Barbie: is this pink film an attack on men?
BY ROSIE ROBERTSON
Barbie hit our screens on 21 July 2023 alongside the long awaited Oppenheimer. Many took part in seeing both films on the same day, and I was one of them. Seeing Barbie, dressed in pink with two close girlfriends, was such a fun experience. I laughed and I almost cried; as a girl who grew up playing with Barbies, the film was extremely nostalgic and touched on so many important parts of growing up as a girl. With a star-studded cast, the film was stacked with incredible acting from start to finish, including comedy and even a musical number. The costumes and sets whisked you away to the plastic world of Barbie and her land of pink.
The film has had major success, raking in over $1bn within three weeks at the global box office. But despite this, many people had very negative perceptions of the movie, including that it is ‘anti-men’ and it delivers feminism with a ‘man-hating seldgehammer’. To set the scene, Barbieland puts women in all forms of power. There is an all female Supreme Court, all of the Nobel Prize winners, lawyers and doctors are female, with everyone living in what some may call a matriarchy. To many viewers, it is almost comedic how Barbieland is run by women and men, aka Kens, have the roles of ‘beach’ and are inferior to the opposing sex.
Yet, when Ken enters the real world (our world) he realises what type of world we live in and how, here, men are in fact the ones who tend to be in the positions of power. Some may argue that this suggests that there will always be one sex that is superior to the other and thus promotes a clash rather than fostering harmony.
Upon arriving back in Barbieland, Ken transforms it into his own Kendom, dethroning the Barbies from their roles. I would argue that this shows how damaging the patriarchy from the 'real world' can be. In itself, it forced Ken to assume a 'masculine' role, with him changing his clothing, drinking beer, and encouraging the other Kens to follow and have ‘low commitment girlfriends’. In the end, a period of self-discovery for Ken leads him to be secure in himself, as shown in his ballad ‘I’m just Ken’. Ultimately, this shows that the patriarchy introduced to Barbieland from the 'real world' failed both Barbie and Ken.
What I took away most from the film was embracing the idea of girlhood, being secure in your imagination and being able to dream to be whatever you want to be. After all, that is what Barbies were made for. As Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, states, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” Ultimately, the Barbie film is a film of enjoyment and laughter, not to put men down nor to place women in unrealistic forms. All of the positions that Barbie holds in Barbieland are possible, they and we just need to fight for it, as we see women in our day to day lives as people and not dolls.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Carrie Dorean