Lessons From Barbie (Movie Review)


Female leadership feminism gender equality masculinity

Lessons From Barbie (Movie Review)

6 September 2023 Hits:3122

Last Sunday was Father’s Day in Australia, and I got spoiled by two of my daughters. (The third one is away with her mum at present). Paris took me out for dinner on Friday night, and we watched the Barbie movie.

I’m Not Watching It!

When Barbie first came out, I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it, but a few things changed my mind. I thought it was a kids’ movie. But it is very much aimed at adults. My girls saw it and raved about it. So did everyone else I spoke to.

Then, I heard some conservative commentators and preachers foaming about how the movie attacks men. My response? I have to see this. And so, I did.

The Story

There are no spoiler alerts here. If you have not seen Barbie, this blog won’t ruin it for you. So far, the film has earned over US$1.3 billion (over two billion AUD) and is the highest-grossing film of 2023. After seeing the movie, I can see why. It’s clever, very clever, in the way it depicts the struggle women have had for centuries to gain the same rights as men. A struggle that sadly continues to this day.

The first scene depicts the perfect Barbie world where women rule and every night is girls’ night (as she tells Ken). Meanwhile, Ken’s entire existence is bound up in Barbie’s approval. But the thoughts of the person in the real world playing “Barbie” start to influence Barbie’s thinking. She starts thinking about death and dying, which goes down like a pink balloon in Barbie World.

And so, Barbie escapes to the Real World, and Ken sneaks into the back seat to tag along, complete with rollerblades.

Scenes Two & Three

The Real World is the opposite of Barbie World, and Ken takes notes. He learns about patriarchy, where things favour men, and he likes what he sees. The final scene depicts the struggle to turn Barbie’s world to prefer men and back again.

The film also takes a massive swipe at the Barbie doll for making women feel bad about themselves. The toy represents outdated and harmful stereotypes, from physical appearance to personality traits.

The Show Stealer

As much as Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are brilliant in their roles, the real show stealer is America Ferrera, who plays Gloria. As Barbie wrestles with feelings of inadequacy, Gloria launches into an inspiring speech as she outlines the maddening and contradictory expectations women must negotiate:

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow, we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behaviour, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So, find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory, and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out, in fact, that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.

Living in a household with four women, I know the truth of Gloria’s words firsthand. I have witnessed Christie and our girls’ struggles in a world that is still skewed in favour of the Kens. But obviously, some Kens don’t appreciate this.

Maintaining Power and Rage

As mentioned, I started hearing about conservative commentators and preachers boiling mad about the Barbie movie. For example, Pastor Greg Locke apologised in July this year for his past rants and promised to be more mature. His maturity lasted a month because, in August, Locke used duct tape to attach a Bible to a baseball bat and smash up a Barbie Dreamhouse during a sermon. You can hear the 2000-strong crowd cheering him on, seemingly oblivious to their pastor’s desecration of the sacred Scriptures.

Other critics have decried Barbie’s toxic femininity and man-hating agenda. Texas Senator Ted Cruz claimed Barbie was “Chinese communist propaganda” created to have the film played in China. Sky News commentator Piers Morgan called the film “an assault on men.” For the record, I’m a man who didn’t feel assaulted by Barbie. I enjoyed the movie mainly because I got to hang out with one of my daughters. I am comfortable in my masculinity and very aware of my privileged position.

And therein lies the main lesson from Barbie. Straight white men have enjoyed a significant advantage in the world for centuries. But privileges are not a right. Equal rights are a human right, and if I need to lose some of my privileges to give equality to others, then so be it. That is the example Jesus gave us.

Jesus willingly chose to relinquish his privileged position with God to save humanity. The apostle Paul encourages us to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. He writes, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. The chief aim of those who follow Jesus is to choose to imitate him. I see anything but this from the Gregg Locke’s of the world. I see a brash pseudo-masculinity in them that pursues a tough-guy image of dominance over their world and relationships. This image has more in common with John Wayne than Jesus Christ. By the way, Jesus and John Wayne is an excellent book that explores this topic further. Read the book and see the Barbie movie if you want to. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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2 replies on “Lessons From Barbie (Movie Review)”


Thanx for that Rob. It’s so true. Never thought that Barbie would be a vehicle for a critique of gender inequality

Carolyn Elliottsays:

Creation screams variety! Species, shape, colour, height, gender, microscopic to gargantuan, animal, vegetable, mineral, earth bound, intergalactic to heaven bound. We each are one of a kind. Thankful.

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