Friday, July 28, 2023

My Weekend (Pink) Crush

Honestly, I haven’t stopped thinking about the Barbie movie since I saw it on Sunday. What a glittery hot pink Trojan horse of a movie that promises the shiny plastic fun of childhood playtime (and delivers, thanks to its lovingly immaculate attention to detail) while also unpacking the social significance of the most famous doll in the world as she relates to our concepts of womanhood in our society. You know, girlie stuff.

I don’t know exactly what I expected with the news that Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie were going to make a Barbie movie. I’m not sure if anyone did. But what we got was a day-glo dance party wrapped in an existential crisis tied up with a bow of cultural awakening that came with a lovely card filled with generational healing. Again, girlie stuff.

Of course, the Right Wing nutters are against it because it’s not just about how pretty a perpetually tip-toed plaything with physically impossible proportions is. Yes, conservatives, Barbie has fallen to the Woke! Mind! Virus! (Just, lol forever at whatever GOP think tank thought that’d sound super scary). Any mention of the dreaded F-word, feminism, and P-word, patriarchy, makes them want to buy another assault rifle and ban abortion even harder. You know, MAGA stuff.

But for the rest of us, Barbie will make us laugh and feel and think and believe all in the pursuit of pure female joy and empathy. And unlike more overtly serious-minded films (again, it’s so weird to say this, but not that the Barbie movie isn’t serious-minded at times), this film swaddles its most cerebral arguments in the warm embrace of emotional resonance. In short, this movie has a whole lot of women in their feelings.

Its most clever trick is to lure us in with the nostalgia while critiquing what that same nostalgia has meant to us over the course of our lives. How since her creation in 1959, this hunk of shapely hardened fossil fuels has affected our everyday existence as women. We are all just America Ferreras trying to be liked by a world that makes that impossible by design.

Granted most women probably don’t go through their days critically examining those F- and P-words as they relate to their jobs and families and relationships. But they sure intrinsically know that they do, and the Barbie movie has connected to that core universality. Yes, we’re all different races and cultures and body types and sexual orientations and socio-economic statuses. But we all also never forget the it’s the men (particularly straight white men) who still run this world.

One of the funnier aspects of the backlash to the movie (well, not so much in a ha ha kind of way, but a not so funny when the roles are reversed kinda way) is how the manosphere keeps whining about how “man-hating” Barbie is. In the beginning, Kens are treated essentially like women have been since time in memoriam in the movies and real life, but without any of the constant threats of violence or expected domestic servitude. Men are just funny little guys who are kept around as, well, arm candy but are not otherwise central to the narrative. They are accessories. I know men understand this because they saw and loved Margot Robbie in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (It should be noted that Martin Scorsese hasn’t directed a female-led film since the 1970s, ahem.)

With each film, Greta Gerwig has shown off and honed her innate understanding of the constant push/pull of womanhood. I know, I know, her catalog so far has centered largely white (and straight) women’s stories. But, look, it took Christopher Nolan 22 years of directing features before he cast his first Black lead — who was of course still male — and he has still only done it once. Yet no one really makes a fuss about that so, you know, context. (To be clear, both should be more inclusive in their storytelling. Everyone should.) And, to her credit, Barbie is represented onscreen as a seemingly endless array of womanhood, including a trans Barbie which is nothing short of amazing.

The Barbie movie is also proof that women’s stories have always been so much more than just romantic love stories, or at least love stories in their traditional sense. Yeah, this is a chick flick but it sure ain’t no rom-com. It’s the reinterpretation of a chick flick, which examines gender roles and the dynamics that put us into boxes from the moment the doctor exclaims, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” Those confines hurt women and men and everyone. Period.

Granted those Gay Barbie rumors (SPOILER ALERT, but deep down you already knew) never materialize in the movie. Kate McKinnon’s Weird Barbie (I mean, the Birkenstocks alone) and Michael Cera’s Allan are heavily queer and/or nonbinary coded. (Speaking of gay, I hope the Indigo Girls made a mountain of royalties for the use of “Closer to Fine.) But, all satirical consumerism joking aside, it’s still freaking Mattel.

My greatest hope for the Barbie movie is that it allows more women to tell truly all types of stories about themselves. Because, hot damn, we are good at this shit — we really, really are. Though I fear that instead of letting us tell our own stories, Hollywood is going to decide to make more movies about toys and other plastic crap. Which, sadly, they already are. Deep endless sigh.

Still the wrongheaded lessons being learned can’t erase its accomplishments. Biggest opening for a female-directed movie, ever. Biggest movie opening of the year, period. Bigger than “Mission Impossible 7,” bigger than “Indiana Jones 5,” and even bigger than “Top Gun 2” (Also, try something original you absolute greedy dolts). Barbie was made for us and we made it big. That is much more than Kenough.

So go grab your best hot pink apparel, and don’t be ashamed of the joy and, yes, catharsis you feel while watching a movie about a 64-year-old doll who has become a generational icon and cultural lightning rod. This is the kind of girlie stuff that should resonate with anyone with an open heart and mind. Come on Barbie, let’s go to a patriarchy smashing party. Happy weekend, all.


Carmen San Diego. said...

I absolutely loved it. After the movie there were several young women dressed in pink with runny mascara in the ladies room of the theater. I guess I’m not the only one that got emotional at that mother-daughter relationship scene in the end.

Carmen San Diego said...

And that scene in which Gloria talks about being a woman? I wanted to clap