Margot Robbie’s Plastic Protagonist Finds Home
7 mins read

Margot Robbie’s Plastic Protagonist Finds Home

The Big Picture

  • Barbie undergoes a crisis of identity and questions the perfect life she has always known.
  • She joins forces with other Barbies and a mother-daughter duo to overthrow the oppressive control of the Ken dolls.
  • Ultimately, Barbie chooses to become human and embrace her own body, but the ending hints at the possibility of future limitations imposed by the Mattel corporation.

The journey that is Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is defined by its influences. Everything from the enduring The Truman Show to Jacques Tati’s magnificent PlayTime is interwoven into a world of plastic that is often quite fantastic. Most interestingly, the story then becomes about a character forging her own identity. Bouncing between the world of Barbieland and our own, it is a film that all comes down to Margot Robbie’s stereotypical Barbie having to make a choice. Will she stay behind in a world where every day is a perfect one that she has grown to realize may not be what she wants, or come to Los Angeles which has its fair share of problems she must face? The story, as written by Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach, unsurprisingly, takes a turn for the existential, as the conventional conflicts all wrap themselves up.

As a brief background, Barbie is a film that does follow the general conventions one would expect from the types of films where the journey is a literal and emotional one. At the same time, it also injects some unexpected subversions that attempt to poke fun at the nature of it being a film that is being produced by Mattel that will inevitably benefit from its success. It is then a unique contradiction where every jab it does, no matter how fun, will always be somewhat compromised by the fact that it is feeding a mythology of a brand. Still, there are some effective and pointed gags like when Ryan Gosling’s obliviously hateful himbo becomes enamored with the idea of patriarchy that he takes back to Barbieland. When Barbie then returns, he has taken it over with all the other bumbling Kens, where he is planning to institute what is essentially a puppet government for himself to control all the women who seem almost brainwashed by what he is doing. Faced with the prospect that this fascist coup could upend the world that she has built where they aren’t subject to men’s control, Barbie joins up with her fellow Barbies along with the visiting mother-daughter duo of Gloria (America Ferrera) and Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) to take the army of manbaby Kens down.

Barbie Film Poster


Barbie suffers a crisis that leads her to question her world and her existence.

Release Date July 21, 2023

Runtime 114 minutes

Does Barbie Choose the Real World?

To make a long story short, Barbie is successful in this undertaking. Who knew that all it took to take back power from the Kens was to play upon their egos to distract them while you snap all the other Barbies out of the trance they were under? After firmly telling a sobbing Ken that she doesn’t want to be with him and that he needs to find his purpose in life separate from her, all seems to be at peace once more. That is, until a familiar face we had seen earlier shows up. Why, it’s the founder of Barbie Ruth Handler (Rhea Perlman), who we had met briefly when Barbie was running through the corporate offices back at Mattel. After making many quips about how she ran into some tax troubles (which is all true and only half of the controversy surrounding the Barbie founder), we leave behind Barbieland for good this time. Handler then takes Barbie into a blank void where she offers her the choice of whether she wants to become human in the world or return to being a toy. Our lead character had no struggles with this when presented with a fork in the road at the beginning of the film, insisting to Kate McKinnon‘s Weird Barbie that she stay where she has always been. Now, however, she grapples with the choice.

Margot Robbie as Barbie dancing at a party in Barbie. Related

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To assist her in this decision, Handler presents what are essentially glimpses of what it means to be alive. We and Barbie see young girls growing up in home video-esque memories, creating an emotionally reflective sequence that hammers home what it is that Gerwig had been getting at all along. Beyond the jokes and the light satirizing of the nature of the movie itself, the filmmaker was also building towards a more heartfelt realization. Barbie, though a toy, was expected to be oh so many things and live a perfect life. As she had begun to realize that this was not what she wanted or was even possible to pull off, there was pain to the revelation.

Barbie began experiencing real feelings, with all their contradictions causing her to reckon with her life like she never had before. The montage we get is this in action as we see that there is beauty to life just as there is agony to it. Ruth had warned her about this, as the loss of her entire sense of self was always going to carry with it discomfort, but now there is a catharsis as well. Thus, seeing what joy there is to life out there, Barbie decides to join the world that she had only been a visitor to a bit ago as a full participant. It doesn’t end there, as Gerwig slips in one last joke at the end that reveals her intentions one final time.

Why That Final Line in ‘Barbie’ Is So Important

After she leaves behind the world of Barbieland to be reborn into our own, a now Birkenstock-wearing Barbara reunites with Gloria and Sasha who drop her off at the gynecologist. It is this closing line on which the film ends, making it seem like it could be a throwaway gag just to send audiences out into the world chuckling, but it also brings with it one final needle at Mattel. Though the film could often feel like it was persistently limited, this ending is about Barbara embracing her own body and self without anything to hold her back. That is, at least until the Mattel corporation ultimately ends up deciding to box her back up for a Barbie sequel.

Barbie is now available to stream on Max in the U.S.

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