An empowering and refreshing take on the world’s most iconic doll – The Film Nerdette
6 mins read

An empowering and refreshing take on the world’s most iconic doll – The Film Nerdette

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, BARBIE being covered here wouldn’t exist.

My mom wasn’t particularly fond of buying Barbies for me and my sister when we were kids. However, I still had many of them from my older cousin and valued them all the same. At the time, the most imperative thing for us was making clothes for them out of the fabrics we would received. As I grew older, I became frustrated with the dolls’ flawless bodies and how they impact the body image of so many girls worldwide. My frustration was much like Ariana Greenblatt’s Sasha in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. But the nostalgia-packed film, written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, can empower its audience, all while not shying away from pondering the other, less positive side of Ruth Handler’s titular creation, named after her daughter.

Source: Warner Bros. ®

The opening scene of Barbie already becomes an iconic moment. In it, little girls proceed to destroy their baby dolls in favor of the stunning, towering Barbie. Gerwig’s Barbie has all the things to become an instant summer hit. The director of Lady Bird swiftly recaps the history of the doll before introducing Barbie Land—a world in which a Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) lives alongside other dolls of the same name: President Barbie (Issa Rae), Doctor Barbie (Hari Nef), or Physicist Barbie (Emma Mackey), among others. As Hellen Mirren—The Narrator, reminds us, there is no Barbie without Ken (Ryan Gosling). Gosling’s character and other Kens (Simu Liu, Ncuti Gatwa, Kingsley Ben-Adir) are absolute comedic gold, continuously trying to “beach each other up” and competing for the attention of the Barbies. Everything shifts when, in this modernized take on the cult toy, Robbie’s Stereotypical Barbie has a major life crisis. She can’t stop thinking about death as her feet flatten, making them ideal for good ol’ Birkenstocks instead of perfectly arched doll feet, just right for the high heels. The character must travel to the real world to identify and find the human responsible for this undesirable alteration. It so happens to be Gloria (America Ferrera), the Mattel employee. Of course, Ken, infatuated with Barbie and all of her qualities, accompanies her on the perilous journey through space, winds, oceans, and villages (another truly iconic scene).

Within just under two hours of Barbie, the director bestows upon us a gloriously wild cloud of everything pink, a narrative soaked in pastel hues but also in nostalgia-provoking elements like set design by Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer. Barbie is also extraordinarily meta. The narrative is very self-aware of itself as the film isn’t hesitant to explore and discuss Barbie’s darker side, which is the toxic body image created and projected onto women and girls.

Source: Warner Bros. ®

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken are out-of-this-world spectacular. They both evoke many childhood memories alongside equally skilled and important supporting characters. Robbie further proves that, as she was born to play Harley Quinn, the actor is also a perfect Barbie. Gosling doesn’t fall far behind. In fact, his chaotic role in which Ken goes through ups-and-downs as he discovers patriarchy, is one of the funniest things in the film.

Casting is one of the most crucial, if not the most important, aspects of the film; each role, whether played by America Ferrera or Ariana Greenblatt, contributes something to the story, whether it’s a snarky comment or a special skill. When it comes to addressing the aforementioned negative impacts of the doll, Greenblatt as Sasha stands in stark contrast to the pink world and draws attention to the toxic body image problem. Ferrera, on the other hand, exemplifies all the positive Barbie memories—something her character wishes to come back as her daughter grows apart from her.

Barbie is not only packed with a superb cast and painstaking, exquisite costume design, courtesy of the talented Jacqueline Durran; after all, who doesn’t want a “I am Kenough” hoodie. The older audience will easily discern the stupendous writing that delivers one hysterical quip after another. The entirety is loaded with pizzazz and intricate details that will perhaps remind you of easier times—take, for example, the ER vehicle in the film, which opens through the middle to access all kinds of tools needed to heal someone. We also cannot forget the memorable cabriolet, and each rose-colored house in Barbie Land, each pinker than the last. All are constructed in such a way that you can see everything, every room, and every detail, just like the dollhouses we’ve seen and played with throughout the years. The film isn’t only empowering and imaginative; it also brings up certain emotions to the surface, particularly those related to being your true, authentic self, fear of change, and the struggles of being a woman in a patriarchal world.

Source: Warner Bros. ®

Barbie is a brilliant picture with a distinct music that has all the makings of an instant classic. Although the soundtrack is less noteworthy when compared to other features, it’s more prominent in the background, providing a stable footing for all of the other components, particularly the characters and their development.

For all the reasons stated above (and so much more!), Barbie is well worth seeing on the big screen. This campy mix of genres is a summer blockbuster for a reason and will be a perfect position for both young adults and those who have outgrown playing with dolls but wish to reminisce. It’s also easily “rewatchable”, especially for those who like to discover more little things with each viewing.

When diving into Barbie, it’s evident that the entire cast and crew genuinely believed in creating this hilarious, imaginative, neon-colored, campy gem. It’s almost too much to take in, yet you still yearn to see more. Everything seems brighter and more optimistic after leaving the movie, that’s certain. Isn’t it one of the aims of movies to make people’s humdrum lives more bearable? Barbie is a film for you if you agree.

Grade: A

Barbie is now playing in theaters.