Well, I did it. I went to see Barbie. I didn’t want to go. Yet, I felt a strong sense that I needed to go. After working with girls for over 40 years, I know very well the targeted messaging that has been crippling their ability to be all that God has called them to be. With the incredible investment and marketing that has gone around this star-studded movie, I sensed that all was not pink and innocent. I sensed there was a message that the writers, producers, and directors desperately wanted to deliver to today’s moms and daughters and that compelled me to see the movie for myself.
To say that I wasted two hours of my life is an understatement. However, if those two hours could be redeemed by sharing my learnings with others, it will be an investment well worth my time. The biggest lesson of all is to warn all of those that I am able: AVOID THIS MOVIE at all costs and above all do not bring your Barbie-loving daughters! Despite its blockbuster status, its Rotten Tomatoes rating, and superlative marketing plan, this movie is a horrible misuse of an iconic children’s brand that has been with us as long as I have been living. Sure, there are some pretty production designs, beautiful costumes, and slight humor, but they are all eclipsed by the overt messages of the importance of separating the sexes, usurping and maintaining power over one another, seeking meaning through secularism and the longing to be the Creator rather than the created.
This may seem like I am angry. Well, I am. But moreover, I am sad. Sad that Mattel and the movie creators had an opportunity to empower girls to be all that they were created to be, but they drastically missed the mark. Instead, the main message seems to be that the only way to empower women is to belittle men and that the Creator should not hold a place of relevance for today’s woman. I found it ironic that the creator’s (Ruth Handler’s, Barbie’s creator, character) direction to Barbie at the end was to “feel” — putting feelings above truth and using feelings as the main factor in decision making. A very slippery slope, indeed.
The film is rife with sexuality, some overt call outs and other innuendo: from claims by the Kens that they “will beach you off,” to someone in the “real world” wanting to see Ken’s “nude blob pushing under those jeans,” to the President of Barbie Land calling the Kens “M******rs” while a Mattel logo covers her mouth and bleeps out the word, to Ken proclaiming since he and Barbie are boyfriend and girlfriend, he should spend the night, to the final statement of the film when Robbie reaches the reception area as she becomes a real woman in the real world, she proudly declares, “I’m here to see my gynecologist.”
I am sure there were plenty of times moms wished they had not brought their 5 to 9-year-old girls (typical age of the girl who plays with Barbie) to this movie.
Sexuality aside, the pandering of philosophies that promote falsehoods to the truths shared by the Lord through His Holy Scripture are abhorrent. The film’s promotors have intentionally marketed to young girls (as evidenced by the movie previews and logoed merchandise in every aisle that a girl frequents) a movie whose themes are dark, confusing, hopeless and are reflective of the mental health crisis in which our nation’s girls are already immersed. How does this film help today’s condition or today’s girl? It doesn’t.
The consistent message above all is male buffoonery and the dangers of patriarchy. From the first moment we meet Ken, he is toppled by a wave that catapults him into many somersaults before landing on shore only to be treated by Barbie. His character, of course, lacks depth and intelligence unlike his female counterpart. In his attempt to find meaning due to Barbie’s continual rebuffs, Ken forces his way to journey with Barbie to the real world. After roller blading with Barbie as she endures construction workmen cat calling and police officers making lewd comments, he decides to explore the real world himself. He is attracted to the visages of machismo he finds all around him. He even goes to the library to check out books like Origins of Patriarchy and Why Men Ruling the World Made it Better. After becoming empowered in the real world, Ken comes back to Barbie Land to change its identity to a Kendom, a place where women leave their past successful power roles to massage men’s feet, serve as brides and wives, and serve men beer. The film states that the Barbies have no defenses against patriarchy, leaving little hope to today’s women as it is impossible to be a woman in the modern age, as articulately sermonized by America Ferrara’s character.
The young teen in the movie, Sasha, who Barbie believes may have caused her feelings of depression and thoughts of death, represents Gen Z in a stereotypical fashion: angry, dark, and impassioned. When meeting Barbie, she attacks her for representing “sexualized capitalism that has set feminism back 50 years” and then she proceeds to call her a “fascist.” This character is hardly an example of the hope-filled teens that I am blessed to work with day after day.
A true example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Barbie falls dangerously short of offering any hope for today’s women despite its pastel imagery, beautiful movie stars, and a heroine that is a beloved, iconic doll known for generations. I pray that any righteous anger towards this movie will motivate us to provide girls a venue in which they can be empowered by Truth and the beauty of God’s creation.