Barbie: A Resounding Closure To The Stereotypes It Has Created Over The Years

Barbie: A Resounding Closure To The Stereotypes It Has Created Over The Years

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Despite being perceived as a “special toy” and embodying the stereotypical representation of women, Barbie manages to hold a special place in many people’s hearts. Greta Grewig’s film ‘Barbie,’ which opens today (July 21) in theatres alongside Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, is based on the “stereotypical Barbie,” who has long been accused of setting unrealistic standards for women. While the film has received mixed reviews from critics, it aims to confront and dispel the stereotypes surrounding the doll since its inception. Read on to know if the movie presented the audience with a thought-provoking reimagining of the iconic doll’s role in society.

A Symbol Of ‘Inspiration And Happiness’ Gone Awry:

The movie extensively delves into the distressing stereotypes that Barbie has perpetuated over the years. Margot Robbie, embodying the stereotypical Barbie, finds herself victimised by these very stereotypes in the film. As the movie unfolds, Barbie initially appears flawless in her fantastical world until an unexpected and “irresistible thought of death” strikes her mind. However, as she navigates the real world, she realises that her seemingly perfect standards perpetuate unrealistic and harmful stereotypes. Margot’s poignant portrayal evokes a deep emotional response as she comes to terms with the consequences of Barbie’s significance on teenagers and women from all walks of life, who accuse its creators of misrepresenting women in numerous ways. A teenage character in the film even accuses Barbie of being ‘fascist,’ as the doll has been capitalising on the idea of presenting ‘pretty, ideal, and beautiful’ in a restrictive manner.

From ‘She’s Everything, He’s Just Ken’ to ‘You’re Ken’: A Reimagined Feminist Narrative

Ever since the release of the second trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, ‘She’s everything, he’s just Ken’ memes have trended on Twitter for days. The film’s bubblegum pop aesthetic and nostalgic elements have sparked extensive discussions. 

The movie profoundly explores a world where Barbies dominate, leaving a lack of representation for Kens. It portrays Barbie undervaluing and taking Ken for granted, as he was initially created solely as her love interest. However, as the story unfolds, Ken seizes an opportunity to reverse the roles, turning Barbie’s world into Ken’s World and teaching her a lesson. Nevertheless, Barbie reclaims her world and leads Ken to discover his authentic identity. She firmly states that Ken’s identity should not be limited to being Barbie’s creation; ‘Ken is Ken.’

Initially, Margot, as Barbie, remains oblivious to the toxicity and depression her overpowering has caused Ken. However, as she ventures into the real world and returns to her own, experiencing a range of complex human emotions, Barbie extends a heartfelt apology to Ken. The movie also features other Barbies, notably President Barbie Issa Rae, whose inclusive actions in the climax win admiration as she rectifies past wrongs and includes Weird Barbie, portrayed by Kate McKinnon, who also delivers a captivating performance. Weird Barbie’s selflessness and opposition to the other Barbies, even for a moment, felt somewhat misplaced to me. Throughout the film, McKinnon endures all mistreatment and “disrespectful” remarks by simply saying, “It’s okay, I am used to this.”

‘A System That Diminishes Women’s Worth’: Embracing Imperfections

Barbie’s journey from her ‘Barbie Land’ to reality prompts her to grasp the complexity, imperfections, and beauty of real life. Initially, Barbie frets over her physical appearance, particularly her feet getting flat, and the changes surrounding her. However, as the movie progresses, Barbie realizes that human life is a tapestry of diverse emotions, which she describes as “aching, but good.” Breaking free from her bubble of unyielding cheerfulness and happiness, Barbie questions her identity as a “Barbie” by the climax of the film. Meeting her creator, Ruth, Barbie learns that she was not meant to have a definitive end. Consequently, Barbie decides to embrace the challenges of human life and step out of her comfort zone permanently.

America Ferrera, portraying a strong maternal figure in the movie, delivers a beautiful depiction of the lives of modern women. Her monologue, aimed at saving Barbie from depression and anxiety, resonates with women from all walks of life. Ferrera’s words offer a glimpse into the struggles and beauty of womanhood. She eloquently points out the contradictory expectations placed on women, emphasising the need to be thin but not too thin, ambitious but not too assertive, and nurturing mothers without making motherhood their sole occupation. The monologue poignantly captures the exhaustion of striving to meet society’s ever-changing and often conflicting demands. Even a doll meant to represent women cannot escape these pressures, which makes Ferrera question the situation.

Natasha Walter, author of the book “Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism,” aptly remarked, “In a world in which women are told they can be anything, too often they still have to be dolls as well.” Society expects women to be perfect and conform to predefined roles. While the film Barbie, brought to us by Mattel, the creator of the iconic doll, seeks to invert this notion, attempting to show that now that Barbie can be everything, she must also embody womanhood. This thought-provoking film by the talented Greta Gerwig, co-written with Noah Baumbach, endeavors to redefine Barbie for an age where asking questions takes precedence over seeking immediate answers, and where choices are not confined to binaries: stiletto or Birkenstock, Ken or someone undefined, patriarchy or gender war.

However, it is worth noting that the movie was filled with an abundance of pink and a “Barbiecore” theme, which may be perceived as clichéd. To read more, click here.

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