Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Barbie Movie


 "What Becomes a Legend Most?": Classic Barbie

Hi ho, movie lovers.

I have just come from a showing of the movie "Barbie", starring Margot Robbie as you-know-who and Ryan Gosling as her companion/not quite boyfriend Ken.

I must say the set direction, clothes and cinematography are all top notch. Barbieland, where the movie is set, is a pastel paradise of dream houses, dream cars and dream fashions. 

Every morning, she (Robbie) wakes up in her dream house, has a perfect shower, chooses a perfect outfit and has a perfect breakfast. She then floats to the ground (Barbie dream houses never come with stairs) and drives around Barbieland in her pink convertible. Along the way, Barbie waves to all the other barbies: President Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, Professor Barbie, Vet Barbie. At the beach, Barbie meets up with Ken (Gosling) who, like all the other Kens in Barbieland, doesn't really do much but surf and work on his tan.

Every day in Barbieland ends with a swingin' dance party. It's in the middle of one of these celebrations that Barbie suddenly blurts out, "Have you ever thought about death?"...which brings the festivities to a screeching halt.

As you can see, Midge wasn't always pregnant.

Next morning, Barbie's shower is too cold, her milk has gone sour and her famous arched feet have gone flat. What's going on? She's told to visit Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), so named because her last owner "played too hard" with her, for advice. Weird Barbie lives in a ramshackle abode, not a perfectly appointed dream house and her legs are always in the splits. Yet it's she who realizes Barbie's behavior is caused by a "tear" in the fabric that separates Barbieland from the Real World. Therefore, Barbie must travel to to the Real World (actually, L.A.) and track down the girl who plays with her to repair the damage.

So Barbie hops into her convertible and drives off . Seconds later, Ken pops up from the back seat, telling Barbie he's coming with her--he's even brought his rollerblades along. Barbie wearily agrees and soon the duo are using various Barbie dream vehicles (like planes, campers, boats, bikes, and space ships) to reach L.A. However, once they get there, Barbie and Ken quickly see the Real World is nothing like Barbieland: women don't run everything, people have genitals and girls like Sasha (Arianna Breenblat), once Barbie fans, now scorn her and call her fascist.

Ken, on the other hand, is delighted to see men are on top of the heap in the Real World. He likes being called "sir" and feels he's finally being taken seriously. Then he grabs a bunch of library books on patriarchy and returns to Barbieland, determined to shake things up.

Meanwhile, Barbie continues to stumble around in the Real World. She meets the CEO of Mattel (Will Ferrell) who, along with his corporate yes-men, try to put Barbie "back in the box" to reprogram her. She manages to escape, but the CEO and his crew are close at her heels, determined to avoid a crisis like the one that happened 10 years ago: Skipper arrived at a house in Florida, asking to babysit. When she tried to teach a toddler how to surf, all hell broke loose. Needless to say, the Mattel people are frantic to avoid such a catastrophe from happening again.

Luckily, Barbie finds an ally in Gloria (America Ferrera), who happens to be Sasha's mom. She's a Mattel employee who loved Barbie as a kid and played barbies with Sasha when she was little. Now Sasha is a truculent tween who dismisses mom like she dismisses Barbie. Turns out the "tear" between Barbieland and the Real World was caused by Gloria, not Sasha, reminiscing about all the good times she had with Barbie and her daughter.

I had a Growing Skipper doll. 

Armed with this knowledge, Barbie, Gloria and Sasha race back to Barbieland. Unfortunately, when they get there, Barbieland has been tuned into Ken World. Preaching the importance of patriarchy, the Kens have supplanted the barbies from their positions of power. Now Doctor Barbie, Lawyer Barbie and all the other barbies have been turned into Stepford Wives and all the Kens act like entitled frat boys. How is Barbie going to fix that? 

Never fear! Barbie and her buds manage to shake the Barbies out of their torpor and set Barbieland right again. What about the Kens? President Barbie (Issa Rae) and her cabinet realize the Kens need to do more than just hang out at the beach. Thus, President Barbie vows to give them more rights and responsibilities. The barbies also come to understand that their treatment of the Discontinued Barbies (Growing Skipper, Weird Barbie, the always pregnant Midge etc.) has to change as well.

And what about Barbie herself? She's had an epiphany, for sure. Barbie's come to see that she's more than just "Stereotypical Barbie", the perky clothes horse. She has other talents and abilities, too. However, in order to live up to her full potential, Barbie will have to take a leap of faith and join the Real World. Will she?

"Barbie" reminded me of movies like "Pleasantville" and "El Canto", as well as such tales as The Velveteen Rabbit and Tuck Everlasting. The film shares their message that perfection is a trap, that there's no "perfect world" or "perfect life", that love is both wonderful and painful, that change is not only constant, but vital.

And flats can be just as chic as heels.

Tres chic, no?

Barbie helped millions of little girls grow-up and dream big. Greta Gerwig's movie suggests it's Barbie's turn now. What will her new life be like? The movie doesn't tell us, but from now on, Barbie's dreams, whatever they be, will be her own.

Barbie is never short of career options.

To be honest, I was never into Ken or Allan (Michael Cera in the movie). My childhood Barbie's boyfriend was named Kip Kipstone.

The Sunshine Family was the "Apple's Way"* of barbies. My sister got them for Christmas one year.

Relax, Jeb Bush! Midge was never a single mother...unless you forgot to buy her husband.

I had this very Barbie lunch box.

Boy Band Barbie? Teenage Soap Opera Character Barbie? Villain On A Vampire TV Show Barbie?

*"Apple's Way" was a 1970's TV show where the big city Apple Family moves to small town Appleton, Iowa. Even as a kid I knew it was dumb.

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