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Film Review: 'Barbie' brilliantly shows a life in plastic isn't always fantastic

She’s a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world – that is until Barbie starts asking existential, self-effacing questions and begins to disrupt a perfect, plastic world. “Barbie” – through its sincere tackling of abrasive gender norms and depressive feelings – ultimately makes you go from wanting to be like Barbie to realizing that you are like Barbie. And though the doll’s life is plastic, “Barbie” brilliantly shows that it isn’t exactly fantastic. 

Oscar-nominated director Greta Gerwig brought this longtime project to life along with its star-studded cast, including Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, America Ferrera, Michael Cera and so many more. Thus, this summer was granted a well-needed blockbuster, one guaranteed to keep you laughing while also hitting you where it hurts.

With Robbie as the blonde-tastic doll herself, she serves the timeless toy the justice she deserves. Plus, she brings out a side of Barbie we’ve never seen before, despite being labeled as “stereotypical Barbie.” It shows the side that isn’t always cheerful and optimistic, moreso the side that feels beyond her self-purpose of a perfect life. The doll everyone looks up to feels things differently than the other Barbies, which is something all viewers can resonate with. 

And then there’s “just” Ken, played by the resourceful Ryan Gosling. Ken’s character arc is perhaps inevitable thanks to the real world. But when you give him a musical number and a love for horses, he brilliantly takes it all home with some self-redemption. The film allows this male character to have his faults but also allows him to redeem himself through means not often seen enough in films. He then, just being Ken, inspires a new generation of men. 

While many attest that this movie is “man-hating,” they should look again at how eloquently it shatters both spectrums of gender norms. The male gender norms being presented in the film aren’t looked at as much as the female gender norms since they have a stronger feministic presence. But when looking closer, you can still find substance in how the male characters are rounded out in the end. 

There is also a debate on how this film fits the likes of children. While it may be hard for them to understand all meta jokes or what the word “patriarchy” even means, it is nevertheless important for children to see the film. Especially, to see a change in gender stereotypes at such an impressionable age, and the validation of having self-conscious feelings. 

And though “Barbie” is a film about a major-selling product, the film was guaranteed to supplement the use of product placement throughout its entirety. Though it’s not necessarily the doll products they are suggestively placing, no product shown in the film will increase its sales as high as a particular sweatshirt Ken is seen wearing toward the film’s conclusion. Now that is how you effectively implement product placement. 

With Barbie being a longtime product that has served its fair share of controversy, the movie is entirely self-aware of those controversies and shows some necessary reconciliation. It brings up what Barbie’s physicality has done to femininity and how Mattel’s board of executives lacks female leadership. It’s a helpful turn for the company, as they moderately make fun of their own faults and show that things are on the up and out. 

Through this reconciliation, they fortunately acknowledge the previous Barbie dolls that were considered controversies and obscurities. Including scene-stealer Allan (Michael Cera), who was Ken’s short-lived buddy. Although Midge, the pregnant doll from the early 2000s, gets some recognition as well, she doesn’t get the same recognition as Allan, who is canonically her husband and the father of her child. 

Pushing past the little faults and heavy debates of the film, it’s without doubt that everyone should be able to find something to love about “Barbie.” Even those who didn’t grow up playing with the titular doll and those who say they “hated” this film. With its visually stunning practical effects, realistic plastic furniture and unforgettable costuming, it's impossible not to acknowledge how amazing the film’s setup is. And by expectation, Barbie and Ken will definitely be the most popular Halloween costume this upcoming year. 

After watching this summer’s biggest, pinkest blockbuster, you can be reminded to appreciate each other’s beauty – including your own while simultaneously healing the inner child in you that has often wished to live in your own Barbie world. And while the life of a Barbie isn’t exactly fantastic – as the song states– it’s fair to say that this film surely is. 


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