Life in Plastic, it's Fantastic
**Barbie spoilers contained herein**
Though the case was ultimately dismissed, toy maker company Mattel sued over production of the track, because, as one source states, “Mattel claimed the song violated the Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object, referring to her as a ‘Blonde Bimbo.” More on the sex object topic later.
I recall dancing to the song in a number of clubs during the late ‘90s. As children, my sisters played with the iconic Barbie fashion doll and though I had no emotional connection to the toy, I have fond memories of sweating on the dancefloor as Aqua’s hit fueled my memories.
Replete with sexual innuendos, excerpts of lyrics to “Barbie Girl” include: “I’m a Barbie girl in the Barbie world. Life in plastic, it’s fantastic. You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere. Imagination, life is your creation.”
Recently, the blockbuster film Barbie was released and its soundtrack featured a song from rappers Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice entitled “Barbie World.” An Aqua sample was used on the track, despite rumors to the contrary, and the movie project was reportedly greenlit by Mattel.
Having heard varying Barbie movie reviews, I decided to watch the film and use the deconstruction and critical lenses I was taught in social work grad school to evaluate the picture. Herein, I’ll also apply a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) perspective to my analysis.
As a matter of full disclosure, I didn’t initially care for Barbie, though I may’ve been in the minority of viewers in this regard, as the film has grossed over a billion dollars thus far. After having re-watched it and paid closer attention, I view the film as I do Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told.
Rather than using a predetermined response about how thing X is bad, evil, or otherwise, I appreciate the ability to carefully consider evidence of thing X from a favorable perspective. I can then develop my viewpoint despite the charitable worldview.
Concerning Barbie, and upon my second viewing, the presumed pro-female, pro-matriarchy perspective of the film didn’t detail a convincing case for its assumed premise. Logically speaking, my initial perception of the feminist message was as follows:
Major premise: All women are oppressed by the patriarchy.
Minor premise: Barbie is a woman.
Conclusion: Therefore, Barbie is oppressed by the patriarchy.
When initially starting to write this post, I didn’t intend on violating the is-ought problem—attempting to derive an ought from an is. An example of this would be if I said, “Barbie is self-contradictory and it ought not to be.”
However, after having watched Barbie for a second time and carefully analyzing its perceived meanings, I concluded that the logic of its feminist message better related to the following outcome:
Major premise: A meaningful life requires suffering.
Minor premise: Barbie ultimately chooses a meaningful life.
Conclusion: Consequently, Barbie’s choice requires suffering.
Dear reader, perhaps you disagree with my perception. Truly, I anticipate criticism about my devotion of time to analyze a fictional movie regarding dolls. “Why do you care, Deric?” is something I suspect people may ask.
I think the sociocultural significance of Barbie cannot be understated. I don’t look at the film with a cursory glance and use my first impression as a be-all, end-all view.
Therefore, I carefully considered lessons of the movie and herein will provide my perspective. As such, the reader is encouraged to challenge anything I state herein—much as I dispute much of the content within the film.
Rather than creating the illusion of having refuted anything within Barbie, through the covert replacement of its concepts with a different proposition, I will instead steel man the case by first defining terms and then elaborating on my impressions. The following terms are relevant to the film.
Charitable description of feminism –
On its face, feminism may be defined as the advocacy of women’s personal, social, political, economic, and legal rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes, and through the perspective of an amalgam of sociopolitical movements and ideologies.
From a feminist perspective, females (girls and women) have historically, systemically, and unjustly been denied access and resources through the oppressive actions of males (boys and men). Feminism is therefore needed to offset past, present, and foreseeable injustice of this kind.
In a blog entry entitled Feminism, I stated, “It occurs to me that feminism as a movement, from its inception, wasn’t truly about equality. Likewise, exploration of feminist rhetoric and behavior in living memory contradicts expressed aims of many feminists.”
When I critique feminism, I’m not making claims about females. Rather, I oppose a divisive ideology that appears to serve as a medium for venting, whining, moaning, bitching, and complaining more than actually resolving problems with a pragmatic end goal in mind.
Noteworthy, one source states, “One of the biggest misconceptions about feminism is that it’s a movement for women, by women, and made up of women in opposition of men. In truth, not only should feminism benefit everyone, as it works to dismantle all systems of oppression.”
However, some feminist scholars and activists may disagree with this proposal. Likewise, and anecdotally, modern feminism appears to serve as a subversive ideological movement with an apparent objective to simply switch a perceived power and control dynamic from one group to another.
For each instance of “power” or “control” mentioned in Barbie, I will use ALL CAPS to demonstrate the recurring theme. When the reader is able to identify propaganda, it’s my hope that improved understanding about the indoctrination effect of Barbie will result.
Dear reader, keep in mind that from an academic perspective, some feminists perceive the ideology as a viral infection, as male feminists are conceptualized as vectors of contamination. A virus is a piece of information that informs components within its host about how to function.
Per one source, “Its business is to make more of itself—that’s its only job. Causing disease along the way may or may not be good for it actually—if it kills the cells too fast, that gives it less time to get out and go find a new host.”
While I can understand the argument for the first and second waves of feminism—even though I disagree with the major premise relating to all women being oppressed by all men in families, occupational fields, housing markets, institutions of higher education, and otherwise—I find the third wave wholly ridiculous.
Without an endpoint at which feminists in the W.E.I.R.D. (Western, educated, industrialized, religious, and democratic) world could concede victory, the third wave resorted to imagining new problems rather than serving the interest of equality. It was more abstract than the first two waves.
Arguably, the fourth wave of feminism is intersectionality. It is the antithesis of equality and is less involved with the advancement of all women, because white women are said to wield more privilege than nonwhite women and men, as well as people with disabilities and other sociopolitical groups.
The fourth wave is focused on equity—the practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups regarded as disadvantaged or subject to discrimination. Therefore, its objective is to deliberately disadvantage supposed dominate groups in favor of alleged marginalized and oppressed groups.
Charitable description of patriarchy –
Patriarchy may be considered a system of society or government in which men hold the power and privilege while women are largely excluded from it. This phenomenon is said to inhabit the social, political, and economic structures which perpetuate sex and gendered inequality between males and females.
From a patriarchal standpoint, females have immorally and unjustly been subjugated by males through direct and indirect means, as well as by those who are apathetic regarding the rights of girls and women across the globe and throughout history. This essentially renders females to the status of second-class citizens.
In my Feminism entry, I opined, “The notion of a social system in which positions of dominance and privilege are primarily held by men may have been true historically, though arguably is now a shadow of past oppression.” In essence, I don’t believe in the boogeyMAN of patriarchy.
I don’t look at men occupying positions of power and think, “Gee, I bet women were oppressed in order for these men to have become successful.” Such unreasonable logic is childish and blaming “patriarchy” for the lack of sex or gendered-based parity is asinine.
If one uses “patriarchy” merely to reference the tendency of men to occupy certain roles within a system, devoid of moralism (e.g., men in positions of authority is a bad thing), then I’m prepared to hear discussion about how the “matriarchy” impacts the growing “gender gap in high education,” as women appear to have more success in this arena than men.
Ultimately, I view the concept of patriarchy much as I do the topic of racism. I maintain skeptical doubt that it could or potentially does exist; however, I don’t think it’s factually correct to portray it as a widespread matter of concern within our nation.
As well, I suspect those who cry “patriarchy” may suffer from what I call the Kendi effect. Of this, in a blogpost entitled Allyship I stated:
Using a cultural Marxism approach, when Ibram X. Kendi purportedly stated, “When I see racial disparities, I see racism,” he presumably outlined black people as the have-nots (oppressed) and whites as the haves (oppressor).
Framework of the Kendi effect—when attributed to sex or gender instead of race—posits that the have-nots (women) and haves (men) function within a system of oppression. When one sees sex or gendered-based disparities, one simultaneously sees patriarchy.
After watching Barbie, I briefly discussed my thoughts about the film with a close friend, “Jammies.” Given the many reviews I’ve heard and how different my overview was from that of Jammies’, I realized that Barbie serves as something akin to a projective test.
This form of assessment occurs when people are presented with ambiguous images, or given abstract situations, and asked to interpret the content. Perhaps one of the most notable tools of this sort is the Rorschach test, colloquially known as an inkblot test.
Jammies and I watched the same film and walked away with remarkably differing perspectives. I imagine that if the reader has seen the movie, your viewpoint may also differ from my own.
Interestingly, I find that the movie is rife with contradictions of which I’m uncertain that writers, producers, actors, or the director intended. Half-jokingly, I told Jammies I wouldn’t be surprised if an inhuman artificial intelligence (AI) platform assisted with writing the film.
This is mainly due to how disconnected and incompatible a number of the themes appear to be—perhaps as disjointed as the order in which I address these themes, as there is no sequential continuity herein. Though not exhaustive, here are a number of examples which stood out to me:
The movie begins with homage paid to the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the female narrator describes how simulated motherhood through playtime with dolls “can be fun, at least for a while anyway.”
The scene arguably devolves into an abortion allegory when a gigantic Barbie figure appears and little girls marvel at the sight of Margot Robbie’s character. A little girl then begins bashing the heads of the baby dolls with which she was previously playing as other girls follow suit with simulated infant destruction.
For the sake of clarity, Robbie’s role in Barbie relates to that of Barbie, as each of the featured Barbies have specific titles. Herein, unless otherwise stated, “Barbie” suggests Robbie’s character.
Likewise, when I mention “Ken,” I’m referring to Ryan Gosling’s character (Ken), unless otherwise stated. Still, it is of note that while each prominent Barbie character has a unique title, all of the Kens are simply “Ken.”
At any rate, identification of “girls” in specific is an interesting choice for a movie that features at least one male-to-female trans actor. Socio-politically biased Wikipedia—said to favor left-leaning narratives—reports, “Pregnancy is not possible for transgender women as they lack a female reproductive system.”
As the film continues, the narrator states, “Midge was Barbie’s pregnant friend. Let’s not show Midge, actually. She was discontinued by Mattel, because a pregnant doll is just too weird.”
When I presented the interpreted anti-motherhood message to Jammies, she didn’t decipher the motif of continued contempt towards Midge throughout the film as I had. Perhaps my knowledge of feminism’s second wave clouded my perspective.
However, one source states:
The minutiae mostly have to do with Midge. She was first introduced as a doll in 1963 so Barbie could have a friend — just like Allan would be for Ken a year later. “Midge wasn’t the dream girl. Barbie was the dream girl. Midge was the ugly sidekick who might have made a mistake.”
It would appear as though my perception of the film’s approach to motherhood was accurate. If one perceives motherhood as a “mistake,” it stands to reason that Barbie could serve as a critical critique against mothership.
However, to be credible to the film’s overt message, towards the end of the film Gloria—Barbie’s analogue in the real world—proposes the idea of a different kind of Barbie doll by stating:
What about Ordinary Barbie? She’s not extraordinary, she’s not president of anything, or maybe she is. Maybe she’s a mom, maybe she’s not. Because it’s okay to just want to be a mom, or to want to be president, or a mom who is president, or not a mom who is also not president.
While some may consider Gloria’s speech to be a balanced perspective of feminism’s reformed aim, I’m not convinced. I remain skeptical of any ideology or movement which moralizes by expressing what is good, bad, right, wrong, appropriate, inappropriate, okay, or not okay for others.
Perhaps there are people so devoid of critical thought, so apt to avoid personal responsibility and accountability, or so eager to jump on a sociopolitical movement that comes prepackaged with an impractical ideology that they reject agency in favor of dogmatic rule. I’m not such a person and I maintain that feminism cannot escape its bleak historical attacks on motherhood.
The aforementioned motherhood scene specifically stated, “Since the beginning of time, since the first little girl ever existed, there have been dolls,” and, “The girls who played with them could only ever play at being mothers.”
However, per one source, “The Barbie dolls are played by an array of diverse actresses, including trans actress Hari Nef. She plays the role of Doctor Barbie. While the film does not dive into trans identity, Barbie still manages to touch upon LGBTQ+ issues without naming them as such.”
In one scene, when Ken requests an overnight visit, Barbie states, “It’s girls night,” as the camera pans towards Nef. According to one source, “Girls night, or sometimes known as ladies night, is a female-only social gathering.”
To be exceedingly clear, per one source, a female is defined as an “individual of the sex which conceives and brings forth young, or (in a wider sense) which has an ovary and produces ova.” Barbie is plagued by contradictions.
If the patriarchy represents male power and privilege in place of females, one imagines that Nef’s character doesn’t comport with first or second waves of feminism. Pertaining to truth in this regard, is the audience invited to adopt an “imagination, life is your creation” standard in relation to womanhood?
It would appear so, as the narrator states at one point, “Since Barbie can be anything, women can be anything, and this has been reflected back onto the little girls of today in the real world. Girls can grow into women who can achieve everything and anything they set their mind to.”
Presumably through use of sarcasm, the narrator continues by suggesting, “Thanks to Barbie, all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved—at least, that’s what the Barbies think. After all, they’re living in Barbieland. Who am I to burst their bubble?”
One imagines that any perceivable human problem that may exist—especially those specific to females—would constitute bubble-bursting potential. Even within the utopic depiction of Barbieland, perfection eventually eroded.
If one wonders about Barbieland, contemplating whether it’s an alternate reality or a place where imagination manifests, the film answers this during a Mattel board meeting. “Think of it as a town in Sweden,” which is an obscure reference from the film’s Mattel CEO.
To the uninitiated, this abstraction may seem confusing. For those aware of feminism’s influence on society, an imaginary objective is precisely the point. Per one source:
Feminist discourse has been deliberating about the reimagination of existing codes, norms and constructions which restrict mobilities, modalities and multiple approaches to work cultures, policy-making and social relationships.
One’s imagination serves as an unfalsifiable medium through which utopic notions related to womanhood can exist. If one can imagine it, one can then aspire to create a perfect realm in which an abstract concept—as distant as a town in Sweden—may one day exist, with enough applied effort.
In one Barbie scene, Barbie meets what is presumed to be the spirit of Ruth Handler—Mattel’s first and long-running president from 1945 to 1975—the woman who originated the doll that inspired the film. Though Handler’s legal history served as a gag in the movie, the audience didn’t learn about Barbie’s true origin story.
Per one source, “Barbie’s embarrassing European ancestor (how American!) began as a lewd cartoon, developed by and for men.” Dear reader, I cautioned that I would revisit the sex object topic.
As the story of Barbie’s creator goes, Handler traveled to Europe and returned with a “sex doll” named Bild Lilli who is described as a “post-war gold-digging buxom broad who got by in life seducing wealthy male suitors,” as Handler apparently redesigned the sex toy to create Barbie.
Is the alleged patriarchy so insidious that the reader is willing to consider that men created a sex doll, from whom Barbie originated, and now the doll serves as a symbol of womanhood meant to empower girls? Or could it be that women appropriated a man’s toy and have made many millions of dollars based on the male gaze?
Regardless of your answer, Barbie piques my skeptical interest when Barbie meets Handler’s character and Handler states, “I always find I think best at kitchen tables.” Are the film’s writers unaware of “woman, get back in the kitchen” quips?
A former sex doll visits the kitchen—in which a woman is said to do her best thinking. Is Barbie an idealized feminist utopia or something of a traditionally masculine concept for desire? Perhaps it merely serves irony.
In the beginning of the movie, as Barbie is preparing for her day and she looks into a hollowed-out mirror, a song plays as a singer states, “If that was really a mirror, you’d see your perfect smile.” I can appreciate what I imagine is the farcical message of the scene, because perfection is unattainable and I think the film explores this factual premise.
In a blogpost entitled Mary Sue, I opined, “I wonder what utility there is in offering females a stereotypical depiction of perfection—a standard to which they will never attain. Ever!” Barbie presents an obvious depiction of this point while also seeming to value feminist purity principles.
One ponders whether or not the film intentionally mocks the notion of perfection, given how the term “perfect” is repeatedly used throughout a dance scene at Barbie’s home. This is until Barbie arrives at an existential breaking point when she asks of partygoers, “Do you guys ever think about dying?”
This begins a series of unfortunate events which lead to Barbie meeting with Weird Barbie to discuss the cause of the former’s experience. The viewer then learns that Barbieland was designed to serve as a utopic environment for females.
Barbie states of her objective counterpart in the real world (Gloria), “Why would she be sad? We fixed everything so that all women in the real world could be happy and POWERFUL?” From a feminist lens, the state of happiness in Barbie hinges on the recurrence of a power motif.
As an example, when the CEO of Mattel is depicted in the film, the audience hears his speech to an all-male boardroom. He states, “Always emPOWERing girls. Always! But what do we really sell? We sell dreams, and imagination, and sparkle,” and, “When you think of sparkle, what do you think of after that? Female agency.”
From an REBT perspective, people are encouraged to practice unconditional acceptance of self, others, and the world rather than rigidly demanding unattainable perfection or vying for impractical positions of power. Therefore, Barbie’s admission about fixing matters raises compelling questions.
In Barbieland, woman hold positions of power and control. This is apparently presumed to foster happiness, per Barbie’s admission. It also represents what turns out to be a dystopic matriarchy.
If the real world is said to represent the patriarchy, where females are supposedly unhappy and powerless—and the patriarchy is doubtlessly presented as a moral bad, what then constitutes good or even just action when the roles of power are reversed and women occupy dominant roles?
Are women said to be happy only if they are in charge? If so, it isn’t power and control that is corruptive, though the essence of being a man is deduced as relating to a nefarious state of existence.
In this case, perfection is attained when women overcome evil men. It isn’t the power or authority that is inherently bad, because that which constitutes maleness is essentially villainous.
Imagine swapping the terms “female” and “male” for “white” and “black.” How might that last paragraph be received by those who participated in the making of Barbie?
In this case, perfection is attained when whites overcome evil blacks. It isn’t the power or authority that is inherently bad, because that which constitutes blackness is essentially villainous.
When understood from this viewpoint, Barbie serves as little more than a sex/gender rendition of a minstrel show—a type of stage entertainment featuring songs, dances, and formulaic comic routines based on stereotyped depictions of blacks and typically performed by white actors with blackened faces.
Nonetheless, one Barbie scene captures when Barbie meets Gloria—the woman whose memories Barbie experienced when in Barbieland, and Barbie states, “I thought that Barbie had made the real world better, but the real world is forever and irrevocably messed up.” This is what is.
To this declaration, Gloria states, “The real world is not perfect, but you inspired me.” This could be interpreted as an admission that despite what one thinks ought to be, we can flexibly try to improve what is—all without the process of self-disturbance.
Barbie then states, “I love women. I wanna help women,” as Gloria’s daughter, Sasha, responds, “Oh, come on, everybody hates women. Women hate women and men hate women; it’s the one thing we can all agree on.”
Sasha is depicted as a feminist character. Still, she appears quite disgruntled with life. Her admission about women hating women is an informative critique on the dystopia resulting from perfection in pursuit of utopia for which some feminists strive.
Later in the film, in what one imagines is an emotionally moving scene for those who embrace the notion of empowerment through refutation of social norms, Sasha invites her mom to consider that “everything you pretend not to be” is that from which Gloria may benefit by acknowledging.
To this, Gloria states, “I’m weird, and I’m dark, and I’m crazy.” While I was entirely unmoved by the scene, I could appreciate that Gloria acknowledged her imperfection, because we are all fallible human beings.
In a separate scene, Barbie’s continued experience with unpleasant emotions since returning from the real world results in her crying and explaining to Gloria, “I’m not good enough for anything.” This was a scene I could get behind.
The phrase “perfect is the enemy of good” speaks to a lack of unconditional acceptance. Rather than Gloria’s response, which assumed the typical validation of a person’s perceived desirable characteristics, I prefer advocacy of tolerance and acceptance.
Consider the following two approaches:
Approach 1 – Barbie declares herself un-pretty, unintelligent, and not good enough. In response to the claim, Gloria states, “It is literally impossible to be a woman,” and, “It kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough.”
I maintain that the words we use matter. Hyperbole isn’t necessarily helpful in response to a potential crisis. Stating that it is “literally impossible” to be a woman is factually incorrect, as billions of women literally exist in the world.
Likewise, Gloria’s mere existence isn’t upended when hearing Barbie’s revelation. Though some people may relate to Gloria’s style of commiserating rhetoric, which perceivably leads to one feeling better, I advocate that which can help a person to get better.
Approach 2 – Barbie makes the same declaration. In response, I use the elegant solution. This method isn’t related to syrupy optimism (ought), as it concerns realism (is).
Imagine that I state to Barbie, “Suppose it’s true that you are un-pretty, unintelligent, and not good enough. Can you stand being ugly, stupid, and incompetent?”
I’m not interested in arguing how beautiful Barbie is to others, how intelligent she may be, or how—gosh darn it—I think she’s a good enough person. Rather, I’d encourage Barbie to consider whether or not she believes she can address her low frustration tolerance.
It is an elegant approach that addresses what is and doesn’t attempt to persuade a person about what ought to be. Gloria’s attempt to convince Barbie of feel-good nonsense is as realistic an approach as the concept of Barbieland.
From the moment Barbie contemplates death, she is awakened, à la The Matrix (1999) when Neo begins experiencing disruptions within the Matrix. As Barbie progresses, Barbie meets with Weird Barbie and the latter presents the former with a binary option.
Much like Neo was faced with a red pill, blue pill option in The Matrix, Weird Barbie states, “So, what’ll it be then? You can go back to your regular life and forget any of this ever happened. Or you can know the truth about the universe. The choice is now yours.”
Barbie is presented with the option of a high heel in one hand and a Birkenstock sandal in the other, as she selects the high heel which represents a state of blissful ignorance. However, Weird Barbie then expresses, “I just gave you a choice so you could feel some sense of CONTROL.”
According to one source, “The 1999 film The Matrix by the Wachowskis is largely Platonic and Cartesian; the film explores the journey of one man from the Matrix, a simulation ruled by deceitful robots, into the enlightenment of the ‘real world.”
Such is the case with Barbie. However, the film repetitively recycles usual conventional themes, all while adding what I consider to be meaningful points which may or may not relate to Plato’s allegory of the cave.
This is one reason I’m uncertain as to whether or not AI is partially responsible for having written the film, because Barbie ultimately rejects the feminist utopia of Barbieland and thus negates many of the tropes of feminism offered throughout the movie. One is convinced that Barbie may not be a pro-feminism offering.
In one scene I found reminiscent of The Matrix, when Neo meets the Oracle in her kitchen, Barbie says to Handler’s character, “I usually look perfect,” to which Handler’s character responds, “I think you’re just right.” A “good enough” philosophy is one I can abide.
Barbie then states, “The real world isn’t what I thought it was,” to which Handler’s character replies, “It never is, and isn’t that marvelous?” This speaks to the is-ought problem, as I support the film’s illustration of this pragmatic point.
In a separate scene, during which Ken is walking in the real world, prototypical imagery of manhood is displayed. This includes skyscrapers (phallic symbolism), men working out and giving pounds, men exiting a Hummer and riding horses, and men dressed in business attire while responding dismissively to a woman.
It’s a quintessential moment representing Ken’s awakening to the concept of the patriarchy. Noteworthy, Ken’s activation later affords him the opportunity to lead the other Kens out of tyrannical bondage in Barbieland, though imbalance of his overcorrection results in a questionable outcome for Barbies.
Further imagery is displayed and all the while Ken gleefully laughs while stating, “Yes!” as he then accepts male dominance over females. Later, Ken shares his excitement with Barbie by joyously shouting, “Men rule the world!”
While Ken discovers a society wherein men aren’t treated as they are in Barbieland, Barbie becomes emotionally awakened when she sheds her first tear. This occurs when thinking about the individual in the real world to whom the doll is attached.
The audience is led to believe that Sasha, the minor-aged daughter of Gloria, is the source of sorrow. After all, Sasha plays with dolls as a young girl and ends up getting rid of her toys in adolescence, à la Toy Story 3.
However, Barbie later discovers that adult-aged Gloria is the origin of Barbie’s looming angst. Still, it’s during the course of Barbie’s emotional awakening that another moment of enlightenment occurs.
As Barbie looks around the real world, she observes families interacting with one another—parents spending time with children. Also, an awkwardly placed couple engaged in an argument is featured, as a white man—of course, it’s a white man—yells at an Asian woman.
Barbie then laughs with joy as she observes two men of color chatting. She appears somber while witnessing a lone white man who appears to be downcast. Finally, when complimenting an elderly white woman, calling her “beautiful,” the aged women replies, “I know it.”
The scene could be interpreted as Barbie awaking to the emotional spectrum inherent in human life and also rejecting societal norms related to politeness. This is in stark contrast to the unrealistic façade of Barbieland in which females appear joyful and seemingly without end.
All the same, later in the film, Barbie states, “I’m starting to get all these weirdo feelings, like I have fear with no specific object,” as a female passerby correctly identifies the experience of anxiety. Ken then offers, “I feel amazing,” presumably invalidating Barbie’s experience with his admission.
Later in the film, when Barbie is emotionally disturbed by the fact that she receives similar treatment as the Kens once did, she expresses to Gloria, “I’ve never wanted anything to change.” Here, Barbie laments having taken the red pill of awakening.
To this, Gloria states, “Oh, honey, that’s life. It’s all change.” Barbie then expresses, “That’s terrifying. I don’t want that,” perceivably desiring the blue pill of self-deception.
Apparently, the AI or writers thought it appropriate to then contrast delusion with depression, creating a false dichotomy. After Barbie expresses being lower than she’s ever been, an ironically upbeat commercial plays with a little girl stating:
Ok, kids, it’s time to run out and get the new depression Barbie. She wears sweatpants all day and night. She spent seven hours today on Instagram looking at her estranged best friend’s engagement photos while eating a family-sized bag of Starburst. And now, her jaw’s killing her and she’s going to watch the BBC’s Crime and Prejudice for the seventh time, until she falls asleep. Anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD sold separately.
From an REBT perspective, using the ABC Model, it isn’t the act of Ken taking over Barbieland (Action) that results in Barbie’s emotive and behavioral condition (Consequence). Rather, it’s what Barbie tells herself (Belief) that renders her self-disturbed disposition (Consequence).
Barbie likely believes that she shouldn’t experience discomfort, life must be easy, and that Ken ought not to have disrupted the social order of Barbieland. Due to her demandingness, Barbie apparently awakened to the experience of situational depression—all self-induced in this case, because of her irrational beliefs.
Feminist tropes –
Barbie contains a number of feminist tropes—common or overused themes. As an example, during the film when one Barbie wins a journalism award, rather than expressing gratitude she states, “I work very hard, so I deserve it.”
Another Barbie is handed an award while the granter states, “You’re the voice of a generation.” The Barbie who receives the accolade replies, “I know.”
Regarding this response, one source expands:
Whenever there’s a new development or a milestone reached, discussion of its impact is quickly curbed by the reminder to be “thankful”. Our achievements, our autonomy, our ambition, all held hostage by this indebtedness. Our position, seemingly still so precarious, that we have to use ‘thank you’ as punctuation on any public statement.
It would appear as though socialized niceties may arguably constitute oppression. This is likely why the film depicted the complimented elderly lady during Barbie’s emotional awakening scene as arrogant rather than appreciative.
How might this play out within one’s life? Imagine being served a plate of food at a family get together and instead of expressing appreciation, you say, “I’m hungry, so I deserve it.” Simply because one could be a contemptable person doesn’t mean one should be an asshole.
Another common feminist theme relates to the idea that women are emotional and illogical. Per one female source, “When presented with gray-area elements like emotional responses or feeling versus thinking, we are often viewed as irrational, and even chemically imbalanced.”
In Barbie, after arguing a case before what appears to be the Supreme Court, Lawyer Barbie states, “This makes me emotional and I’m expressing it. I have no difficulty holding both logic and feeling at the same time. And it does not diminish my POWERS, it expands them.”
Knowledge of literature related to emotion and cognition suggests “separate neural pathways are used alternately for empathetic and analytic problem solving.” A separate source reports that “positive and negative emotion will result in a reduction of logical reasoning performance.”
At any rate, a multi-layered feminist trope arises as it relates to power and control, and Lawyer Barbie’s abilities. Per one source, “On an individual level, much of what we associate with masculinity hinges on a man’s capacity to exercise power and control.”
In the case of Lawyer Barbie, upon what does her femininity hinge that affords her an opportunity to derive otherworldly powers unavailable to those of us whose ability to apply logic is naturally hampered by emotion? Are men mere mortals in the presence of exalted women?
I found the persistent focus on power in Barbie to be off-putting. In one scene, Gloria describes of the Kens:
Distract them by appearing helpless and confused. Kens cannot resist a damsel in distress. You have to make them believe that you’re complacent—that they have the POWER. And when their guard is down, you take the POWER back!
Patronizingly, she continues, “You have to be their mommies but not remind them of their mommy. Any POWER you have must be masked under a giggle.” This infantilizing assertion implies that men are little more than grown children.
She continues, “You have to find a way to reject men’s advances without damaging their egos. Because if you say yes, then you’re a tramp. But if you say no to them, then you’re a prude.” Imagine castigating the entire sex or gender—as it relates to females, girls, and women—in such a manner.
In a later scene, Sasha contributes to the manipulative conversation by suggesting, “The final stage of our plan, to turn the Kens against each other. Now that they think they have POWER over you, you make them question whether they have enough POWER over each other.”
In any other context, this would be referred to as gaslighting— manipulating someone using psychological methods into questioning their own sanity or powers of reasoning. Perhaps the insatiable thirst for power feminism entails may afford one the opportunity to behave poorly if doing so benefits the in-group.
Another trope manifests when the narrator states, “Barbie has a great day every day, but Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him.” This is an iss-ME, not an iss-YOU—as Ken is plagued with a lack of unconditional self-acceptance and this isn’t indicative of the experience regarding all men.
However, according to one source:
“These empty men who were raised with a sense of false masculinity, now truly have to prove they are a man,” and “a man looking for validation is just a starving dog. He will chase whatever moves, and follow any woman who pays a bit of attention to him. As soon as she throws him a bone, he is temporarily satisfied, and now wants to see if he can find a meatier bone.”
While it is undoubtedly true that some men seek validation from women in an unhealthy manner—just as some women do—not all men can be lumped into this woeful category of behavior. Therefore, Barbie commits the error of prejudicial caricaturizing of men as a whole.
Yet another feminist distraction unfolds in the film regarding the idea that men supposedly believe that women aren’t entitled to opinions. In the movie, Barbie states, “I know I’m Stereotypical Barbie and therefore don’t form conjectures concerning the causality of adjacent unfolding events.”
This straw man ploy presupposes that it is understood that Barbie, who likely represents all females, is required not to maintain or voice a point of view. While some men may believe this should be the case, it is inarguable that not every man supports this perspective.
Another example of a feminist trope unveils itself as Barbie is rollerblading on the beach and a man within a group of other men yells, “Give us a smile, blondie!” Of course, that man was white. According to one source:
Men tell women to smile because society conditions men to think we exist for the male gaze and for their pleasure. Men are socialized to believe they have control over women’s bodies. This [is the] result in them giving unsolicited instructions on how we should look, think and act. Essentially what a man is saying when he tells a woman – one he doesn’t even know – to smile, is that his wants outweigh her own autonomy over how she exists in the world.
Setting aside the suppression of free speech matter, why shouldn’t a man be able to tell Barbie to smile? What gives females the right to should all over others so that the sensibilities of women aren’t offended?
Suppose I were to declare that women should stop telling men to “man up.” Surely, not all women are guilty of this perceived offense. However, even if all women did so, do I have to legitimate authority to dictate my personal moral convictions to others?
While some or even many women may not appreciate being told to smile, there is no objective legal, moral, or ethical right of which I’m aware which requires anyone not to encourage others to smile. How tyrannical of a society do feminists want to live in by proposing otherwise?
Another feminist trope arises in the film when Barbie contemplates how to find Gloria. As she sits and thinks, Ken states, “I hate looking for things, it gets so boring,” as he pouts like a child.
Barbie then behaves like his mother by stating, “The faster I figure it out, the faster we get to go home,” to which Ken replies, “What am I supposed to do?” This scene appears to suggest that men are dependent upon women, as we are little more than bratty boys.
Regarding this matter, one source states that “the delay in marriage age and advancement in women’s education and career achievements has turned men in their 20s and early 30s into boys.” This speaks to infantilization—treating people as children or in a way which denies their maturity in age or experience.
So that she may think clearly, Barbie grants Ken permission to go for a walk. As he slowly distances himself from her Barbie states as a mother would, “Don’t go far!” Imagine this scene if the roles were reversed and how it may be perceived by feminists.
Another feminist trope emerges in Barbie when the CEO of Mattel offers Barbie resolution to her dilemma by suggesting, “Get into the box and you’ll go back to Barbieland,” pointing to a comically large version of a box in which miniature-sized Barbies are marketed.
Of the box analogy, one source states:
When we put women in a box that says “sweet,” “submissive,” and “pretty,” we’re creating an equally confining box for men that says “tough,” “provider,” and “unemotional.” These gender norms hurt us all, and we are all responsible for working to fix them.
To put someone in a box means to broadly and unfairly judge an individual based on a limited number of factors. For those feminists who purport to advocate equality among the sexes, such as the aforementioned source, boxing people is considered a moral bad.
Playing off this form of feminism, Barbie expresses caution about getting into a box until Ken is first retrieved. The Mattel CEO and his all-male board react with surprise and then amusement at the suggestion, as the CEO admits, “Ken isn’t something we’re worried about—ever.”
One could interpret this scene as the sinister patriarchy taking issue with a woman’s independence though expressing apathy about the experience of men. Meanwhile, the Mattel CEO and his male board members are represented as blundering dimwits.
Noteworthy, during the boardroom seen, Ken is shown returning to Barbieland alone while the Mattel CEO attempts to justify the lack of female representation in the company. One is left with the impression that imbecilic patriarchy is transferring from one world to another.
Meanwhile, male character Aaron Dinkins states in the boardroom, “I’m a man with no POWER, does that make me a woman?” Barbie, a film directed by a woman and about a female doll that was created by a woman, is arguably an objective example of power.
The self-contradicting film serves as a composite of straw man tropes popular among a number of feminists. However, if the roles were reversed in such an obvious manner, one imagines the movie would never have received funding in the first place.
In a separate scene, when Barbie, Gloria, and Sasha venture to Barbieland, Barbie states while riding on a tandem bike, “Ken is totally superfluous.” This aligns with Irina Dunn’s slogan, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
What I observed was a princess whose impeccable skills were grossly overstated throughout the film. As well, I witnessed Peach mocking Mario’s height and heard her audaciously declare of Mario—after whom the film is named, “He’s not important!”
The message communicated to audiences, whether marketed to children or adults, is that men are expendable. Seen to its logical conclusion, the end result of this sort of sloganeering would lead to the end of the human species.
In the traveling-back-to-Barbieland scene, Barbie brags, “Women hold all major positions of POWER, CONTROL all the money—basically, everything men can do in your world women do in ours.” False stereotypes abound in Barbie, as Robbie reportedly made $77 million from the film—in the real world.
Another feminist trope arises as Barbie, Gloria, and Sasha arrive in Barbieland and discover Barbies catering to Kens. According to one source:
We need only look at the fact that in recent times as women were able to work outside the home we also began to see a shift in women being subservient to men. As soon as they were able to become financially free, their reliance completely shifted, as well as their tolerance for sexism and patriarchy.
Notwithstanding the typecast version of history feminism promotes, Barbie’s indifference to the Kens becomes manifest when Sasha asks about where Kens reside, as Barbie replies, “I don’t know.” Though each Barbie is said to have their own homes, Kens were essentially homeless prior to Ken’s takeover.
However the feminist trope of female servitude becomes obvious as Barbie observes Kens being served by Barbies—some dressed in maid outfits. Noteworthy, the Barbies each express how fond they are of their servitude.
Personally, I find the misappropriation of chattel slavery through feminism’s misattributed historical claims of alleged subjugation to be reprehensible. My ancestors were enslaved Africans and I don’t think it’s appropriate for women to disregard the true plight of oppression.
Explaining how Barbieland was transformed, Ken says of the Barbies, “I just explained to them the immaculate, impeccable, seamless garment of logic that is the patriarchy, and they crumbled.” All it took to become servants to men was a mere explanation?
Hearing Ken’s declaration, Gloria responds, “Oh my G-d, this is like in the 1500s with the Indigenous People and smallpox. They had no defenses against it.” Per one source:
As an Indigenous man, I found the comment to be out of place. It’s inappropriate to compare the deaths of Indigenous people who contracted smallpox, to Barbies under the influence of Kens. I spoke to the women in my family about these lines in the movie, and they agreed it was out of place.
Why let historical record get in the way of a feminist narrative? When my enslaved ancestors or the Native forbearers of others are falsely attributed to the complaints of feminists, I guess “women most affected.”
Likewise, the focus on Ken’s apparent abusive nature is represented a number of times throughout the film in relation to Matchbox Twenty’s song “Push.” At one point, a Ken Radio DJ describes the track as “Ken’s favorite song.” According to one source:
At least one feminist group tried to ban this song, believing that it encouraged violence toward women. The ploy failed when the band explained that it was about emotional, rather than physical confrontation, and dealt with female-on-male mental harm, not the other way around. Lead singer Rob Thomas has said that this is evident to anyone who listens to the lyrics and not just the chorus.
According to a separate source, “Men don’t abuse women because society tells them it’s OK. They do it because society tells them they are entitled to be in control.” Even though Thomas’ song is about an “abusive ex-girlfriend,” men need to take personal ownership, because women most affected?
Even regarding Allan—a character who according to canon is Ken’s friend and Midge’s partner—who assumes the role of a male feminist in the film, some feminists tend not to appreciate such characters. Per one source:
We should look at the male feminists’ relationship to power: Are they willing to cede and share some of what they have to qualified women, or do they use women as helpmeets and steppingstones for their own careers? When women challenge them, how do they react? — are they respectful or resentful? When they’re pushing for women’s rights, what’s more important to them: the result or the recognition?
In Barbie, Allan physically batters a group of men on behalf of Sasha and Gloria—all because one man asked who Allan was. White-knighting of this sort may perpetuate the idea of women’s perceived helplessness and could do male feminists more harm than good.
It remains clear that even though Allan was willing to advocate matriarchal standards, he wasn’t necessarily appreciated by all Barbies for his efforts. For instance, when Allan announces himself at Weird Barbie’s home, a nonverbal grunt of disappointment could be heard from a female character.
Even during what I consider the most ridiculous scene of the film, when the Kens battle one another in what could be interpreted as a homoerotic bonding moment rather than that relating to combat, the feminist trope of men as violent and women as pacifists arises. Per one source:
For centuries the dominant gender images of war have been limited and relatively stable. Men are the militarists and perpetrators; women are the pacifists and victims. Men start the wars; women try to stop them. Men are the “just warriors” marching into battle; women are the “beautiful souls” marching for peace.
Just as Allan was stereotyped as a tolerable annoyance, despite his efforts to fight on behalf of females, Kens are depicted as predictable brutes that fight over females. Meanwhile, the prototypical Barbies are later shown celebrating as they democratically ratify their constitution—maintaining female dominance.
Just as the slave master of that day used Tom, the house negro, to keep the field negroes in check, the same old slave master today has negroes who are nothing but modern Uncle Toms, 20th century Uncle Toms, to keep you and me in check, keep us under control, keep us passive and peaceful and nonviolent. That’s Tom making you nonviolent. It’s like when you go to the dentist, and the man’s going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called Novocain, to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. So you sit there and ‘cause you’ve got all of that Novocain in your jaw, you suffer peacefully. Blood running all down your jaw and you don’t know what’s happening. ‘Cause someone has taught you to suffer — peacefully.
Dance, male feminists, dance—just do it peacefully. Rejoice in your servitude and be happy. Meanwhile, Tom and the Barbies will seize power and control—restoring oppressive order—as was depicted in Barbie when President Barbie declared, “We reinstated the Barbieland constitution to what it should be.”
The “self-avowed feminist” I discussed in Green with Anger, “Ariadne,” also watched Barbie. Relaying her perspective to me, she stated that the film represented a critique on “equality.”
One can understand this viewpoint when considering that in Barbieland female Barbies can be seen taking out trash receptacles, performing manual labor, occupying top political positions, and fulfilling other traditionally male roles. As well, various faiths, disabilities, races and ethnicities, and body types are represented throughout the flick.
However, it remains unknown as to whether or not the behavior of Weird Barbie is a case for equality, as she states of Ken, “He is one nice looking little protein pot. I’d like to see what kind of nude blob he’s packing under those jeans.”
Feminist literature is well-stocked with declarations of the so-called male gaze— the perspective of a notionally typical heterosexual man considered as embodied in the audience or intended audience for films and other visual media, characterized by a tendency to objectify or sexualize women.
Is it acceptable to objectify others, or is it wrong only when men do it? If feminism strives for equality, is its aim to the highest or lowest common denominator? Are women encouraged to take on the identified undesirable traits of men in order to achieve equality?
Contrary to Ariadne’s impression of Barbie, Jammies conveyed that she was displeased with how the film abandoned her value of equality. As I understand her perspective, the ending of Barbie essentially advocated female dominance over males, which is antithetical to equality.
Despite President Barbie saying to the Mattel CEO at the end of the film, “I don’t think that things should go back to the way that they were. No Barbie or Ken should be living in the shadows,” her actions suggested otherwise.
When one of the Kens later begs of President Barbie—a representation character, if ever there were one, “Madam President, please may the Kens have one Supreme Court Justice,” she smarmily replies, “No, I can’t do that, but maybe a lower circuit court judgeship.”
The narrator then uses exposition to explain, “Well, the Kens have to start somewhere, and one day, the Kens will have as much POWER and influence in Barbieland as women have in the real world.” This stated from an actual powerful woman in one of the year’s most influential movies.
Noteworthy, as Barbie and Ken rollerblade along a beach in another scene within the film, Barbie observes a billboard with women in bikinis and expresses, “Oh look, the Supreme Court!” Instead of commenting on their appearance, Ken states, “They’re so smart.”
Setting aside an obvious rejection of the male gaze regarding bikini-clad Justices, what equality is there in a system wherein males are—by decree—disallowed from participation in the Supreme Court? This discriminatory standard isn’t even currently true of the United States (U.S.).
In 2023, there are four of nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Of course, one of them—an alleged diversity hire—apparently cannot define what a woman is, so there may be discussion about whether or not this numerical figure is accurate.
While admiring the bikini-clad women on a billboard, a white male—because, why not?—commits sexual battery by slapping Barbie’s buttocks. In response, she punches the assailant.
While being processed into police custody for some unexplained reason, two white male officers—because, why not continue the demonization of white men?—make inappropriate remarks about Barbie’s attire and she then informs Ken that new clothes are warranted.
Ken was apparently not treated in a similar manner by the officers, which may allude to unequal standards of behavior. After stealing new clothes, both dolls are again processed into police custody and the same two cops continue making inappropriate remarks about Barbie’s appearance.
Another example of inequality manifests as Barbie and Ken journey to the real world. In every clipped scene between Barbieland and reality, Barbie is pictured with her back to Ken (see photo associated to this post), though once in the real world, he leads her when arriving at a beach.
One is uncertain as to what this motif represents. Is it to suggest that females are superior to males only in their imagination and that the natural—or perhaps socially-constructed—order of things is for men to lead or dominate women? Either way, inequality exists.
Even in the actual world—the one in which you and I occupy, dear reader—the film’s director didn’t pass on an opportunity to highlight inequality. Regarding the aforementioned beach scene, one source reports:
Greta Gerwig revealed in a new interview with Rolling Stone that some “Barbie” set visitors made Margot Robbie feel “self-conscious” during filming when they interacted far more with her co-star, Ken actor Ryan Gosling, than they did with her. Gerwig was talking about the time the crew spent filming a rollerblading scene in Venice Beach.
The sense of entitlement herein may be summarized by a should, must, or ought-type statement. One may deduce from Gerwig’s comment that Robbie must receive as much attention as her male counterpart.
Why must she? How likely is it that fans of Gosling and Robbie would receive criticism for approaching a male versus a female on the set of a blockbuster film?
One can imagine the strategy of sex as a weapon in the form of contentious MeToo or TimesUp whining would have likely resulted if male fans approached Robbie during the filming of Barbie. Does the reader truly believe there wouldn’t have been claims of harassment?
It’s reasonable to conclude that unequal societal standards dictate the so-called male gaze must not transition into actual physical contact with a female actor. Hence, Robbie was reportedly ignored while Ken was verbally and physically welcomed.
One imagines that when many women have enjoyed the status of supremacy and privilege, equality seems like oppression and hate. One further suspects that men face more rejection than women—especially those women who are conventionally attractive—so equal treatment could even be seen as spiteful.
In the interest of equality, consider Ken’s takeover of Barbieland and how he renamed Barbie’s dream house to “Ken’s Mojo Dojo Casa House.” The resulting scene depicts a Mattel warehouse worker stating to the Mattel CEO, “These Mojo Dojo Casa Houses are literally flying off the shelf!”
The scene also depicts boxes representing a boy playing with a toy version of Ken’s creation. The viewer is left to conclude that it was acceptable for Barbie to have her dream house, though not permissible for Ken to enjoy success.
The male Mattel CEO, who’s presented as a bumbling fool, expresses resentment at the notion that Ken’s image could replace Barbie’s. He and his all-male board then venture towards Barbieland as a means of preserving a matriarchy.
Is this the behavior of the maniacal patriarchy—to install a hierarchal system wherein men are oppressed? As I watched Barbie and processed each scene, it became more difficult to perceive the film as the feminist wet dream so many people apparently believe it to be.
For instance, after Ken declares the establishment of Kendom, he delivers an impassioned speech by stating to Barbie, “You failed me! Out there, I was somebody. And when I walked down the street, people respected me just for who I am.”
He didn’t state that people respected him for what he was—a male, though who he was—Ken. Juxtapose this declaration to earlier in the film when Ken explains that he’d like to stay the night with Barbie, “Because we’re girlfriend, boyfriend.”
Prior to Ken’s departure to the real world, and presuming that since Barbie didn’t correct Ken’s description of their intimate partner relationship, Barbie treated Ken as little more than an acquaintance. Although he wasn’t entitled to her affection, it remains clear that Barbie was apathetic to Ken’s existence.
However, once he returned from the real world, Ken expressed appreciation for being seen—acknowledged for his mere existence—much as each of the Barbies were in Barbieland. Does Ken’s desire for equality make him the villain of the film?
When highlighting how fundamentally changed Kendom is, Ken inquires of Barbie, “How does that feel?” as she’s depicted in shock. Ken then states, “It is not fun, is it?” regarding the equality of treatment he once received and how Barbie is at that point treated, as he’s then demonstrated to be hurt by his beliefs about the situation.
Later in the film, when Sasha, Gloria, and the Barbies—along with sneaky fucker male dolls—conduct a gaslighting campaign against the Kens, Barbie states to Gloria, “What if this doesn’t work? What if he [Ken] doesn’t like me anymore? He was really upset.”
Barbie’s moment of clarity, during which she expresses self-awareness about how her behavior could impact Ken, shines through the façade of feminist you-go-girlism. However, Gloria quickly dispatches Barbie’s insight by outlining Ken’s takeover of Barbieland.
When Barbies oppressed Kens, their feminine behavior was acceptable. When Kens subjected Barbies to equal treatment, their masculine actions weren’t permissible. Still, Barbie seemed to understand—even if momentarily—that her behavior wasn’t acceptable.
Nevertheless, equality was never the goal for either Barbieland or Kendom. Perhaps the concept of balance was considered overrated. Subjugation and the establishment of superiority was apparently the objective all along.
In a scene during which Kens serenade Barbies, Barbie narrates by stating, “This is the final stage of our plan,” as Gloria continues, “Give them their dream come true. And at the peak of their happiness [...] you take it all away.”
The inequality message is self-evident. Deceive men and render them unhappy. This is not equality; it’s cruel vengeance. According to one source:
Masculinity in patriarchy—that is, masculinity in a system of institutionalized male dominance—trains men to be competitive, in pursuit of conquest, which leads to routine confrontation, with the goal of always being in control of oneself and others. But no matter how intensely competitive one is, no matter how complete the conquest, no matter how many successful confrontations, and no matter how much one stays in control—men are haunted by the fear that they aren’t man enough, that they can never stop proving their masculinity.
This feminist-leaning trope unfolds in Barbie when the Barbies deliberately seek to make the Kens jealous. The objective is to stir up conflict so that men will fight one another to prove their masculinity while women recapture power and control.
If I could offer one point of appreciation for a movie that likely wasn’t made with people like me in mind, it would relate to this topic. During the dance scene at Barbie’s home, when she seeks to know whether or not others also thought about death, I experienced joy.
A similar effect was achieved when I watched The Super Mario Bros. Movie and character Lumalee referenced a number of existentialist points—mostly related to death and dying. I welcome how some movies with children as a target demographic don’t shy from discussing the objective nature of death.
Personally, I see far greater utility in an effort to inform people about what is rather than what they think ought to be—as so many individuals apparently believe that they ought not to die. I like that in the film Barbie cast aside feminist utopia and chose a path that would result in her inevitable demise.
One imagines Barbie understood the value of purpose and meaning. Here, purpose relates to what one does and meaning (value) is derived from performing the action (purpose).
While a hedonic lifestyle may appeal to some people, constant pleasure without struggle is unrealistic. Barbie could have chosen a life in plastic, though she apparently didn’t consider a lack of suffering to be fantastic—nor do countless other people.
This was represented in Barbie in regards to the Kens—dolls who presumably represent all males. With the exception of Allan, all Kens within the film were indistinct from one another in name, though the Barbies enjoyed the luxury of distinct titles (e.g., Doctor Barbie).
The amorphous Ken distinction comports with the disposable male concept—the notion that human males are expendable within a society, because they aren’t as necessary for population replacement. As an example, the gestation period generally takes nine months within a female womb and it takes only moments for a male to ejaculate.
This places more significance on female livelihood than male. For a pragmatic illustration of male disposability, consider how Visit Ukraine Today states, “During the martial law in Ukraine, men aged 18 to 60 may be mobilized and have no right to leave Ukraine,” as women are free to move freely out of the country.
However, far be it for one to compare a pragmatic example with the myth of patriarchy espoused in a fictional movie about dolls. Doing so doesn’t serve the mythological narrative of modern women suffrage in the U.S.
In Barbie, Ken at one point clarifies his unemployment status by stating, “You know, surfer’s not even my job. And it is not lifeguard, which is a common misconception.” He then details how insignificant he truly is by stating, “Actually, my job is just beach.”
The Barbies who surround him, each of whom maintain significance—as indicated by various roles or jobs, then patronize Ken. Infantilizing Ken, Doctor Barbie replies, “And what a good job you do at beach!”
The irony isn’t lost on me, as Doctor Barbie is played by an individual whose biological sex is male. The paradoxical implication is that even by critiquing the claim of male disposability; I am committing what some would consider a bigoted argument.
After all, look at how stunning and brave it is that a trans woman could ascend to the position of doctor. Yet, I digress—as not to commit the logical inconsistency of creating a straw man argument.
As the Kens are essentially expendable—lacking purpose, other than to vie for attention of the Barbies—they remain in constant conflict with one another. This is until Ken finds purpose in overtaking Barbieland.
Able to unite other Kens to his cause, one is left with the impression that once a purpose is in place the quality of life for all Kens improves. Even many of the Barbies appear happy through assumption of submissive roles at that point.
This phenomenon reflects the achievement of meaning. With something to do other than “beach,” order is established and value is attained.
At this point, it’s worth noting that I’m not advocating a hierarchal society in which women should be submissive to men. Nowhere within the current blog entry have I alluded to the notion that it was good, righteous, or appropriate regarding what Ken did to Barbieland.
Rather, from an existentialist perspective, I acknowledge that the value of purpose and meaning cannot be understated. Castigation of one group over another group constitutes oppression.
In my subjective opinion, no one is free when others are oppressed. Rather than an elite Barbie or Ken society, and without special privileges assigned to one group or another, one suspects that a merit-based civilization may result in an improved quality of life for those willing to challenge themselves.
At the end of the film, Handler and Barbie discuss the doll’s future. Handler states, “Being a human can be pretty uncomfortable. Humans make things up like patriarchy and Barbie just to deal with how uncomfortable it is. And then ya’ die!”
To this, Barbie replies, “I wanna be part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that’s made.” When Barbie asks Handler for permission to become human, Handler responds, “I can’t CONTROL you.”
I used to float, now I just fall down. I used to know, but I’m not sure now what I was made for. What was I made for? ‘Cause I, ‘cause I, I don’t know how to feel, but I wanna try. I don’t know how to feel, but someday, I might. Someday, I might.
Handler disappears as Barbie cries while Elish’s song plays to a montage of real world girls and women in various forms of celebration. I found the scene to be quite moving—indeed, the most personally meaningful moment of the entire movie.
I assert this, because Barbie didn’t necessarily choose life in that moment. She chose death. Her decision was of an existentialist nature and I truly appreciate this philosophical and theoretical component of the film.
Existentialism may be loosely described as a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining one’s own development through acts of the will—and which acknowledges an inevitable end of life.
Barbie accepted suffering, discomfort, and the guarantee of death over life in plastic. If for nothing else conceptualized in the film, I found remarkable meaning in this scene.
There’s a scene in Barbie during which Barbie and Ken are rollerblading along the beach as many people gawk at the pair. As well, some men catcall the female character.
Noteworthy, only two men of color stare at Barbie and the main demographic presented as offensive is white males. This despite the fact that women are also staring and at one point begin laughing at the pair.
The following dialogue unfolds:
Barbie: What’s going on? Why are these men looking at me?
Ken: They’re also staring at me.
Barbie: I feel kind of ill at ease, like I don’t know the word for it, but I’m conscious but it’s myself that I’m conscious of.
Ken: I’m not getting any of that. I feel what only could be described as admired, but not ogled. There’s no undertone of violence.
Barbie: Mine very much has an undertone of violence.
This is where the ABC Model of REBT may be of use. For those unfamiliar with this formula, I’ll briefly demonstrate while using the aforementioned Barbie dialogue to demonstrate the technique:
Action – What occurred
(A) Barbie is stared at and catcalled while rollerblading along a beach.
Belief – What one tells oneself about (A) that resulted in (C)
(B) Barbie assumes something along the lines of, “I should be able to venture into public without concern for my safety, because I can’t stand the thought of being unsafe.”
Consequence – What one felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about (A) and what one does (behavior)
(C) Because of her self-disturbing Belief—and not due to the Action—Barbie experiences fear and irrationally perceives that she’s exposed to violence, though there is no legitimate threat to her safety demonstrated in the beach scene.
Disputation – How one might challenge what one told oneself, which led to (C)
(D) Disputation can be a lengthy process, one which will not unfold herein. All the same, Ken offers reasonable challenges to Barbie’s irrational beliefs during the brief dialogue.
One imagines a reader who self-disturbs by angrily replying, “Are you saying that Ken’s invalidation of Barbie’s perceived fear is a good thing?” Allow me to mansplain.
I’m not concerned with good, bad, or otherwise. When Disputation is used, it isn’t the Action or the Consequence which are challenged. Those elements are very real and denial or refutation of reality isn’t necessarily helpful.
Rather, REBT maintains that instead of an Action-Consequence connection, people self-disturb with a Belief-Consequence connection. As such, the unproductive assumption Barbie uses can be Disputed so that she may adopt a more Effective belief.
Suppose that instead of cultivating a fear response with her unfavorable assumption regarding safety and an inability to tolerate distress, Barbie considers Ken’s perception of the event. She then adopts the following helpful perspective.
Effective new belief – What new beliefs one can use rather than maintaining unhelpful or unhealthy narratives
(E) Barbie reasons, “While I’d like not to be offended by having people gawk and catcall me, by no means is my rigid expectation of the world something to which others are entitled to adhere. Therefore, while I’d prefer for life to go my way, I can handle not having my preferences fulfilled.
The beach scene illustrates perceived victimhood—something with which feminists are arguably infatuated. However, as I truly suspect that either unaware humans or some form of AI drafted the script, the film contradicts itself.
Instead of going through a rational ABC Model chain, in the film Barbie asserts to a stereotypical group of construction workers that she doesn’t have the genitalia in which they may be interested. She overcame the delusion of victimhood by using assertiveness.
Noteworthy, at the end of the film, Barbie apparently develops a vagina as she attends a gynecological exam. I found it fascinating that a female sex organ manifested under the patriarchal system she chose and not under the feminist utopia she fled.
However, perhaps my interpretation of the scene is incorrect. A number of reasonable translations may be derived from Barbie’s gynecology appointment.
Option 1 – As mentioned, Barbie—an imaginary doll with no anatomical genitalia—who lives in an abstract land that may or may not be real, miraculously manifests a vagina once she resides in the real world. This option requires magical thinking.
Option 2 – Barbie’s sex is merely a social construct. Because she simply identifies as a woman, she develops a vagina. This is where distinction between sex and gender is needed.
“Female” suggests a term that is of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) that can be fertilized by male gametes. This is a sex-based term.
“Girl” is a female child or adolescent, and “woman” is an adult human being. These are gender-based terms.
Moreover, one does not merely “feel” like any particular sex or gender. While biological sex and socially-constructed gender—based on biological sex—carry certain attributes, these characteristics aren’t universal.
As a man, I can’t truthfully declare that I know what the experience of manhood is like for all men in Harare, São Paulo, or Austin. Likewise, a person declaring that one can “feel” like a woman or know the experience of all women proposes an absurd claim.
One imagines it is a rare case whereby a man or a woman needs to continually reinforce one’s own manhood or womanhood by reminding others about how manly or womanly one is. Perceivably, if you’re truly a woman, you don’t have to regularly declare yourself so.
At any rate, while there is an argument to be made regarding gender serving as a social construct—that which exists as a result of human interaction (e.g., the malleable categorization of groups)—it’s objectively false that sex functions in the same manner.
Put another way, in a blogpost entitled Swimming in Controversial Belief, I stated:
Judge Guerra Gamble stated to [Alex] Jones, “You believe everything you say is true but it isn’t. Your beliefs do not make something true. That is…that is what we’re doing here. Just because you claim to think something is true does not make it true. It does not protect you. It is not allowed.”
For option 2, Barbie simply believing—or colloquially, “feeling”—as though something is true does not make it so. One cannot objectively “feel” as though one is a woman and magically grow a vagina.
Option 3 – Through the marvel of medical innovation, Barbie could have a faux-vagina fastened from other parts. This does not a vagina make.
Still, there is a growing trend for traditional female traits to be hyper-feminized. Hair extensions, makeup, breast augmentation, buttocks and lip injections, fake eyelashes, facial feminization surgery, waist trainers, false fingernails, and others modifications are used for this effect.
Essentially, femininity is caricaturized to an unrealistic degree whereby males with enough physical attribute modification can appear as though they are women. This doesn’t begin to address the instance of hormone treatment or vaginoplasty.
However, presenting as a woman is not the same thing as being a woman or even female. Rather, it merely suggests that intense focus on exaggerated depictions of femininity can lead to the achievement of deception—a shadow of what actually is, though not what is in and of itself.
Make no mistake, dear reader, this isn’t a trans-specific critique. I’m well aware of how many girls and women employ the use of these over-embellished techniques in order to signal to others regarding the attainment of modern feminine attributes.
Such may be the case with Barbie and her gynecological appointment. Perhaps in an attempt to identify as a woman the doll reconstructed her anatomy to deceive herself and others about her gender.
Option 4 – Barbie is psychotic, neurotic, or melodramatic, as others simply placate her delusions as a matter of maintaining relative peace. For the sake of clarity, I will define terms.
Psychosis is a severe mental condition in which thought and emotions are so affected that contact is lost with external reality. Believing that one can switch from a gendered doll to a human female is psychotic.
Neurosis is a mental condition that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, or hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality. Barbie may not be insane, though she may hold unrealistic beliefs.
Melodrama is a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions. It very well could be that while understanding her beliefs aren’t rational, Barbie could be playing the histrionic role of someone who subscribes to nonsensical assumptions.
Delusion relates to a false belief or judgment about external reality, held despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, occurring especially in mental conditions. When Gloria and Sasha take Barbie to a gynecology appointment, they may be going along with Barbie’s delusional aspirations in order not to challenge the deranged doll.
Currently, I have no way of knowing the intentions of the writers or AI—whoever it is that wrote Barbie—so the vague ending makes as much sense to me as a doll attending a gynecological appointment.
Elsewhere in the film, during a construction worker scene, ominous music is introduced as Barbie expresses, “Geez, you would think a construction site at lunchtime would be the perfect place for a little woman POWER, but this one was so…male.” The patriarchy theme manifests as Ken states, “Everything’s almost like…reversed here,” as he displays a grimacing smirk.
This point in the film marked a thematic moment in which an oppressed character learns that subjugation can be overcome. Rather than remaining a victim, he realizes that another path is available—even if that avenue leads to becoming an oppressor.
As the film progresses, Ken confronts a real world man about patriarchy, as the man states that men “hide” patriarchy in the modern age. Later, Ken voices, “I need to find somewhere where I can start patriarchy fresh,” which eventually results in his transformation of Barbieland.
Noteworthy, and admittedly a subtle gesture, as Ken verbalizes his goal to establish a new form of patriarchy, he makes an attempt to save a woman and her daughter in the real world by shielding her from men who arrive in black SUVs and escort Barbie to Mattel.
The scene speaks to the so-called “3 P’s of manhood”—to provide, protect, and procreate. Ken subtly illustrates the protection aspect of male disposability, protecting a woman and her daughter thought to be subject to the threat of victimization.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in Barbie is when Gloria delivers what some have described as a “powerful” monologue regarding what it’s like to be a woman. The speech is as follows (should, must, and ought-type words italicized):
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 behavior, 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 a woman, then I don’t even know.
Thankfully, Gloria’s vocal fry was replaced by her elevated voice and emotively-driven mannerisms. As she vented, bitched, whined, moaned, and complained, Gloria worked herself up into an elevated level of self-disturbance.
With each voiced should, must, and ought-like rigid demand, Gloria’s irrational logic encapsulated a passionate speech of victimhood at its finest presentation. Imagine being the sort of person who heard the actor’s words and teared up while subscribing to her misdirected and projected gripes into the ether.
Admittedly, I was unmoved in the slightest by the soliloquy. In fact, I thought as I watched Gloria’s “powerful” monologue, “This sounds like incessant whining from a self-entitled woman who has an iss-ME, because this isn’t the world’s issue.”
I don’t view womanhood as synonymous with victimhood, nor do I perceive all women to be the same or share identical circumstances. Such would be the rationale of a child.
After Gloria delivers her speech, the Barbies begin to snap out of their patriarchal trance. Barbie then states, “By giving voice to the cognitive dissonance required to be a woman under the patriarchy, you robbed it of its POWER!”
What is empowering about citation of obvious circumstances which some women face? I, too, could complain about the experience of some men through use of a similar referential index shift used by Gloria.
It’s incredibly difficult to be a man in the U.S. The Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) has determined that abortion is a state’s issue, and while some states disallow the practice, men have no say in the matter as to whether or not their contribution of DNA to the existence of a fetus may be terminated.
You’re taught that a woman’s body is her own, even when her body contains a body within it—one with which your genetic code is infused. People at all echelons of society advocate her rights while trampling on your liberties and those regarding the body in her body.
Imagine a man a man becoming a signatory on a woman’s bank account, as both contribute $50. However, because the funds are maintained and inflation-grown in the account possessed by the woman, he loses all rights to the money if she chooses to keep or spend it.
Suppose she graciously chooses not to terminate the account—or kill what has the potential of becoming an infant human. At birth, many boys will have their genitals mutilated through circumcision practices though female genital mutilation is outlawed in the U.S.
Also, you’re taught how invaluable you are by having to register for the Selective Service System with official government sloganeering that says, “It’s your country, take one minute to protect it,” by completing the mandatory process. Yet, the rights of females are simply given without this responsibility required of males.
Isn’t this their country to protect, as well? Even in the military, women enjoy different physical fitness standards than men—arguably easier, yet they may be promoted and wield authority over men without equal requirements.
As a male, you learn early on how little your life matters. From a young age, you’re taught that females are valued more than you.
On a sinking ship, in a burning structure, or in a setting where evacuation of a populous is necessary, we’re conditioned to accept, “Women and children first,” as men are left to fend for themselves. We are considered little more than cannon fodder or bullet sponges.
You can’t complain though, because silently accepting your plight is the manly thing to do. Complain less and be tolerated, speak up and be ridiculed. This system of oppressive silence fosters an environment abundant for the abuse of males.
We’re exposed to public education settings wherein mostly female educators are present, as we are expected to function well in a system arguably designed for feminine success. However, when a sex-based Kendi effect is applied, females receive special consideration for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics advancement.
Using the Kendi effect, when I see sex/gendered disparities, I see sexism. Females are overrepresented in education and even within the field of social work. Sexism!
Where is the outcry regarding sex or gender disparity concerning boys bearing the brunt of disciplinary measures in school? Women earn more bachelors, as well as masters and Ph.D., degrees than men in the U.S., so where is the push to balance this imbalance?
Meanwhile, women sexual predators masquerading as educators continually prey upon boys within school systems, all while learning from society that it’s a positive ordeal to be raped or sexually assaulted. Are we to blame the boys for their own victimization?
Per one source, “Nearly 1 in 10 students are subjected to adult sexual misconduct by school personnel during the course of their academic careers, according to a 2014 report from the Government Accountability Office.” Remember, the school system is mostly comprised of women educators.
Are we prepared to say boy victims deserved it, because it’s a kink to be sexually desired by a domineering woman? Those boys must’ve deserved it, right?
All the while, we’re taught that an occasional female-on-male physical battery will likely occur at some point in our lives, though we aren’t allowed to defend ourselves with similar force. We are to remain Stoic and silent victims.
Equal rights are good, equal lefts are bad. Equal rights are praiseworthy, equal fights are cause for condemnation.
Even when experiencing hardship due to girls or women, you’re given mixed messages about emotions. “Big boys don’t cry,” some people demand while, “It’s ok to show emotion,” others suggest. Just ask Brett Kavanaugh how well his display of emotion went when non-credibly accused of sexual assault during the confirmation phase of his appointment to SCOTUS.
Or look at the blowback that Kyle Rittenhouse received when he cried on the stand while experiencing a posttraumatic stress episode. Males are caught in a double bind, because if we cry we’re damned and if we don’t cry we’re also damned.
On a biological level, male testosterone is said to decrease in the presence of female tears. However, when men cry some women claim to loose attraction to us. Therefore, women receive the objective benefit of crying while males experience subjective loss.
You’re taught to show emotion, though when you do females mock you. You’re encouraged to push through discomfort as a means of growing, yet all the while the oppressive hand of the matriarchy pushes against your efforts.
Males are told to take initiative and face rejection, though simultaneously that “[m]en are such a loose cannon when it comes to rejection.” Conversely, females are told, “It’s probably not about you” when experiencing rejection, without mention of their volatility.
None of this even addresses the findings of a study in which researchers concluded, “Men readily accepted a sexual invitation. Women were extremely reluctant to do so,” when women received a 75% acceptance rate when offering sex and men received a 0% rate of acceptance.
Women have an easier time accessing intimacy while simultaneously enjoying the privilege of not taking responsibility for their response to being rejected. Of course, this says nothing about the “believe women” slogan which affords women the opportunity to non-credibly accuse men of alleged sexual crimes with the benefit of belief rather than evidence-gathering critical analysis.
You muster up the courage to approach a woman within the current dating market and depending on whether or not she finds you attractive, you may have false allegations of harassment or abuse levied against you. However, it’s supposedly “literally impossible to be a woman,” let Gloria tell it.
Rather, it seems as though playing life on easy mode wouldn’t be so bad. How impossible could it be to functions as a woman when compared to the experience of being a man?
Even within the mental health field, the rot of feminism persists as some practitioners advocate “teaching our sons not to rape”—as though rapacious behavior is the default setting for all males and we must be deprogramed from our sexually assaultive behavior.
How do such platitudes, which promote what ought to be, serve reality concerning what is? Aside from the fact that there are more female educators than male, and that male students are often preyed upon by these females, who is championing the cause to teach females not to rape in incarcerated settings?
Per one source, “Female prisoners are 30 times more likely to become a victim of sexual assault than women who are not incarcerated in the United States. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual inmates reported higher rates of sexual abuse than the general population.”
Undoubtedly, males sexually prey upon other males in prison. However, when was the last time national coverage was devoted to anyone reveling in the idea of a woman being raped in prison? Meanwhile, some people openly express hope for male rape in incarcerated settings.
We are led to believe that rape of females is bad, though if it occurs with boys in a school setting or men currently punished in prisons it’s permissible. Male expendability isn’t merely accepted as icing on dessert, in some cases this ingredient baked into the cake.
Regarding intimate partner violence (IPV), the sexist Duluth Model maintains that males operate from the position of power and control—centering female victimhood. What are men to do when we are physically assaulted by women?
Here’s a relatively easy to conduct experiment. Momentarily, stop reading this post. Search for IPV or domestic violence shelters in your area which are exclusively for men. Now, search for the same criteria in all of the U.S.
Having done that, conduct a global search. Why is it considered “impossible to be a woman,” per Gloria, when women have access to resources men clearly do not? What may explain this deleterious standard, if not the lies perpetuated by feminism and a focus on the foremost protection of girls and women?
We are taught that if we’re attacked by women, we likely did something to deserve it. If we dare defend ourselves from such abuse, we should think twice, because the metaphorical cake from which we eat is laced with poison meant to incapacitate our ability to experience liberty and freedom females enjoy.
Forbid we commit a crime in the same setting as our female counterparts, as they will receive lighter sentences than us. How is this considered just in a civil society? Per one source:
In 2012 Sonja B. Starr from University of Michigan Law School found that, controlling for the crime, “men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women do,” and “[w]omen are…twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted”, also based on data from US federal court cases.
What message is sent to males when females are privileged in such a manner? Perhaps Gloria was correct by asserting, “But never forget that the system is rigged”—only, it favors females.
You’re born a male—through no choice of your own—and thereafter the demonization of your very existence unravels. You wretchedness can never truly be escaped, aside from delusional notions of swapping one’s sex or gender.
“Hepeating,” “manterrupting,” “mansplaining,” “manspreading,” “bropropriating,” “toxic masculinity,” “patriarchy,” and other linguistic terms which are designed to blame males for the problems of females are used to shame those with outies while placing those with innies at the center of victimhood.
Evidence to the contrary, be damned! As Gloria stated, “And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.” However, the blame game appears to favor girls and women while predetermining loss for boys and men.
It isn’t difficult to vent, bitch, whine, moan, or complain. In-group signaling through use of a medium such as Barbie may inspire irrational passion while also further driving a wedge in the already tumultuous divide between males and females.
However, far be it for Barbie to have stopped at divisive rhetoric regarding sex and gender. After Barbie denounces the patriarchy, Sasha yells, “Hell yes, white savior Barbie,” bringing the division of racial demographics into the film for no apparent reason.
What does whiteness have to do with anything? Why throughout the film are white people mocked (e.g., Gloria’s white husband is depicted as a simpleton)?
Without failing the challenge to feminism by intersectionality, Barbie corrects Sasha’s praise by pointing to the Latina character of Gloria and saying to Sasha, “No, it’s your mom. Your mom did the saving.”
Divide along sex and gendered lines. Divide along racial lines. Divide, divide, divide. What utility is there in otherizing—treating a person or group of people as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself?
I turned to Jammies for her interpretation of the speech so that she could advise me on her perception of the scene. To my understanding, Jammies’ take was similar to what others offered—Gloria was outlining what many women apparently experience with womanhood.
Though praised as an “inspiring speech about women,” similar victimhood narratives are common within the feminist movement—presumably attributed to womanhood. For instance, consider a portion of an article written by a feminist and featured in The Guardian:
Then there is the difficulty of womanhood itself. In a world built for men, women will always struggle to fit in. We are what Simone de Beauvoir called “the second sex”. Our bodies are different from the standard (male) human. Our sexual desires have traditionally been depicted as fluid, hard to read, unpredictable. Our life experiences are mysterious and unknowable; our minds are Freud’s “dark continent”. We are imagined to be on the wrong side of a world divided in two. Men are serious, women are silly. Men are rational, women are emotional. Men are strong, women are weak. Men are steadfast, women are fickle. Men are objective, women are subjective. Men are humanity, women are a subset of it. Men want sex and women grant or withhold it. Women are looked at; men do the looking. When we are victims, it is hard to believe us.
When I shared my perspective on Gloria’s monologue with Jammies, she considered what I had to say. I’m highly skeptical about the platitudes espoused by feminists who largely blame men, masculinity, sexism, or the patriarchy for the woes of women.
Though not a female or a woman, it has been my experience through interaction with members of the opposite sex and gender that woman often present substantial challenges to the experience of womanhood—not just men. Think about it, dear reader, and set aside your preconceived or force-fed notions from others.
Elsewhere within this post, I critiqued the hyper-feminized female traits girls and women often use. To whom are they signaling when doing so?
Undoubtedly, there are some men who prefer females to present in a particular manner. Nonetheless, I don’t know many straight men that prefer exaggerated fingernail length, hair extensions, cartoonishly large lips, laughable false eyelash length, or excessive makeup on women.
Likewise, I can recall only a handful of instances throughout my life in which straight men have expressed requirements for name brand bags, clothing, or shoes. The majority of caricatured feminine attributes to which I’ve been exposed have served as in-group signaling among women.
And when girls or women fail to meet required standards of the group, there’s passive-aggressive Hell to pay for such infractions of social norms. Perhaps my anecdotal experience is little more than a straw woman argument.
Maybe I’m wrong. Still, Jammies agreed that although some men do hold rigid standards for women, it has been the girls and women throughout her lifetime who have apparently responded with far more vitriol, as expressed by Gloria and in The Guardian excerpt.
When Barbie discusses with Weird Barbie why she was unaffected by Ken’s takeover of Barbieland, Barbie states, “Either you’re brainwashed or you’re weird and ugly—there is no in between.” This illogical binary deprives women of agency.
Still, it isn’t uncommon for this irrational position to be relied upon by some feminists. Per one source:
[I]t is true that we can change our appearance ‘for ourselves’, but the deep level at which women are brainwashed by the patriarchy to conform to its beauty standards suggests to me that we are still changing our appearance for men, even if we don’t realize or admit this.
This unreasonable position creates a double bind—a situation in which a person is confronted with two irreconcilable demands or a choice between two undesirable courses of action. As a woman, you either dress up, because of brainwashing or you dress up to secretly satisfy the male gaze.
Illogical traps such as this suggest that women have no influence over their behavior. Personally, I consider this feminist rhetoric to be quite sexist against women.
In all fairness, Barbie’s writers or an AI bot had some sense of awareness concerning standards of beauty. At one in the film, when Barbie professes how un-pretty she considers herself, the narrator states, “Note to the filmmakers, Margot Robbie is the wrong person to cast if you want to make this point,” as the actress has the “most-requested face” for plastic surgeons to emulate.
At any rate, in Barbie, when Barbie first discovers Sasha, another child warns Barbie, “Don’t talk to her. Sasha can talk to you but you can never talk to Sasha. She’ll crush you.”
This isn’t an example of the menacing patriarchy. Rather, it’s an example of how females are just as capable of treating people as poorly as males.
When discussing the film with Jammies, I made the case that many of the females I’ve known throughout my relatively short time on this earth have informed me that their worst experiences in life haven’t involved males. Other females have been identified as their source of significant conflict.
When Barbie locates Sasha at school, the teen scolds Barbie by stating, “You’ve been making women feel bad about themselves since you were invented. You represent everything wrong with our culture—sexualized capitalism, unrealistic physical ideals.”
Fumbling through a rebuttal, Barbie reinforces Sasha’s stance by stating, “No, no, no. You’re describing something stereotypical. Barbie is so much more than that,” although her name in the movie is Stereotypical Barbie.
To this, Sasha responds, “You set the feminist movement back 50 years, you destroyed girls’ innate sense of worth, and you are killing the planet with your glorification of rampant consumerism.” This; coming from a film that surpassed a billion dollars at the box office and which relates to a profitable toy company.
Barbie attempts to counter the feminist rhetoric by stating, “I’m supposed to help you and make you happy, and POWERFUL.” Sasha responds, “Oh, I am POWERFUL. And until you showed up here and declared yourself Barbie, I hadn’t thought about you in years, you fascist!”
One imagines Sasha has made a case for Barbie, as a brand, serving as little more than a tool of oppression. It would seem as though power through representation of Barbies depicted in the beginning of the movement is challenged later in the film through a child with a significant victimhood complex.
Additionally, throughout the film, Barbies in Barbieland openly ridicule Midge and Weird Barbie. This form of bullying is conducted by women, not a patriarchal boogeyMAN.
Who then is responsible for the victimhood narrative depicted in Barbie? Is it truly the oppressed Kens who at one point overcome their oppressor or the buffoon of a Mattel CEO who serves as the blackface representation of men?
Contrary to what some have interpreted, Barbie clearly highlights how even with an idealized utopic society in which women maintain power and control, it is women who victimize one another. If that’s the case in Barbieland, why wouldn’t if also be the case in the real world?
Criticism of Barbie, from an REBT framework, wouldn’t be complete without brief analysis into the song “I’m Just Ken,” sung by Gosling as the Kens go to war with one another. The phrases I consider relevant are in bold:
Doesn’t seem to matter what I do
I’m always number two
No one knows how hard I tried, oh-oh
I, I have feelings that I can’t explain
Drivin’ me insane
All my life, been so polite
But I’ll sleep alone tonight
‘Cause I’m just Ken, anywhere else I’d be a ten
Is it my destiny to live and die a life of blonde fragility?
I’m just Ken
Where I see love, she sees a friend
What will it take for her to see the man behind the tan and fight for me?
I wanna know what it’s like to love, to be the real thing
Is it a crime? Am I not hot when I’m in my feelings?
And is my moment finally here, or am I dreaming?
I’m no dreamer
Can you feel the Kenergy?
Feels so real, my Kenergy
Can you feel the Kenergy?
Feels so real, my Kenergy
I’m just Ken, anywhere else I’d be a ten
Is it my destiny to live and die a life of blonde fragility?
I’m just Ken
Where I see love, she sees a friend
What will it take for her to see the man behind the tan and fight for me?
I’m just Ken (and I’m enough)
And I’m great at doing stuff
So, hey! Check me out, yeah, I’m just Ken
My name’s Ken (and so am I)
Put that manly hand in mine
So, hey! World, check me out, yeah, I’m just Ken
Baby, I’m just Ken (nobody else, nobody else, nobody)
One of the major criticisms of feminism as an ideology and movement is that it’s largely indifferent to the suffering of men. Without intentionally contributing to this dismissive approach, I have opinions about the song.
Let’s plug Ken’s bold statements into an ABC Model and run through the entire formula:
Action – Barbie rejects Ken’s romantic advances and seeks to revert Kendom back to Barbieland—wherein Kens are essentially second-class citizens.
Belief – Doesn’t seem to matter what I do, I’m always number two. I have feelings that I can’t explain, drivin’ me insane. Is it my destiny to live and die a life of blonde fragility? Where I see love, she sees a friend. What will it take for her to see the man behind the tan and fight for me? Am I not hot when I’m in my feelings?
Consequence – Resentment, sorrow, and anger (emotion). An antagonistic takeover of Barbieland and hostile conflict to maintain dominance of Kendom (behavior).
Disputation – If you’re “always number two,” no matter what you do, it would appear as though you’re used to rejection—even if you don’t like or love that your advances aren’t favored by Barbie. This suggests that you have the ability to increase low frustration tolerance, which is a strength-based technique.
As for the feelings you can’t explain, which presumably drive you insane, I invite you to consider that your beliefs—and not the consequences of your assumptions—are what disturb you. From the perspective of Stoic philosopher Epictetus’ notion, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
When Barbie seeks to subjugate you once more, what you believe about her behavior is what causes your emotional and behavioral reaction. This isn’t to suggest that Barbie’s behavior is nice, good, appropriate, or ethical. Rather, you can tolerate maltreatment, as evidenced by your past ability to do so.
Moreover, you’ve been to the real world and you have the ability to leave the oppression of Barbieland. Rather than drivin’ yourself insane, why not drive back to the land in which you were truly happy?
It certainly isn’t your “destiny to love and die a life of blonde fragility.” How does that victimhood mentality serve your interests and goals? Where you see love, Barbie sees a friend. And why shouldn’t she have different interests than you?
Why must she reciprocate your romantic interests? Are you entitled to her love? If you believe so, upon what do you base this irrational assumption? Suppose Barbie believes you ought not to use demandingness towards her, whose value takes precedence?
You ask, “What will it take for her to see the man behind the tan and fight for me?” Why must a woman fight for you? What does conflict in the interest of love do for you? Exactly who would Barbie be fighting in regards to you—other Kens, herself, or you?
Rather than asking what it will take for Barbie to see you as you see her, I pose the question, what will it take for you to choose unconditional acceptance over conflict? Further, you ask, “Am I not hot when I’m in my feelings?” To this, I reiterate that your “feelings” are the result of your beliefs.
Do you find your belief-influenced feelings attractive? Must Barbie find you hot when you’ve convinced yourself that your beliefs are more important than her own worldview? Ken, I wonder at what point you will realize that you aren’t upset with the rejection you face from Barbie.
At one point will you use unconditional self-acceptance and realize that you are good enough? I invite you to consider the words of someone who heard your song and posted a YouTube comment stating:
I wish I had this movie 10 years ago to show me that I am Kenough all by myself without Barbie. A hard learned lesson, but I am glad this message is spreading. No one, man or woman, should define his or her life by whether or not they are in a romantic relationship. I am much more than what I thought I was. I am a man!
You can choose to continue drivin’ yourself insane by pining over someone who doesn’t desire you, as your behavior in this regard will undoubtedly lead to needless suffering. Still, if you opt for that journey, you’re not a victim though a volunteer for that ride.
Without condition, Ken, you are enough with or without Barbie. You say, “I’m just Ken,” as though this self-evident statement is anything other than an obvious reflection on the quality of your inherent worth. And that worth is, at its very core, enough.
Effective new belief – I’m enough.
Towards the end of the film, as Ken cries when expressing his desire for Barbie, she states, “Ken, I think I owe you an apology. I’m really sorry I took you for granted. Not every night had to be girls’ night.”
Ken then leans in for a kiss and when rejected, he continues crying and says, “I just don’t know who I am without you.” Despite the aforementioned song, Ken tells Barbie, “It’s Barbie and Ken. There is no ‘just Ken.”
After Barbie’s attempt at encouraging him to discover who Ken is, Ken again goes in for a kiss and is rejected. At that, Ken slaps himself to the ground and states while crying, “I feel so stupid. I look so stupid.”
Barbie then expresses, “Maybe all the things that you thought made you…aren’t really you. Maybe it’s Barbie. And, it’s Ken.” Discussing victimization of Ken’s sort, Gerwig has stated:
I think equally men have held themselves to just outrageous standards that no one can meet. And they have their own set of contradictions where they’re walking a tightrope. I think that’s something that’s universal. Just as much as women have been lost in some morass of how to do everything. I equally see that as true for men. For everybody. We equally beat ourselves up.
Here, I will agree with the director. It isn’t Gloria’s emotional complaining through soliloquy or Ken’s irrational moaning via song which I find relevant. Rather, it’s our beliefs about the content we encounter during life with which we disturb and “beat” ourselves.
I once enjoyed Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” even though I had no meaningful connection to the fashion doll, other than observation of my sisters as they played with the Mattel toys. Having watched the Barbie movie, I remain dispassionate regarding the brand.
Nonetheless, I find value in assessing sociocultural phenomenon and I rarely pass on an opportunity to mock feminism when obvious examples of how desperate the superfluous ideological movement is in the W.E.I.R.D. world.
Life in plastic, representing the artificial utility of feminism, may be fantastic—that which is absurd or ludicrous—and this film reveals conflicting messages. Perhaps most notably, feminism isn’t portrayed as an ideal movement in Barbie.
Still, I suppose that imagination through the creation of the shadowy boogeyMAN character of the patriarchy may be entertaining to some people and they may miss the obvious message of the film. Feminism is portrayed as the villain, not the hero of Barbie.
Prior to Barbie transitioning from a doll to human form, Handler admitted that humans made up the concept of patriarchy in order to deal with the discomfort inherent in life. I concur with this notion.
Unfortunately, some people believe in the preposterous notion that all men control society. While I don’t disturb myself by believing they mustn’t believe in such nonsense, I wonder how many people also interpreted Barbie as a critique against the ridiculousness of feminism.
Additionally, I found Ken to be a far more interesting character than any of the Barbies. His character arc went from the position of a second-class citizen to a domineering individual and then back to a position of lower status, though he ultimately accepted his disposition.
I didn’t hate Barbie. In fact, I fully appreciate that the film allowed me to develop greater understanding about why feminism isn’t an appealing ideology to me. I suppose at this point the reader may say, “Why’d you watch it and then take time to carefully pick apart the film?”
I find that sorting through what I think or believe about sociocultural matters, largely through use of my blog, is a meaning way to better understand the perspective that influences my REBT work. Rather than reactively bashing a movie, I rationally sorted through my assumptions.
If the creators of Barbie intended to present to the world a pro-female, pro-matriarchy perspective, this film isn’t it. For those who also took time to digest the overt and covert messages depicted within the movie, you may have also concluded that Barbie functions as the death knell of modern feminism.
Then again, what do I know? I’m a psychotherapist who enjoys enriching my practice of REBT through assessment of sociocultural matters. If how I approach Barbie appeals to you, you may be interested in my approach to REBT, as well.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
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Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
*References in adjacent post – Life in Plastic, it’s Fantastic References