Barbie is having an interesting effect on the “discourse” far and wide. Everyone has a take on it and those takes range from the idea that it’s virulently anti-men, or “too woke” for its own good or is too sexualized for its target audience. It’s also become a bit of an anthem for Pride – and all that goes along with Pride, which is not what Pride used to be back in the day but feels more like a youth movement of sorts – a Gen-Z expression of identity, politics or otherwise.
I really did like Barbie. I wanted to hate it, but I couldn’t. It was too smartly written, brilliantly directed, and warm-hearted at its core. I especially loved Ken’s last scene, which is bravura acting at its finest – from hitting himself to threatening to jump off of the roof to the crying and to the last scene where he “comes out” and finally gets to accept himself. We argue a bit about this on the forthcoming podcast (to be posted momentarily), but that’s my read.
Enough of that gobbledegook; let’s get to the interesting part, at least for me. What I find intriguing about the “Barbie discourse” is how unintentionally red-pilled Barbie appears to be. The question remains – is it intentionally red-pilled (doubtful) or unintentionally red-pilled (probably). Either way, I find this fascinating because what might have been just a silly Summer movie for kids has turned into a lengthy discussion on our modern culture.
That makes Barbie important in ways it might not otherwise have been. To get the broad-spectrum analysis out of the way first — we have to acknowledge that this was an intentional rebrand by Mattel to become hip and up-to-date for the Gen-Z. This generation is now the target of most corporations to become their biggest consumer base.
You can find much information online to describe Gen-Z per company marketing strategies. You don’t have to look far to see it everywhere, from M&Ms to fashion to movies. No company wants to be caught behind, so they’re changing up everything to appeal to the new breed of consumer:
Barbie could not stagnate as a brand, like no company can sleep on the dramatic changes in the consumer base and very likely the immediate generations to follow. They had to become “radically inclusive,” and I think they’ve successfully done that with Barbie.
I don’t think, personally, that Barbie is “red-pilled.” But I do find some of it unintentional, though it depends on how you look at it. There is no reason to believe Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, or Margot Robbie have suddenly become “woke” to the “woke” ideology that has overtaken everything of late. But let’s go through it, just for fun, shall we?
Just a note: this analysis lives outside the gay themes in the film, which have their own meaning for the gay community (no, I am no longer using the LGBTQIA++ thing – I prefer the old school way). This is more with regard to women and feminism, etc.
1. Barbie escapes Barbie Land. If you envision Barbie Land as a “woke utopia,” as I do, then it follows escaping it would be considered being red-pilled.
2. Barbie visits a gynecologist as a sign of what it means to be a woman. This is somewhat controversial but it has landed in the “discourse” of late, meaning finally getting to be a real woman means having a word I find we all can’t stop saying every minute of every day — vagina. Every day it’s vagina this, penis that. At any rate, the New Left doesn’t see it that way and, in fact, believes that the genitals we’re born with are negotiable.
3. Gloria (America Ferrera’s character) wants there to be a Barbie for just an ordinary mom, not extraordinary, who is married with a daughter. If they wanted to be “man-hating,” Fererra would complain about her husband but she doesn’t. She seems happy in her life – good job, good marriage, with her only problem being a bratty daughter.
4. Despite it being a movie that is supposed to celebrate feminism, the male characters are the most interesting. Gerwig seemed to really enjoy the whole concept of the Kens and by far they’re the most interesting thing about the movie across the board. They’re funny, they’re strange, they’re easily influenced. They’re allowed to be complex. She’s allowed to make fun of them. To quote Raging Bull, it defeats its own purpose.
5. The Barbies enjoy being controlled by men briefly – is that happiness? Is that why Barbie escapes? Most women understand that they like what it feels like to have the attention of men. This is especially true if you grew up in the 1980s when women didn’t even use the word “feminism” out of fear of alienating men.
That’s changed over time, but there is a pinup bimbo in almost all of us — just look at Instagram. Look at TikTok. Being seen as sexy and alluring is another form of power women have that is unmatched in any other part of the human experience. Men have wealth and status as leaders — rock stars, actors, etc — as a way of attracting women. Women have their sexuality as a way of having some power over men in a patriarchy. These are broad terms, of course, but you get the idea.
These Barbies are flirty and compliant in a way intended to make the men look bad, “see how we dumb you down” is the more strident message in those scenes, especially when the men play guitars and how women supposedly endure it, watching the Godfather movie, the Zac Snyder cut, etc. All of this is seemingly meant to shame men for all the ways they peacock around women to gain their admiration. But women do it too. You don’t get to nearly 8 billion worldwide if men and women did not have laws of attraction that motivate them to procreate.
One of the best movies about this, I think, is Species. It’s so brilliant in portraying a beautiful woman who needs male sperm. The men are expendable but to make them compliant and vulnerable, she uses beauty and sexuality:
6. The Barbies live in utopia, meaning they never die, but Barbie Land is boring, static, and weird, and “The Patriarchy” Land is not. Per the film, what it means to be human is everything the Barbies can’t be. They can’t break out of the boxes they’re put in. They have to always play these static symbols of “radical inclusion” for all time.
7. America Ferrera’s lament that even a doll representing women can’t ever be perfect is a critique of the internet’s constant need to find fault, even where there is the best of intentions, of every single person all of the time – what they say, what they like, what they wear, etc. It’s always a contest. The monologue could have just as easily been about that. The Karens’ lament. But it isn’t. It does shine through ever so slightly, which makes one wonder. Barbie will always be judged, and all of that judgment eventually finds it way into her mind and heart, causing her to escape.
8. Barbie doesn’t belong anywhere. She doesn’t want to live in a utopia where she feels she has no purpose, yet she knows that on the other side are the hard realities of life, chief among them death. But she chooses to be free even to think about death rather than live in a false reality that is decided for her. She is an outsider, but ultimately, she’d rather have the real world, with all of its problems, than a fake one where everyone has to be always happy, and no one is allowed to break the rules.
9. A nod here and there to mock strident “woke” ideology, like the tween snapping at her dad, “That’s cultural appropriation,” or saying, “Yay, white savior Barbie.” America Ferrera, Barbie, and the young daughter Sasha (I know, I know) feel they have righted things in Barbie land, but they also choose to leave it. Now they’ll have to live in a world with both the annoying Sashas and “The Patriarchy,” as we all have to do. There is mockery of the Right, too in this movie, or at least people who complain about “woke” changes to culture. The film nods in both directions. But mocking the Right is easy. Mocking the Left is verboten. They do it here; too subtle for my liking, but it’s worth pointing out.
10. Barbie wants a traditional life, like being a mom and perhaps a wife. Maybe she will be a career person too, who knows, but what churns within her when she sees visions of life outside the bubble she sees mothers with their kids. No one who has ever had a baby will miss this. Well, unless you’re Kitty Oppenheimer but that’s a different story for a different day. The movie Barbie is very much as ode to motherhood – more than any other film she has made. Gerwig was pregnant throughout all of this. There are images of her on set with her first child riding on her shoulders while she’s filming (which is just so cool) that she’d have to be a sociopath not to have that coming into the story.
I dare say that Lady Bird is a film from the daughter’s perspective — why was she never good enough for her mom? But Barbie is from the perspective of a mother who wishes for that eternal bond between mother and child — that Barbie facilitated (the doll). My own daughter has left me now and is living her own life so I can tell you that most mothers — who aren’t self-centered sociopaths — cherish that relationship.
How is this “red-pilled”? Because of all of the ways we’ve hacked traditional gender roles but also women are supposed to want more than just their babies — that’s the image we see at the beginning. When Barbie showed up, 1959, the seeds of second-wave feminism were just being planted. It seems strange, perhaps, to attack that on Barbie, but it makes sense when you think about a Barbie that wants to be single and living her best life…in the 1950s, that wasn’t exactly an option for women.
But Gerwig’s Barbie brings it all back home, as if to say, see where all this feminism has gotten us? We’re miserable. We’re robots. It’s the Stepford Wives of our own making.