From “Do you guys ever think about dying” to “I’m here to see my gynecologist”, A Look at Barbie’s Journey of Self-Exploration
Greta Gerwig’s much-awaited Barbie has finally hit the theatres. And fans have finally got access to Barbie’s pink world, many even re-living their childhood in it. Much to the surprise of many, this whimsical adventure showed Barbie in a different limelight: someone who has the power to empower instead of the stereotypical narrative of demeaning women. Gerwig and her co-writer, Noah Baumbach, smartly chose to actually make you believe that Barbies can actually ‘solve all the problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved in the real world.’ And taking this forward was Margot Robbie’s Barbie.
Living in the matriarchal Barbie Land, where Kens have no value except for being sidekicks, Margot Robbie plays the Stereotypical Barbie: the one who is perfect at all times with perfect hair, makeup, dresses, and heeled feet. Someone who has no chance to have cellulite or flat feet. She is the image that should pop into your head when someone says Barbie. While Robbie played the Stereotypical Barbie the way the audience expected her to, she also did not do the same. Because remember, it is Gerwig and Baumbach’s pink world and we are just living in it.
Though Robbie’s Barbie was the ‘Barbie,’ she was also not. She was part human, as she felt what her owner did. And most importantly, she discovered herself, and her identity, away from the Barbie Land. If you are yet to watch it, we would advise you to move ahead at your own discretion, but if not, let’s take a look at how Gerwig’s Barbie was actually on a journey of self-exploration.
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Malfunctioning in the Barbie land: How Margot Robbie’s plastic doll was not ‘Barbie’ anymore
The movie opened with the narration of Helen Mirren describing how Barbie came to a world where young girls only had child dolls to play with, meaning they can only view themselves as mothers. As per the narrator, Barbies think they helped womankind a lot, but she did not want to burst their bubble. But eventually, the bubble did burst. Amidst the “And pink goes with everything” theme,” Robbie’s Barbie was facing struggles of her own. Like at the slumber party with Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night Away’ playing, she says, “Do you guys ever think about dying?” Or her getting burnt toast or drinking expired milk. Her getting flat feet on the beach or worse, cellulite. We see Barbie experiencing human-like feelings, something plastic, just cannot.
Acknowledging and concerned, Stereotypical Barbie pays a visit to Weird Barbie, someone who is deemed ugly and always remains in splits. The Weird Barbie’s task is to fix Barbies so they are always their ‘perfect-self’ and never ‘flawed.’ On knowing how her owner’s emotions from Real World are influencing her (a hint on how our energies are transferred to the objects around us), Barbie along with with Ken sets on a journey to find who ‘owns’ her. Because Barbie does not have a ‘free will.’ She is just plastic.
Amidst all of this, there is Ryan Gosling’s Ken, who is supposed to be Barbie’s boyfriend. But Barbie does not see him as one. Just a friend, to be precise. And that is something that bugs him, as his goal is to have Barbie’s attention. But it is in the Real World that Barbie and Ken have a change of opinion, a reality one loved and the other did not.
Barbie and Ken in the Real World
In an attempt to impress Barbie and defeat Sim Liu’s Ken for Barbie’s attention, Gosling’s Ken follows Barbie in the Real World. And they both rollerblade into it. Much to Barbie’s surprise, the Real World is nothing but a disappointment. As it is actually for all of us. She is a mere object for the men around her. So much so that one also smacks her a*s. And even more so, she needs to specify that she does not have ‘genitals.’ Barbie is freaked out to see the real-world being dominated by men, but Ken is not.
He is a nobody in the Barbie Land and seeing how men rule the world in reality; he wants that. On the other hand, Barbie is busy finding her owner and ultimately reaches a teen girl at school who calls her a ‘fascist’ and someone who set up ‘unrealistic standards of beauty’ for women. While Ken was busy knowing how to be a ‘man’ to take them forward to Barbie Land. But as they are busy dealing with all this, Mattel finds out that Barbie has entered the real world and decide they need to ‘put her in a box.’ While Ken leaves her to change the dynamics of Barbie Land, Barbie goes to Mattel, only to realize that she does not want to be cuffed again, as that does not feel right. So she runs and ends up meeting the owner, played by America Ferrel, the mother of the teen who has been sad about being detached from her daughter.
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From there starts a chase in which the three women win and move to Barbie Land. But reaching there, they realize it’s Kendom Land now. Living under the shadows of Barbie was something the Kens did not want and seeing the havoc Gosling’s Ken wrecked on Barbie Land with all Barbies losing their worth and having the ultimate goal of pleasing Kens, Robbie’s Barbie is shattered. She hits her lowest both emotionally and physically. But this is where she sets on the path to realize who she is.
More than plastic: Stereotypical Barbie on knowing what she wants
Weird Barbie comes to the rescue and takes Barbie to her abode. Allan, the neglected guy, follows Ferrel and her daughter to the same place and we got to witness the best monologue on how being a woman is so tough. That in turn opens the eyes of everybody, Barbies realizing how they lost their worth and Stereotypical Barbie’s plan on taking their home back. Make men fight amongst each other as they never really know what they want (again something true to the real world). And the plan works! Kendom Land becomes Barbie Land and Sterotypical Barbie finally brings a change, something she thought she is never capable of.
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While Barbie realizes what she can do, Ken does not. He feels an existential crisis as “There is no Ken is without Barbie.” But its Barbie’s words that push him to explore who Ken is as his identity is not tied to her. So he does, but Barbie does not feel like Barbie. She does not have an end, and she rather wanted to dictate her own narrative. So when Ruth, played by the narrator herself, gives her the choice to be a human or just be Barbie, she chooses the former. More so, as she has been disheartened with how the Real World actually is and wants to bring in change from the ground. And so Robbie’s Stereotypical Barbie became Barbara, who is seen visiting the gynecologist towards the end of the movie. And finally explored what she is, and she was more than plastic, more than a doll whose primary job is to look pretty and be Ken’s girlfriend.