The countdown is on for the premiere of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie, and if early reviewers are to be believed, it’s going to be a feminist fever dream.
Details of the plot have been kept closely under wraps, with movie fans working to piece it all together based on each new movie trailer leading up to the July 21 premiere.
Those clips, along with star interviews, helped internet sleuths figure out that the “Barbie” movie uses the classic ‘fish out of water’ trope to depict a sheltered Barbie doll interacting with the real world.
Early reviewers praised the film as being pro-feminist and anti-patriarchy.
“[Gerwig] has crafted a fierce, funny, and deeply feminist adventure that dares you to laugh and cry, even if you’re made of plastic,” Entertainment Weekly reporter Devan Coggan wrote. The writer goes on to describe how in Barbie Land, the women run the show while the Ken dolls always play a supporting role.
But then stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) starts to unravel mentally when she starts thinking about deeper issues, such as death, and realizes her arched feet have gone flat. She ventures into the “real world” to figure out what’s going on.
“Once Barbie and Ken [Ryan Gosling] begin roller-blading around L.A., however, they both realize that they’ve essentially entered a mirror dimension. Where are the female presidents, the CEOs, the astronauts? Barbie was supposed to empower young girls to dream big, but she hasn’t had the feminist effect she anticipated — and in fact, she might have made things worse,” Coggan wrote.
“Gerwig tackles the doll’s complicated legacy head on, exploring how Barbie’s reputation here isn’t one of leadership or creativity but of corporatized objectification. Barbie herself is horrified, facing crude comments and misogyny for the first time in her (plastic) life.”
The EW review also notes that Gosling as Ken becomes enamored with the idea of being the boss and tries to bring that power structure back to Barbie Land.
“…To Ken, this newfound idea of patriarchy is intoxicating, and he quickly enters a spiral of masculinity, luxuriating in trucks, cowboy hats, and the addictive thrill of power,” the reviewer writes.
Variety reviewer Peter Debruge also asserts that Ken and Barbie “compete for control” after catching a glimpse of the real world.
He says of the film, “Greta Gerwig loads plenty of food for thought in a hot pink pop fantasia, poking fun at patriarchy and corporate parent Mattel in her treatment of the iconic ‘girls can do anything’ doll.”
“Let’s be honest, in the year 2023, it would be a shock (and box office suicide) if ‘Barbie’ arrived without some kind of female-empowerment message baked in,” Debruge wrote.
“In Barbie Land, Ken’s job is a deliberately ill-defined afterthought (basically, just ‘beach’), whereas in the Real World, dudes rule — an idea he takes back to Barbie Land with pointedly absurd results, brainwashing all the women into behaving like obedient housewives,” he shares later in the review, noting how Gerwig emphasizes how “lopsided” the world is in regard to women holding positions of power.
“It’s upsetting (in a useful way) to see Barbie confronted with the overnight impact of rampant patriarchy, a concept that has rarely looked more off-putting than the frat-boy fantasy caricatured here,” Debruge writes, before concluding that the movie provides “positive examples of female potential for future generations.”