanting to be independent and single; I am one of those women. However, we have a lot of those movies and not enough depicting a female lead in a healthy relationship. I was really hoping to see a movie in which Barbie validated Ken’s feelings about her well-being.  

I wish that Barbie and Ken had not split up and instead experienced the world together. They could have easily been an iconic couple with amazing fashion style. Ken being oblivious to the problematic events happening to Barbie was very tragic. He should have been the one saying that the real world is terrible because the love of his life is not comfortable in the streets.  

I personally don’t think that a world ruled by women would be a place like Barbieland. It would be a place where everyone gets to shine, including the Kens and Allan. I think women would make a space for men and not just crowd every room, prohibiting men from entering the higher courts just as women are barred in the real world. 

Yes, the movie showed girl power, but girl power should not come at the expense of other genders. They have things they like, and we have things we like. We should learn to respect each other’s world views and meet one another halfway. 

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