Hey there, conservatives (especially you conservative males!), let’s talk about the Barbie movie. Yes, I know nothing makes you want to take your AR-15 to the local Toys ‘R Us for a well-deserved shoot-up than a film about a girl’s toy (please don’t do it!). I mean, how dare anyone make a movie without guns, car chases, explosions, bullet storms, babes in skimpy outfits, and a beefy male action hero like Jason Statham or Daniel Craig to deal mayhem and death to all and sundry? A girlie movie that stars women who aren’t there just as eye candy, sending a feminist message, is bound to get the testosterone raging. And it’s got PINK in it!
Barbie?!? A doll? Not even GI Joe! Now that’s a manly toy… No Real Male Beer-Drinking (but not Bud Light, of course!) He-Man Conservative worth his MAGA hat would condescend to watch a film about sissy stuff like Barbie! It’s so much easier to take your kid’s dolls into the backyard and set them afire on TikTok than sit through a couple of hours of Barbie with them, right? Watching Barbie might make you and them feminist! Or worse, liberals. Totally emasculating!
To prove your manhood and your conservative credentials are still intact, loudly blame the film on leftwing radicals, Women Who Don’t Know Their Place, abortion, the lack of prayer in schools, and wokeness.*
But hear me out. I’m optimistic — or at least marginally and probably delusionally hopeful — that if you will simply turn off that 24-hour Fox Newz channel on your TV, and turn away from the Trooth Zocial posts on your phone for a few minutes to read this, you might, possibly, find something to think differently about the film. I know, I know: thinking is a liberal plot aimed at making people weak socialists who question authority and eat kale. But really: a little thinking isn’t all that dangerous. You ought to try it, sometime.
First: it’s a movie, not a revolution, not an antifa demonstration, not a bunch of tree-hugging liberal losers waving placards about animal rights and wanting everyone to eat tofu instead of red meat. That means you don’t have to watch it. It’s not something that they will ever show on Fox Newz to interrupt your favourite high school dropout Hannity or any of the company’s coven of whinging harridans.
Yes, really: no one is forcing you to see it, much less pay money to own it on 4K Blu-Ray so your kids can see it over and over and over. And I’ll let you in on a secret: other people watching it won’t affect your manhood or your religious beliefs, steal your guns, or take away your membership card in the Proud Boidz or Momz for Lieberty. In fact, other people’s viewing it, even if they like it, won’t affect you in any way at all.
It’s like books: you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to. Okay, I realize you don’t like to read books at all. Any books. But if you did, you could pick and choose the ones you wanted to read. You don’t have to ban or burn the others just because you don’t want to read them. You don’t even have to threaten people or force them not to read what you don’t want to. Same with Barbie: you can simply walk away and let others alone. Pretty amazing, eh?
That’s the crazy thing about democracy: we have freedom to choose. Take it away, start telling others what they can read or watch because you don’t like it, and you give up democracy, too. And the alternative is not better.
But really, you should watch it. Your kids will love you more for it. And you could learn for yourself if it’s really girlie liberal plot to undermine the patriarchy with song and dance routines.
Second: It’s a satire. Not a documentary. Now I realize you probably don’t watch a lot of satire, and it may confuse you, but it’s really a form of humour. Satire pokes fun at things. And in doing so it means to expose how things work, or at least how the filmmakers want you to think they work. That means it’s really just an opinion, albeit usually a funny one, not a fact. And while satire is sometimes subtle, and sometimes hides deeper truths, it does so in a way that makes people laugh. Or should.
Barbie is funny. Sometimes, but not always laugh-aloud funny, and mostly funny in a dry, sometimes sarcastic, nudge-nudge-wink-wink way. But it is funny. Yes, I know: dry wit isn’t the manly slapstick of The Three Stooges, Arnie quipping “I’ll be baahk…” or the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, but it can make you laugh. And, if you let it, it might make you think about why it is funny. There’s that dangerous thinking thing again.
No pink: No, you don’t have to wear pink to watch Barbie. Yes, I know, someone on Fox Newz probably told you that even looking at the colour pink makes you gay or at least woke, but it isn’t any more true than looking at black will make you into a New Yorker. Sure, there’s a lot of pink in the Barbieland part of the film, but there are other colours too. Bright, happy colours, mostly. And you can look at them all without becoming a liberal or wanting to become an interior decorator.
The real world in the film is, by the way, drab in comparison; blacks, greys, muted or dark colours. This is what filmmakers call contrast or juxtaposition. Look it up. Barbie is full of that sort of thing.
No hotness: I know you expect women in film to all be eye-candy hotties wearing bikinis or lingerie (or less), but in Barbieland they all wear Barbie’s outfits, which are stylish and colourful, but not the sort of hot you imagine.
You may have surreptitiously picked up one of your kid’s Barbie dolls when they were asleep, peeled back the outfit to see how she looks naked and were disappointed by the lack of realism. Unfortunately, you won’t get that satisfaction in the movie, either. Sorry. No nudity. The best you get is Barbie in a demure full-piece bathing suit at the start (and that opening is a nice tip of the hat to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Our film Barbie doesn’t even have a vagina, as she tells real-world people in the film. Oops. Did I make you blush using the V-word? Not supposed to talk about biology in conservative circles, are we, especially women’s biology. My bad.
But Margot Robbie and the rest of the cast are all attractive, mostly young Hollywood characters. And for your many closet-homophile conservative fire-and-brimstone pastors, the buff Ryan Gosling struts around shirtless (and even dances!) in a whole lot of scenes. Manly hetero conservatives can look away during those scenes, of course. Read the label on your beer can instead.
Diversity: I know it’s not going to please conservatives, but Barbieland has what liberals call “inclusivity” and “diversity:” the film has people of different styles, shapes, colours, sexes, heights, abilities, and races. Just like the real world. Barbieland isn’t a gated community where a lot of white seniors drive around in golf carts in a rush to get to the all-you-can-eat buffet before their afternoon nap. Admittedly, Barbieland itself is ruled (rather well) by the Barbies while the Kens play a mere supporting role, but that’s another one of those juxtapositions in the film, contrasted to the film’s real-world that’s ruled by men. Part of the message here is that equality works best. I know, I know: equality isn’t a popular word in the conservative vocabulary, but you can focus on the scenes where the Kens take over instead. They have beer and horses in Kenland.
Corporate love: Conservatives love corporations more than they love people (and they love oil and gas corporations much more than they love their kids). So you’d think even mildly making fun of a corporation would be ample proof the film is a commie-liberal attack on conservative values. But, Mattel actually liked it. In fact, Mattel’s CEO, Ynon Kreiz, was the driving force to make the movie and who made the pitch to Warner Bros. He personally “earmarked Margot Robbie as the perfect actor to play Barbie.”
Yes, the corporation that invented the Barbie doll back in 1959 actually helped make the film and knew beforehand they were going to be kidded in it. The film helped boost Mattel’s sluggish toy sales by 16%! Were they happy that the film pokes fun at the company? Yes, said Kreiz, “We do enjoy self-deprecation, and we’re happy to play the game.” He added that any mockery of Mattel was a “nod to the company’s past missteps.”
Now, if a CEO and a corporation that big can laugh along with being given the metaphorical (sorry: big word!) poke in the eye, then other conservatives should be big enough to do so, too.
Not just feminism: Yes, the movie pokes gentle fun at the patriarchy, at inequality, at the relations between men and women, and at the cultural views of masculinity and femininity. Yes, it has some comical stereotypes in it, especially about men, but they aren’t portrayed as mean, violent, or nasty. Even when the Kens take over and try to turn Barbieland into a cowboy-themed patriarchy, it’s equally sad and silly. The Mattel executives who chase Barbie out of the real world turn out to be nice guys in the end. After all, it’s a satire, not a screed.
Yes, it is broadly feminist but not in an overwhelming or scolding manner. It won’t turn you transgender or lower your testosterone levels to chuckle at the often hapless Kens or cheer for Barbie to win back her house.
But Barbie is, sometimes subtly, about more than that. It’s about the bond between mothers and daughters. It’s about the dreams and fantasies we have when growing up. It’s about leaving childhood behind. It’s about how men and women see themselves, and how culture affects that. It’s about growing old. It’s about self awareness. It’s also about what it means to be human and mortal. That last bit quite surprised and moved me, but don’t worry: it’s not a deeply metaphysical (sorry! big word again…) foray that might threaten your religious beliefs. It’s just a movie.
And finally, if you’re still fuming about the Barbie movie, you really ought to ask yourself what triggered you to be so angry or upset, especially if you haven’t even seen it. Maybe, just maybe, you’re being rage-farmed — manipulated — by others who want you to feel like that for their own reasons. And maybe you should ask yourself why they want that anger from you over a movie you haven’t seen… there’s that thinking stuff again.
If you see the film and don’t like it, fine. That’s how it works: you can’t like every film, every TV show, every book. Tastes differ. Mature people move on, change the channel, pick up another book, put another DVD in the player. They don’t have hissy fits and tell others they can’t watch or read it.
At least if you watch it, you can tell people at your next MAGA or PoiLIEvre-Love meeting that your masculinity and your conservative credentials were so strong you were able to resist the pink feminist assault from the film. But I think you might, secretly, get a kick out of it like I did.
* Definition of woke from Merriam Webster: “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” From the Cambridge Dictionary: “aware, especially of social problems such as racism and inequality.” The Oxford Dictionary adds, “well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.” Definition according to conservatives: “scary radical liberal shit.”