I left “Barbie” in shambles, feeling seen, empowered and deeply understood. The best art makes its audience feel personally acknowledged and addressed, and that is exactly what the brilliant Greta Gerwig managed to do with “Barbie.” It was well-done and relatable, poignant but light-hearted. As I walked out of the theater with my cousins and my beautiful mother, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that all four of us were just little girls on the inside.
At one point we were all just little girls with hopes and dreams of being doctors, mothers or the president, and one day those dreams were replaced by hopes and dreams of being desired by men. Each of us, our different ages and walks of life aside, needed the representation provided to us by “Barbie” so badly that it brought us to tears.
Like many, I began to see plenty of TikTok discourse regarding the movie. Women were bonding over the shared female experiences depicted in the movie (such as being “sung at,” appealing to a man’s ego in order to get what you want from him and dating a guy who is physically unable to shut up while watching “The Godfather”). Some women purchased “comfort Barbies'' that resembled them or had their occupation, others made montages of “girlhood” set to the song “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish.
We also saw plenty of TikToks commenting on how some men received “Barbie,” from boyfriends to random men in the theater. The overwhelming consensus was that most men missed the point entirely, and we all knew a handful of men who somehow felt they had been viciously and personally attacked by the mere idea of a world in which pink is a powerful color and women are revered and respected for being unapologetic, hard-working and emotionally intelligent.
These men include far-right commentators Piers Morgan and Ben Shapiro. Shapiro, who is 39 years old, even felt that it was necessary to throw Barbie and Ken dolls into a trash can and light them on fire in protest of the film. He said, “The basic sort of premise of the film, politically speaking, is that men and women are on two sides and they hate each other.”
No, that is incorrect. The premise is that Margot Robbie’s Barbie is the first Barbie to have an existential crisis in Barbieland, having dark thoughts and feeling that she lacks a purpose. As a result, she travels to the real world to gain an understanding of why she’s feeling that way, getting a glimpse of the real-world struggles of the female experience in the process.
Morgan shared similar input, writing, “The movie’s clear message is that the only solution to this dreadful patriarchal state of affairs is for women to rule the world, and preferably to do so on their own without horrible men to ruin both the planet and them.”
Once again, no. The message of the movie is that being a woman, in all its difficulty and complexity, is a beautiful experience we are all going through together. The title of Morgan’s article, “If I made a movie that treated women the way Barbie treats men, feminists would want me executed,” should have been my first clue it wasn’t going to contain anything of value.
“A movie that treated women the way Barbie treats men”; you mean every other movie ever? If Morgan made a movie that treated women like accessories to men, hardly anyone would bat an eye because this is how we have seen women portrayed since we were young girls — this is exactly what we’re used to.
In fact, if Morgan made a movie that ended with men validating women’s feelings and encouraging them to be individuals like the Barbies did for the Kens, we would actually celebrate these men for doing the bare minimum. We would rave online about how hot it was that the male protagonist treated his female counterpart like a human being with thoughts and feelings and probably even praise Morgan for his newfound perspective on the value of women.
“Barbie” depicts a society in which men are viewed as accessories to the women in charge. In my opinion, the way the Kens are treated in the film is actually a very, very kind take on a reversal of the patriarchy — they weren’t being aggressed, harassed or objectified in any way by the Barbies. They were only dealing with a small amount of the disrespect women are taught to tolerate, or even smile at, daily.
Just when the reader thinks his article can’t get more absurd, Morgan complains that “The biggest irony of the film is that Margot Robbie … only landed this role because she’s exceptionally beautiful … Hollywood took the prettiest woman in the whole town and cast her in a movie supposedly intended to prove women don’t have to rely on things like their looks or sex appeal to men to succeed.”
In reality, Gerwig just cast someone who looked like the original Barbie doll to play the self-proclaimed “stereotypical Barbie,” just like she cast someone who looked like the original Ken doll, and none of it had anything to do with sex appeal. The purpose of “Barbie” was not to please or arouse men.
What Shapiro, Morgan and those who share their sentiments fail to recognize is that “Barbie” simply isn’t about men at all. “Barbie” is the only movie of its caliber that caters to women, flipping the typical real-world power dynamic between men and women on its head. Taking that sense of security and validation away from these kinds of men — even on a screen — makes them feel like they are being attacked.
This sort of self-importance that has been instilled in men, particularly white men, is so unbelievably damaging to our society as a whole. It prevents men from perceiving a film like this as a learning opportunity. It is a chance for men to process uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and learn how to better support women.
The Barbie movie is not anti-men, it is simply pro-women, and these things are not mutually exclusive.
Nina Motter is a first-year student studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Nina know by tweeting her @ninamotter.