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From a Child’s Toy to a Woman: How “Barbie” Became More Than a Blonde Doll

Who would think our favorite doll, Barbie, would come this far from her dreamhouse to the cinemas worldwide and be in the spotlight of discussion? Recently, the Barbie movie, directed by the talented Greta Gerwig, was featured in the cinemas, making the biggest opening weekend of any movie this summer, surpassing $162 million and its “rival” film Nolan’s Oppenheimer. To summarize without giving any spoilers, the movie is about the blonde stereotypical Barbie facing patriarchy in the real world. It does a great job of “simplifying” the effects of patriarchy on both women and men to reach a target audience of children as well. But it was also criticized because of it, with many comments saying it was “Feminism 101” and was not that deep. While everybody is entitled to their own opinions, in this article, I will talk about the effect of Barbie on worldwide media and the rising star of film-making, Greta Gerwig.

Let’s start with one of my personal favorite directors, Greta Gerwig. American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and director who directed numerous great movies like Little Women and Ladybird, and played a leading role in Frances Ha and many more. Gerwig holds great potential for her future films, and she showed her potential brilliantly in Barbie with the amazing pink cinematography and delivery of the characters. She undoubtedly made Barbie more meaningful for many women worldwide and helped us reconnect with our sweet innocent girlhood before we faced the struggles of the patriarchy.

One of the reviews that I think sums up the movie's purpose came from Ross Bonaime from Collider talking about how Barbie could have been just a “little more than a toy ad.” Intead, it was developed as an “existential look at the difficulties of being a woman, the terrifying nature of life in general, the understanding that trying to be perfect is absurd, while also encapsulating everything that Barbie has meant to people — both good and bad.” Many reviewers agreed on how Gerwig deepened Barbie as a symbol of girlhood. Barbie was not just pretty but was all of us at some point in our early lives. Also highlighting the self-realization theme of the movie, David Fear, a film critic for the Rolling Stones, wrote, “This is a saga of self-realization, filtered through both the spirit of free play and the sense that it’s not all fun and games in the real world — a doll’s story that continually drifts into the territory of ‘A Doll’s House.’”

The self-discovery journeys of other women were also hits on TikTok. Young women started to talk about how Barbie talked to their inner child in a healing way, putting this movie as a connection spot for our womanhood experiences. Personally, I was crying throughout the movie and Billie Eilish’s song “What Was I Made For?” did not help that at all.

As much as Margot Robbie as Barbie was a conversation topic, we loved Ryan Gosling as Ken too. Gerwig did not exclude Ken from the plot. In contrast, she gave him his own story. In the end, after learning that “patriarchy is not about horses,” he accepts that Barbie is not and will not be in love with him, and it is time to shape his own storyline. Ken symbolizes how toxic patriarchy also affects men and how eventually, it is possible to overcome it. Ryan Gosling’s musical abilities took a leap after La La Land to Barbie, and with his hit song “I’m Just Ken,” he spoke to boys who may not feel enough being themselves. Well, “Kenough,” as his hoodie says.

Probably the most bizarre comment about Barbie came from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, speaking to Fox News— “Obviously, the little girls that are going to see Barbie, none of them are going to have any idea what those dashes mean. This is really designed for the eyes of the Chinese censors, and they’re trying to kiss up to the Chinese Communist Party because they want to make money selling the movie.” We wonder if Greta Gerwig is aware of this, to be honest.

While wrapping up, it is impossible not to touch upon the character of Gloria who came alive with the talented actress America Ferrera and stood out with her fabulous monologue on being a woman.

"It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong.”

"I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know."

The Barbie movie has its praises and criticisms as does every movie, though from a feminine perspective, I can not help but be biased on how beautifully it captures our experiences. More than anything, this success made Hollywood excited about the future works of Greta Gerwig and aims to see more women directors in the field.

Edited by Simay Cemre Tülübaş and Yağmur Ece Nisanoğlu

Works Cited

"'Barbie' Movie Gives Left and Right Another Battlefront, in Pink." The New York Times,

"'Barbie' Reviews Are In: Slickly Subversive or Inescapably Corporate?" The New York Times. The New York Times

McArdle, Tommy. "Read the Powerful 'Barbie' Monologue About Being a Woman That America Ferrera Performed '30 to 50' Times." People



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