Like most little girls born in the late eighties, I had several Barbies. They were all blonde and beautiful with long legs, no nether regions, and shapely breasts. Neither I, nor anyone who gifted them to me, got the diversity memo. For me, if Barbie could have been any colour, it would have been pink.
It turns out that I was not the only one who saw her that way. From the various shades of rose that have flooded the consumer market in the form of everything from shoes to toothbrushes to how everyone dressed up to go to the cinema, Barbie is the embodiment of pink.
Embracing the hype, I, too, followed the crowd and trotted along to the cinema, but as I sat there in my black dress, I found myself wondering if several well-worn tropes and well-meaning monologues were all that women were going to be reduced to. Maybe I’ve read too much or already spent too much time thinking about things, but I was struggling to understand the various paths the film was taking.
As Greta Gerwig kept opening up boxes, not really closing them and taking us down pretty roads that ultimately led nowhere, I was left feeling unsatisfied. The meal had looked so good, was packaged so well, and then it tasted of cardboard. Yes, it’s always a positive thing to see women’s issues raised, but at the same time, why raise something at all if you’re not going to see it through? My one consolation is that so many people who don’t usually interact with women’s issues saw this film that some good might actually come out of it.
That said, there were a couple of stand-out moments for me. When the camera enters the all-male boardroom at Mattel, who makes all the decisions about the next doll that little girls will play with, it’s hard not to think of all the all-male photos of politicians making decisions about female reproductive rights. Having grown up in a world where only men had positions of power, it took me years to even be able to tell that something was wrong when I wouldn’t see a single female in a photo at an important conference, for example. Tying in with this point, I was equally intrigued by Ken asking why Barbie didn’t tell him about the patriarchy. I mean, I suppose you’d have to acknowledge that it exists to begin with to be able to speak about it.
Barbie offered an interesting, if not diluted look at what it means to be a female; here’s hoping that something other than the violent shades of pink lipstick being sold manages to stick.