Barbie is a satire, a comedy, and a scathing commentary. This multi-identity befits Mattel’s legendary doll series.
Barbie (Movie) Synopsis
Every day is a perfect day in Barbieland, that is, till Stereotypical Barbie starts getting morose thoughts about death. A quick visit to our real world reveals the reason, but the same trip also poisons Ken with absurd chauvinistic thoughts. Ken’s subsequent plans for Barbieland might forever change the dreamy paradise.
I did a quick research before writing this review, and the results surprise. While Mattel’s Barbie is one of the most successful toy series ever, it’s not the champion. Quite a few listicles that I read instead listed Hot Wheels.
But when it comes to being culturally significant, gender representative, or controversial, I bet nothing even comes near this enduring doll series. I don’t how it’s like in the Western world but throughout my school and army days, “you play with Barbie ah?” was the classic insult dished to gentler boys.
When featuring the Barbie exhibition at Ion Orchard last October, practically every major publication in Singapore angled their write-up on how the collection was owned by a dude.
Now, the above seemingly just reaffirms that the dolls target the female market, which is true, but spend just five minutes at any Barbie toy section and how could anyone not detect the underlying sexism? That being a girl is all about looking glamorous all the time, having fun, dressing up, and all that ditzy nonsense? Mattel has long been aware of this and so for decades, the brand sought to mitigate the impression by projecting Barbie as a girl who can be anyone and anything she wants and is an inspiration for little girls worldwide.
Did this work? I think the answer is obvious. What’s stunning, in turn, is that Mattel cheerfully acknowledges this and Greta Gerwig’s entire movie is one relentless dig at the cultural shortcomings of the best-selling toy series.
From the obsession with pink to the notorious Barbie Syndrome, to radical feminism, to how gorgeous Margot Robbie was cast in the lead role. To even how creator and Mattel founder Ruth Handler was charged with fraud reporting in her older years. Barbie is as much a critique of the doll series as it is a homage.
It makes for a heady watch, one that’s alike a visually luscious piece of candy bursting with multiple flavours, and anchored by truly unforgettable performances by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. (With the important message to please stop emasculating Ken)
The inclusion of too many complex social messages complicates the story from the second act onwards and brought forth a frustratingly flimsy ending, but as a satire with lots of zany energy and witty laughs, this pink-fest delivers with flair. On top of how Barbieland is hands down one of the most wildly satirical, bizarre, and mischievous imaginary worlds ever created for the big screen. Every goofiness in this pink wonderland comes with a hidden message and frankly, one needs to watch the movie twice to catch them all.
I ought to mention the Ken dolls too, and not just what a fun ensemble Ryan Gosling and the other dudes were. While their storyline ended on a flimsy note, what happened to them was a scathing commentary on toxic masculinity and an unforgiving declaration that boys are way more susceptible to commercial and social brainwashing.
It’s piercing insight that’s unexpected, one of the best bits about the show too. Have to say, getting to watch Gosling’s forlorn himbo is also well worth the price of the ticket.
ALDO X Barbie Collection
Dreamy shoes feature prominently in this glitzy movie! If you want to look as glamorous without getting Barbie feet, take a look at the new ALDO x Barbie collection.
Looking great never means having to compromise on comfort. ALDO understands this and so all shoes in this collection include ALDO’s super-cushy Pillow Walk soles. The collection also includes gorgeous handbags to complete the perfect look.
Check out my other snappy movie reviews.