“Barbie” encouraging audiences to truly feel

Karen Savoy / Sputnik Photography

The box office hit Barbie has made quite the splash in theatres since coming out July 21. The long-anticipated film transforms audiences back to the simplicity of childhood while showing the complexity that comes with existing in today’s world as a woman.  

Theatres across the globe have been a sea of pink since opening night of Barbie. The overwhelming nostalgia felt in this film is enough to draw viewers in for a trip down memory lane, but director Greta Gerwig and producer/actress Margot Robbie have juxtaposed the uplifting sentiment with the reality faced by women in the “real world”.  

Pink, Barbie’s signature colour, has become a phenomenon since this film has been released. It has taken on a life of its own, audiences are sporting their best and brightest pink to the theatres. It is an experience separate from the film at this point, wearing pink to the theatre and seeing everybody else’s outfits are almost as exciting as the film itself.  

Barbie has been a staple in young people’s homes since she was first created in 1959 by Ruth Handler, who is honoured in this film. Since her creation, Barbie has evolved into a figurehead who can take on any career and excel. Along with this great success there has always been some resentment towards these dolls. The pressure put on young people about their bodies has been an issue for years.   

Gerwig’s film addresses these issues beautifully as Barbie weaves through the real world and interacts with more women. Other notable productions Gerwig has solo directed and written include Lady Bird in 2017 and Little Women in 2019, both were nominated for Academy Awards.  

These movies address issues that face their characters without being obnoxiously overt. It is not a huge secret how women are not equal across the globe and should not be treated as a spectacle. It does come to a shock to Barbie however, as she navigates life in the real world. The doll who lives in a perfect world is not used to having emotions, fears or obstacles to face.  

The mother and daughter relationship shown in this movie is a rollercoaster of emotions. The daughter, Sasha, is played by Ariana Greenblatt and the mother, Gloria, played by America Ferrera. Sasha is growing up and not connecting with Gloria the way she used to, and Gloria is trying to adjust but feeling inadequate. Anyone with a mother or maternal figure in their life can relate to this drifting that occurs during their pre-teen years and it is truly tragic to see on the big screen.  

America Ferrara, who plays the mother, delivers a powerful speech about the struggles of being a woman saying, “You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass.”  

The messages sent in Barbie are not hidden or complicated. Life is hard. Being a human is complex and being a woman can often be very complicated. Barbie is learning all the lessons we in the audience have spent decades learning and it brings her to tears (which, of course she has never shed before).  

Watching Barbie go through this sobering journey is interesting as an audience member, because it feels like a journey we have all walked. Watching this “perfect” person breakdown reassures us we are allowed to go through life stumbling and most importantly, as Ruth says in this film, feel.

This article was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 1 on Thursday, Aug. 31.

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