This boomer joined a friend and her husband to see Barbie, the movie, this week. My own husband declined and I’m afraid he short-changed himself. I have only one word to describe the movie—BRILLIANT!
When the first whispers of a Barbie movie started hitting the media I could not imagine what on earth they could concoct in Hollywood to make a movie about a glamour doll who was the antithesis of feminism. Producer and co-writer Greta Gerwig has created a masterpiece and despite my early skepticism and disparaging comments, I’m now happy to eat my words.
By the time Barbie was born in 1959 I was a bit too old to play with dolls, even the glamorous, anatomically incorrect grownup that Barbie was supposed to be. I didn’t get my own Barbie until I was nearly seventy. Carrying her cellphone in one hand, Hudson’s Bay Barbie had a cute little dog on a leash, and a brief case stuffed with the newspaper and a takeout steeped tea. I could relate to that Barbie.
The movie is a complex, layered creation that will be perceived differently by each generation. Older boomers like myself will totally identify with the main theme about patriarchy and the irony of role reversal. Men watching the movie will relate to the macho stereotypes portrayed by the Ken characters but I’m not sure they understand the subtext, having never walked in our uncomfortable stiletto shoes.
Gen Xers, Ys, and Zs will get the main points without perhaps fully appreciating the subtleties of the growing feminist movement we boomers lived and worked through. They live in the more liberal now whereas boomer women have more context we can relate to in the movie’s not-so-subtle messages.
Feminism and equal rights have made some progress but sadly, boardrooms are still full of old white men; the U.S. Supreme Court is weighted toward the conservative, old, white establishment; sexual stereotypes are still part of everyday life, and many women are still caught up in gender roles that should have died in the last millennium.
As we were walking out of the theatre I chatted with two little girls about 7 and 9 years old to find out what they thought. It was their second time seeing the Barbie movie and their reaction was predictable for their age: you can be anyone you want to be. Sure. That message is fine by me—admirable but not always workable, as they will some day discover.
Right from the opening to the final scenes, I loved this movie. The writing was intelligent and thought-provoking. The message was brilliantly depicted in imaginary pink Barbieland and contemporary scenes set in Los Angeles, the poster city and home base for real-life Barbie wannabes.
I don’t want to reveal anything about how they pulled this movie off and gave it a plot because I wouldn’t want to spoil the full experience for you. Pay special attention to the monologue delivered by America Ferrera playing a creative designer for Mattel to a disillusioned Barbie, about two-thirds of the way through the movie. It sums everything up beautifully.
Margot Robbie was perfection as genetically-blessed Barbie. It’s also worth mentioning that the three hunky leading Ken dolls were played by our own home-grown, anatomically correct Canadians Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, and Michael Cera.
Barbie, the movie will not change the world or ultimately make it a better place, but it will keep you blissfully entertained and laughing for a couple of hours. Total escapism. And the Oscar for originality and everything else goes to . . . I hope !