The Barbie movie could have easily become another failed attempt to bring an old idea into the modern audience. Initial skeptics were concerned about the stereotypical associations Barbie has with women being defined by an unachievable beauty standard, while others thought the movie was too woke. In the end, Barbie was a movie that was beneficial for both men and women by challenging the notions of femininity and masculinity in a comedic manner.
In the film, Barbie’s feminine and flamboyant attire only becomes an issue when she leaves Barbie Land and enters the real world, as mentioned in the recent on-campus lecture Our Barbies, Ourselves. Bright, hot pink is not the root of the problem with Barbie; the connotations that our society creates portraying the color as part of an over-the-top femininity are what become problematic. The film, however, is drawing on a deeper theme. This work asks us to question: what is a woman?
To this end, Barbie takes feminine symbols and objects that have been ostracized by society and reclaims them from societal expectations. Pink is an expression of personality, not a sign of weakness. Wearing pink has become a problem because in society, masculine is considered the norm.
Modern-day women are constantly looking for safe spaces to be unapologetically feminine, from concerts to girl’s nights. In our world, feminine expression is the problem, whereas in Barbie Land, it is the norm. President Barbie just states “I am,” without having to apologize for being authentically herself, as Dr. Gloria-Jean Masciarotte, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, affirmed during her lecture. Thus, the Barbie movie appeals to the female audience because it offers an escape from apologizing for who we are.
While the movie’s marketing may seem to be geared towards women, men can benefit from the Barbie movie as well. The movie uses the character Ken to reject ridiculous notions of masculine expression, like the idea of adventure and cowboy culture. Therefore, the Barbie movie frees men from unattainable notions of masculine identity, such as embarking on a grand adventure for glory, a trope found in The Odyssey.
Ultimately, the plot of Barbie is a struggle to defeat the patriarchy, as Barbie Land is the hypothetical example of society before Ken discovers patriarchy after watching a montage film of Presidents Reagan and Bush, among others. There are few concrete examples of a society that lived free of patriarchy, so the movie provides the opportunity for people of all gender identities to see the instant problems patriarchy causes for both men and women. Ken constantly battles insecurity as he attempts to assert a ridiculous amount of physical dominance, and Barbie loses her independence while Ken transforms the Dreamhouse into the Mojo Dojo Casa House.
While the movie presents fictional situations, this is not as far-fetched as the pink landscape makes it seem. In the modern world, many women are left at the mercy of the male figures in their households. Once they are no longer of value, women are disregarded with no means of economic self-sufficiency.
The Barbie movie portrays the patriarchy for what it is: a ridiculous attempt to exert a false sense of insecure power over women, to the point of diminishing male self-confidence. The time has come for us to embrace the pink and wear it proudly, now that we have reclaimed Barbie.