Barbie, an intelligent and feminist satire directed by Greta Gerwig
The truth is we were reluctant to go and watch this film given the hype and the multiple promotional campaigns around it carried out by many other brands that want to cash in, but once we got over our misgivings, we decided to go and see it and have an informed opinion. No sooner said than done.
Firstly, it’s important to clarify that the Barbie film is not a tribute to this iconic doll and her universe, but a satirical comedy that criticizes sexism and the patriarchy and that stands up for feminism. It does so with a great amount of inventiveness and also absurdity and artifice, but specially with revealing moral lessons.
A project that didn’t look like it would end well…
The Barbie project was in the hands of Diablo Cody or Amy Schumer, who were fired. Although, in fact, they didn’t want to make the film because they did not feel it was feminist or critical enough, as Barbie has been tagged as an oppressive, sexualized and sexist icon that has left a mark on many generations of girls. That’s why the alarm bells were ringing for a while when it was thought that Warner was making a tribute film, complacent and free of criticism, turning a blind eye to what the arch famous doll by Mattel has represented in the past and in the present.
However, none of that happened. And that is due to Margot Robbie herself who managed to get the production rights and convinced Greta Gerwig to write it. The perfect match! In the end, Gerwig directed it and signs the screenplay together with her partner Noah Baumbach. This triangular formula is a winner and thanks to this, they have been able to produce an intelligent, much needed, and not at all superficial, film.
Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and the others
Robbie and Gosling are Barbie and Ken respectively, and the great main characters of this fantastic film that invites us to submerge ourselves initially in the pink world of Barbie Land only to later confront us with our own reality, that of our world where things work very differently… and where patriarchy has free rein.
“The performances of Robbie and Gosling are fabulous and both of them manage to convey the obvious contradictions between their world (fantasy) and reality (human world).”
Their sense of comedy is overwhelming and, together with them, other actors also stand out. For example, our admired Michael Cera, who plays Allan, the doll that was launched in the US market in 1964, mainly as “Ken’s best friend”, and that was discontinued some years later. The doll was inspired by Allan Sherwood who was the son-in-law of Ruth Handler, the businesswoman behind Barbie. What made him “special” was that he was the same size as Ken which meant that they could share the same clothes. Interestingly, Allan also became the boyfriend and husband of Midge, Barbie’s best friend, who was created as a pregnant figure and who suffered the same fate as Allan.
The actress America Ferrera plays Gloria, a woman from the real world who works at Mattel, and who unwittingly projects her unease, fears and anxiety on her Barbie doll (played by Margot Robbie) causing her plastic one to stop being “perfect”. She gets cellulite and stops walking on tiptoes amongst other things… Gloria also helps Barbie to find herself and to bring down the patriarchy…
Life in plastic is not fantastic…
Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have done the best promotional campaign for Mattel, not only pointing out the value of a doll that was knocked for representing a stereotyped feminine type of beauty and not a “real woman”, but then turning her into an advocate for feminism. And it does so with arguments and providing this depth charge with gags and ridiculous situations that are fun and actually work. An example of this perspective is seeing how Sasha, whose mother is Gloria (America Ferrera), and her friends – 21st century teenagers – hate Barbie, as they feel she represents everything that is wrong with the world: male chauvinism, consumerism, the lack of environmental awareness… they even call her a fascist at one point…
“Basically, everything that men do in your world, women do in ours.” Barbie
As you will be able to see for yourselves, in Barbie Land, it is the Barbies who call the shots in the face of Kens – there is no chauvinism and they are anything they want to be: presidents, scientists, they win Nobel prizes, etc… – and in the real world, however, it is as we know it, a place where unfortunately the patriarchy is very much established, and women do not have equal conditions. Although, as we warned, Barbie Land cannot escape the terrible impact of the real world… And that is as much as we can say… What we will tell you is that this has turned into an opportunity to ridicule the situation and to fly the flag for equality, as well as an opportunity to fight for a world that is fairer for women where, amongst other things, beauty standards should be far from the imposed stereotype and should include many different physiques.
“Barbie promotes confidence, curiosity and communication throughout childhood, and empowers kids to imagine themselves in all kinds of aspirational roles.” M. Robbie
For us Barbie is not a great movie, but it is a refreshing, fun, critical, ironic, inspiring, deliberately feminist and, if you’ll excuse the repetition, intelligent one.
The best part: The screenplay by Gerwig and Baumbach; the “burns” aimed at Mattel, that the brand has known how to make the most of; the performances by Robbie and Gosling and the figure of the “Weird Barbie “, that was burnt and scribbled on by the human who owned here and that acts as a kind of guru.
The worst part: Certain gags that are repeated and the lack of focus on other actors such as Michael Cera aka Allan.