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The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

Barbie: A Cinematic Masterpiece

A movie about dolls delivers important messages about humanity

This past summer was a revolutionary season of movies, including the highly anticipated releases of “The Little Mermaid,” “Spider-Man Across the Spiderverse” and “Oppenheimer.” But none were quite as anticipated or well-received as the “Barbie” movie. In the month following its release, “Barbie” became the highest-grossing domestic movie of 2023 and the first film in history directed solely by a woman –Greta Gerwig–to earn $1 billion dollars at the box office.

There are many reasons why this movie has been such a success, from its star-studded cast including Margot Robbie, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae and Will Ferrell, to vivid set design using so much pink it was rumored to have caused a world shortage. But perhaps the most compelling part of the movie is its central focus on womanhood and humanity.

The announcement of the movie was met with much excitement from women who had spent their childhoods playing with Barbie, but also criticism over the toy’s problematic history. Barbie has long been labeled as anti-feminist for pushing unrealistic beauty standards and triggering body image issues in young girls. The Mattel brand is definitely guilty of this. In 1965, they released “Slumber Party Barbie,” which came with a book accessory that read: “How To Lose Weight: Don’t Eat.” Given this, it makes sense that many initially believed the movie would be a coverup from Mattel’s many misdeeds.

However, the movie acknowledges Barbie’s shortcomings and focuses much of the movie on shattering beauty standards and redefining what the word “beautiful” means.

The film centers on Margot Robbie’s portrayal of stereotypical Barbie, whose life in Barbieland is completely perfect until she starts getting cellulite and having irrepressible thoughts of death. In other words, she starts becoming humanlike. To remedy this, she travels to the real world, which is much more flawed when compared to Barbieland, but it’s also much more beautiful.

The real world is messy, ugly and tragic–especially in comparison to Barbie’s immortal world of plastic. In spite of this, Barbie chooses to give up her “perfect” life to become human at the end of the movie, a choice that sends an incredibly important message in today’s aesthetic-obsessed culture. Women are constantly pressured to prioritize beauty over happiness, told not to laugh so they don’t get laugh lines and to stay out of the sun to avoid freckles. America Ferrera’s character, Gloria, left the audience in tears with a monologue about all the unattainable double standards that women have to endure.

“It is literally impossible to be a woman…,” Gloria said. “You have to be thin, but not too thin…You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass…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.”

Women are told that they need to simultaneously achieve all of these qualities to be happy, but Barbie’s choice to become human shows us that the opposite is true. Beauty is not found in perfection, which Barbie had at the beginning of the movie, but in humanity, with all the heartbreak and tragedy that comes with that. One scene between Barbie and her creator, Ruth Handler, played by Rhea Pearlman, perfectly captures this message.

“Real world isn’t what I thought it was,” Barbie says.

“It never is. And isn’t that marvelous?” Handler replies.

The ingenuity and depth in this scene, as well as in the film as a whole, surprised many fans, who didn’t anticipate that the movie would be this substantial. Simu Liu, who plays one of the Kens, describes the movie perfectly in an Instagram post caption.

“You think you’re going to watch a movie about dolls, but you’re watching a movie about what it means to be human,” Liu said.

This aspect of humanity is what makes the movie appealing to all audiences, not just to young girls who play with dolls. The film also appeals to men, due to its commentary on toxic masculinity through Ken, which demonstrates how the patriarchy is detrimental to men as well as women.

From its first trailer, “Barbie” was labeled an instant camp classic. Ryan Gosling’s glorious performance of “I’m Just Ken” and Helen Mirren’s hilarious fourth wall breaking comments felt grandiose. But in the midst of all its unrealistic quirkiness, “Barbie” finds time for heartfelt moments and surprisingly insightful commentary on beauty, sexism, identity and humanity, perfectly balancing lighthearted comedy and existential tragedy in less than two hours runtime.

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About the Contributor
Taylor Riley
Taylor Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Taylor Riley is a senior in her third year on staff, working as Editor-in-Chief. When she's not writing for the Voice or doing homework, she's writing for fun, trying and failing to learn to play the piano and making playlists on Spotify (she currently has 56 and counting). Contact at [email protected].

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