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  • Staff report

“Barbie” generates conflicting reactions

Updated: Sep 5, 2023


Ken (L) and Barbie, played by Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie.

Some contradictory take-aways after watching Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie: it’s a feminist diatribe

against unfettered masculinity… no, it’s a sexist holdover from the 1950s. It’s a puffy comedy full of empty calories of pink cotton candy… no, although there are funny bits, don’t be surprised if you wrap things up with some ugly crying.

It’s a little girl’s summer flick about dolls, fun for the whole family, but with a serious social

commentary … no… well, yes. On the surface, Barbie and Ken are having the time of their lives in a colorful and seemingly perfect world. Once they get a chance to go to a movie version of the real world, set to the oddly appropriate lyrics of the Indigo Girls’ 1989 hit “Closer to Fine,” they soon discover the joys and perils of living among humans. Adulting by dolls? Commentary on late-stage capitalism?

Written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, the film stars Margot Robbie as Barbie, a stereotypical doll who lives in Barbieland, a utopian society where all women are successful and confident. However, when the iconic doll suffers an existential crisis, Barbie starts on a journey of self-discovery taking her into the “real” world where the movie audience gets to track her changes.

Margot Robbie as Barbie.

Oh, and there’s Ryan Gosling as Ken. Men as afterthought. So Greta Gerwig indeed.

What I liked most was not the actual film but the space created during the screening that invites women to start being kinder to each other. One more thing: it’s super cool to have a movie targeted at young girls that isn’t focused entirely on love, with topics previously explored by Gerwig in such films as “Little Women,” “Lady Bird” and “Frances Ha.”

As has been reported across the country, here in Austin many in attendance showed their pink styles of dressing up with lots of pre-show laughing a la “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

After the screening, though, a good bit of tears. Folks got caught in their feels, for sure.

I don’t feel comfortable rating “Barbie” as I think it did something super important beyond 5 out of 5 stars. It’s not perfect but it’s an accessible gateway into seeing women still in cages, even if those cages get upgraded over and over. And it has no connection to “Oppenheimer.”

I think.

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