I went to see the Barbie Movie on Friday with a friend. I have been looking to see other people's reactions, because I'll be honest... when I left I had a feeling like, "Well wasn't that avant garde?" I couldn't say if I liked it or not (I did), because I needed to marinate in it a bit. I needed to process. (See Mali at No Kidding in NZ's take on it here.)
First, my own Barbie experience -- I was not allowed to have Barbies for a long time (well, kid years long time). My mom did NOT want Barbie in the house with her tiny waist and big boobs and unrealistic body image. So, she got us a Darci doll. Which I looked up as an adult, because my recollection was that Darci was Barbie's flat-footed, bigger-boned cousin, a sort of hippie reimagining. So call me surprised when I looked her up and unlike Barbie, who had all the crazy jobs (although I remember the controversy over "math is hard!" Barbie), Darci was one thing -- a model. HER ONLY JOB WAS TO LOOK PRETTY. So, um, who cares if her proportions were a bit more realistic and she wasn't on tiptoe, that's kind of worse! Watch a real (but fuzzy) advertisement for the doll on YouTube here. Not exactly screaming Woman Power.
But, anyway, my Barbie-free childhood was disrupted when our Episcopalian priest dropped off his daughter's Barbie treasure trove that they'd outgrown. Literally treasure -- Malibu Barbies, Kens, a Barbie Dream House, a pool, all kinds of clothing and accessories... and my mom couldn't say no! It was a man of god giving us those Barbies! I'd played with my friends' Barbies, but now my sister and I could play at home. It opened the door to Barbie convertibles, Sweet Roses PJ, and my common misconception that sex was Barbie and Ken literally smashing into each other.
It was interesting to me that the movie has Barbie as a positive role model, that Barbieland is all woman power and the Kens are just...ancillary Beach Bods. I loved when the angsty middle school girls tear her apart and the dissonance of Barbie's thinking that she's a feminist hero and the girls' assertions that OH NO, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, PINK PLASTIC LADY.
The movie is definitely more for adults than kids. It felt very nostalgic to me, and I thought it was so much more about the roles women are squished into and the layers of expectations that are just impossible to "win" at. I liked that it was very much about finding out who you are and realizing that these expectations are ridiculous but you can shed them (sort of).
I loved America Ferrera's speech. But, I felt a little like a footnote in it. I thought that the inclusion of "not mothers" got put in as an afterthought and so much of the rest of the speech was about womanhood and motherhood's intertwining. Which I guess is true, as not being a part of motherhood can sometimes make me feel left out of what society has deemed an essential part of womanhood. And really, the movie is so much about mothers and daughters, which makes sense because who's playing with Barbies?
I loved all the weirdness. I loved the American In Paris style Ken dance number. I saw an article in The Guardian that criticized the movie for being so body inclusive with the Barbies, but then all the Kens are perfect beach bodies. Which goes with the whole "Ken is one-dimensional" thing about Ken, but interesting point.
While Barbie was darker than I thought, it was also way funnier -- I laughed out loud and literally flailed in my seat like a beached sea turtle. There were nostalgic laughs, and "oh my god I FEEL THAT" laughs.
After marinating, I really really really liked the movie. I think I have to see it again to catch more things and marinate further. Then I might be able to say I loved it.
What did you think about the movie?