The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

What was I made for?

‘Barbie’ movie reveals truth about womanhood
Sophia Zhao
In Barbie’s opening scene, Margot Robbie stands tall, towering over the land. She is portrayed as a role model to young girls.

We all know and recognize her.

A friend, a role model and a symbol of feminism.

Maybe we tried a dozen hairstyles on her or dressed her up; she was there for most of our childhood memories.

Barbie, the doll who shifted ideas of girlhood forever, came to theaters on July 21. The live-action film was directed by Greta Gerwig, making her the first woman to have the sole directing credit on a billion-dollar movie.

Story continues below advertisement

Set in a perfect utopia for Barbies where aging, depression and flat feet can never exist. Stereotypical Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, can’t imagine another world besides her own. Her life is waking up every day angelically surrounded by her best friends (other Barbies), playing Beach and, of course, being bombarded by her side-kick Ken. Prior to watching it, I had expectations of a movie where the plot was only deep enough for a 10-year-old to understand. Reminiscing on my childhood filled with the series of animated Barbie shows was all I could imagine. However, that vision was completely shattered from the first opening scene.

It starts off with little girls playing with baby dolls, inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Suddenly, a giant woman crashes on their land, fabulously dressed in a vintage swimsuit with sunglasses. In awe, the girls abandon their flimsy dolls and stare at the very first Barbie doll made. No longer tied to the soulless identities of caregiving they found in their baby dolls, they finally can look up to a doll with personality and infinite career possibilities. From astronauts to businesswomen, there is no limit to what they can be when they grow up.

Although Barbie is portrayed as the ultimate role model for these little girls, years of critics have labeled her as the very opposite. For more than half a century, she was celebrated by girls around the world as the epitome of girlhood pleasure. As a child, I collected as many Barbies as possible. She was my friend, someone I could rely on to escape reality. However, that lingering question remained: could a petite, blond doll really be a feminist icon?

Head to toe, Barbie is tailored to perfection. Concerned with the unrealistic body standards she could be setting for children, she became the most loved and hated toy by society. The perfection she withholds does not change in the live-action, as her flawless personality and ageless body basically define her character. Every day, she saunters through Barbieland, partying with her fellow Barbies and ending it with a girls’ night as Ken pathetically waits outside for her. There is never a bad day for her, never a possibility of a negative thought.

Until one day, that all changes. She wakes up with horrible breath, a cold shower, and worst of all, she finds cellulite on her thigh. Forced to see Weird Barbie, an expert on malfunctions, she is horrified to discover the human girl who is her playmate is sad in the real world, something Barbie cannot fathom.

With no choice, Barbie travels with an uninvited Ken to the real world. Not even ten minutes after their arrival, men start catcalling her with degrading names. Simultaneously, she and Ken realize this world is the reverse of their own. Here, they can almost taste the domination of men.

It’s almost laughable how the movie portrays these different dimensions. Barbieland, a world where women are genuinely respected and never oppressed, is fantastical. Even though women clearly dominate it, men are not oppressed. There is mutual respect between the Barbies and Kens. However, in reality, society is patriarchal, leaving no room for women.

While Ken realizes he really likes this new patriarchal society, Barbie finds the daughter of her human playmate, Sasha. Excited to be fanned with adoration from Sasha and her friends, she introduces herself. Immediately, Sasha accuses Barbie as the root of all women’s insecurities. Not only is Barbie making women feel bad about themselves, but she is destroying the environment with her glorification of rampant consumerism, and even worse, she’s a fascist.

I found myself laughing but then realizing how bleak the truth of our society towards women is. It’s amazing how Gerwig creates a sense of dramatic irony in every scene, giving an otherwise deep film countless moments of comedic relief. Further into the movie, it was like witnessing the world again through Barbie’s eyes. I forgot how I viewed men and women when I was a girl. But as I watched Barbie take her first steps into the real world, I remembered I never saw it as a patriarchy. I remembered the innocent joy I found in playing with dolls, how it was just as fantastical as Barbieland. I remembered how it felt not to be objectified by men or hated by girls. I remembered how beautiful girlhood was and didn’t want to let it go.

While it didn’t give me the feelings of nostalgia I thought I would experience, Barbie is a brilliantly directed film where you will laugh, cry and never relate to a character so hard. Although it exhibits flashy colors, it hides a deeper plot beneath. It made me walk out of the theater and rethink my identity. But more importantly, Barbie showed me how precious it is to transform from girlhood to a woman coming of age. You get to decide what you were made for.

View Comments (4)
More to Discover

Comments (4)

All Three Penny Press Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • K

    Kate SteinbachNov 7, 2023 at 12:28 am

    Though I didn’t totally love the movie, I loved the way you wrote about it- it made me want to rewatch it!

  • S

    Sophia LiNov 6, 2023 at 9:43 pm

    Loved the Barbie movie and I think you summed up why I did really well!! Good job 🙂

  • A

    AveyNov 6, 2023 at 10:15 am

    love this opinion

  • S

    Sarah NitsunNov 5, 2023 at 10:59 pm

    I think this review really sums up the Barbie movie! I agree that I did not get the feeling of nostalgia but the movie made a lot of good points!