The Barbie movie, Lilith, Eve, and all our gendered hopes and expectations
My mom was philosophically deeply opposed to Barbie and refused to buy me one when I was a kid, despite my pleading for years to be just like the other little girls in my neighborhood, with their collections of multiple Barbies and dream houses and convertibles and on and on. Finally, I suspect she just got sick of my whinging and bought me a Ballerina Barbie. Within 24 hours I had broken her neck over my abusive brother's head, and that was, as they say, the end of that.
I remember my incredible angst and regret so palpably. Not that I'd hit him hard enough to snap her neck (he deserved it), but that the reality of my life had so quickly intruded on my perfect Barbie dreams. Barbie, as much as I yearned for her saccharine simplicity, was never going to be able to survive in the real, complicated world of this girl, which seems consistent with the imperfect reality of the movie. I haven't seen it yet, but I will. I can't quite quit my affection for it all, even though I'm long past any illusions that what she is meant to represent has any useful meaning in my actual life.
Many of the reviews I've read seem to agree that the film does the best it can under the circumstances but is still held back by everything you mention here. I also watched Princess Weekes' Patreon video with her reactions to this film, and she essentially said, "Would I feel differently about this movie if it had come out 5 or 10 years ago?" I was really surprised that they were able to put so much explicit feminist theory and vocab into it, and maybe if there's one bit of positive takeaway here, it's that the collective conversation has apparently shifted to a point where more people are open to talking about our society this way. Or at least open enough that these things can be included in a massively successful summer blockbuster.
So many laughs, a few tears, and "fuck, yeah!"s. My 3 friends and I, ages 56-70, loved it.
That monologue had me in tears too. And realizing how exhausting it all is. And thinking that I am a bit nuts for crying at a Barbie movie. Robbie and Gosling were both very good at embodying the dissonance that accompanies full-time expectations around performing gender. Ferrera really nailed the impossibility of any woman ever doing it right.
I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I had a Chrissie Doll and I cut her hair because my mom kept mine in a pixie cut. Chrissie had the distinct feature of being able to somehow have shorter or longer hair. Didn't matter to me. Snip. I think the thing I am sad that is missing from the film is Cock Ring Ken, who "came out" in the 1990s and was just as quickly removed from production. This one wore a vest and had a necklace with what looked like little cock rings (or Ken-sized cock rings, in spite of his lack of anatomy).
When my granddaughter was five, I asked her if she was going to get married to a boy or a girl. She said she didn’t know, she just knew that she was going to get married in a castle. I guess I’ll take my wins where I can. I wish she wasn’t into beautiful, tiny dolls and already planning her wedding. I’m going to go see Barbie next week with my daughter. It’s great if you’re not into Barbie, but some of us can’t escape her no matter how hard we try.
I've now seen it 3 times, the last with my mom and sister. It was such a bonding moment. And every time I see a part toward the end, I cry a little more than the time before. It really hits me.
I knew I had to read the article about Susan Faludi, and it did not disappoint. Yours though? It's everything. And nothing. Chef's kiss.
Barbie unpacks a lot of memories for everyone including the older brothers watching their younger sisters enjoying their Sunday afternoons with Barbie and the make believe worlds being absorbed into the minds of a beautiful child. Barbie epitomizes so much of how capitalism has within its grasp both the aspirational good as well as the horrors capitalism brings with it everyday. Neither can be separated in this beauty and the beast. That being said you are the better species and as a big fan enjoy what this movie as unearthed in all of us. Peace.
I never had that many Barbies, but I had most of her friends, and I'm sure I cut their hair. I never had Ken, who I hated, but I did have a GI Joe doll as a boyfriend for whichever doll was currently my favorite, and also his Jeep! It was NOT popular among most of the other girls I knew. My daughter played with Barbies, and also had the Barbie head you could practice styling her hair on. My 9 year old grandaughter has little-to-no interest in Barbie.
A friend of mine saw the movie with her husband and mother-in-law. MIL decided they should put Barbies all around the theater with little notes, and husband was tasked with putting the big hairstyling Barbie head in the men’s restroom - he was really embarrassed/nervous, what a perfect rite of passage! Throughout the movie they enjoyed watching people discover multiple Barbies. 😂
I took my 92-year old mom to see the movie on Monday. She thought it was silly and funny. I thought it was funny & thought-provoking (if you're not thinking about all that stuff 24/7 already) and there were great performances but the last line really soured me on the whole thing, for some complicated (I guess) reasons.
I’m going to have to sit on this & reread…. I think you’re onto something important, but I really have to percolate it. Thanks for one of the most challenging posts I’ve seen in a long while.
Lyz, you would be interested to know that the word for "hovering" in "And the spirit of God was hovering over the water (Gen. 1:2)" is, in Hebrew, conjugated in the feminine (merachefet, not merachef). Of course, that is because the word for "spirit/wind" (ruach) is also feminine.
Damn, Lyz, you are such a great writer.
I do hope this is being published elsewhere.
It's a bummer that as a filmmaker you don't get a say in the interpretation of your work. You hope you make it clear but because of long production schedules and delays in exhibition, it's going to be dated and viewed through lenses you can't fathom. Some of the jokes would have landed harder even 3 years ago.
But all that said, it was an enjoyable movie with a thoughtful (if mildly - and intentionally? - mixed) message and imperfect politics. You'd hope that the box office success would lead to movies that could delve into social topics deeper. We seem to have an intolerance for satire even amongst people who can identify it so who knows?
And agreed that Gosling was really good. I'm looking forward to the film dorks melting down if/when he gets a best supporting academy award nomination for it.