A Paper for the Students by the Students.


A Paper for the Students by the Students.


Macohi Presents:

Macohi Presents:

Feature by Kyrsten White

The Barbie doll has been around for many years, making her original debut in March of 1959. She has had well over 200 different jobs and premiered in many movies portraying her several lives. Barbie is, and always will be, a staple in the female image, which is why the announcement of a live-action movie created so much excitement among people.

The film was destined for greatness with the famed director Greta Gerwig behind it. Gerwig has been crafting this project since 2020, just when the lockdown began. With all the time she had to work on it, she managed to create a masterpiece that resonates with most women around the world. Also, being the director of movies such as Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019), Gerwig is known for the challenging messages hidden in her complex storylines. Each movie contains hard hitting meanings behind them, one speaking on the issues behind class and gender while the other points out the troubles women face with not being allowed to be the heroes in their own story. These prior themes throughout her writing are the main reason Gerwig was chosen to help with Barbie.

Gerwig was not approached with the project until Margot Robbie, one of the producers and the lead actress, gained the rights to the movie. Robbie invited Gerwig to write the film, which led to Gerwig’s long-time partner, Noah Baumbach, creating the screenplay. During the casting process, Robbie wanted Gerwig to search for other stars that were not her, but everyone could see that she was the only option for the role. Seeing how the movie has affected fans, it is clear that Robbie was the perfect choice.

Throughout the movie, we are introduced to Barbieland, where dreamhouses are real and nobody ever has to use the stairs. The main conflict is shown through our Barbie, played by Robbie, when she begins to see beyond the perfect life that is set out in front of her. Halfway through a dance sequence, Barbie blurts out a random thought, asking if anyone else ever has questions on death. It causes all the other Barbies and Kens (and the single Allan) to freeze before she laughs it off as a joke and they all begin to dance again. After this party scene is when we meet our main Ken, played by the talented Ryan Gosling.

Over the course of much of the movie, the Kens are pushed aside, meant to represent how the women are treated in the real world. Except their characters go deeper than just that, in the sense that they actually have somewhat complex feelings underneath. Gosling’s Ken explains to Barbie later in the movie how everything he did was just to make himself feel seen. All any of the Kens wanted was to prove to the Barbies that they were valuable too. At least in the real world, women are acknowledged some of the time.

These difficult feelings that Ken was hiding during the movie are what led to their conflict when they returned to Barbieland, but it is not what led them to the overall issue. The oddly irrepressible thoughts of death led Barbie to have to visit the real world, and as she began her journey, she did not realize she had an extra passenger. As she and Ken first enter the real world, they are dressed in the iconic rollerblading outfit that was premiered in the trailers.

While wearing these outfits, the duo encounters many people walking through the busy city of Los Angeles, including a group of construction workers. This group is made entirely of men, which confuses Barbie at first considering everyone who does hard work in Barbieland are the Barbies, not the Kens. These interactions are also the first time that Barbie experiences catcalling, making the joke that she feels “I don’t have a word for it, but I’m conscious that it’s myself that I’m conscious of.” To which Ken adds on (from his perspective), “There’s no undertone of violence.”

During Barbie’s time in the real world, she needs to find the girl who has been playing with her. She can feel all the memories of the girl, revealing that she is a judgmental middle schooler. This leads to Barbie searching for her and approaching her at school. That was the first time we see her feel any emotions besides happiness, and the first time Ken gets his hands on anything related to the patriarchy.

As Barbie and Ken make their way out of the school, she finds herself on a park bench, feeling emotional over this interaction with a brutally honest teenager. This is where she first begins to look at how humans interact with one another in the real world and how they feel a multitude of emotions. She turns to see an older lady sitting on the bench with her, to which Barbie says, “You’re beautiful.” The woman looks back her and simply exclaims, “I know it!”

This scene was one that producers wanted to cut from the movie, but Gerwig refused. Her main reasoning was that if it was removed from the film, then the whole message would be lost. The significance of Barbie understanding the difficulties of the real world. It shows Barbie accepting the facts that everybody ages and grows older in the human world; it is just a part of life.

After this heart-warming moment, it cuts to the Mattel headquarters and our newest character, Gloria, played by America Ferrera. Within the Mattel world, we learn that Gloria’s role is being the assistant to the CEO. As the screen pans over her, she is caught drawing on a paper, designing an outfit for a Barbie. Then, we see that the design is of a Barbie stuck with irrepressible thoughts of death. This moment gets glossed over as we go into the room of the big men who run the company.

Someone who is lower in the company comes bursting through the CEO’s doors. The CEO, played by Will Ferrell, is surrounded by the other men in power as the lower informs them of a Barbie and Ken “terrorizing” the city of Los Angeles. They quickly begin scheming of ways to get Barbie to the Mattel headquarters without her running off or escaping from their grips. They decide to send a vehicle to the school the girl Barbie was visiting attends, and Barbie agrees to go with them. This is also the first time that Gloria comes to see Barbie in the school parking lot as she is picking up her daughter, the same girl from before.

In Barbie’s mind, she believes that the people at Mattel can help fix her flat-foot inducing issues, but unfortunately that is not what is on their minds. As Robbie’s character arrives at the headquarters, she is brought into the room with all the higher ups. Ferrell’s character has one of the iconic Barbie boxes set up and asks Barbie to get in the box. During this scene, she begins to think about how long it has been since she was last in a box.

Reluctantly, Barbie agrees to get back into the box, but not before she asks them two questions. She questions the men in charge about what they are going to with Ken and why he is not being asked to get in a box as well. The short answer they give her is that they just are not worried about him, only Barbie. She then also asks if she could see any of the strong women in charge before she goes. Ferrell and his staff all begin to defend themselves as she realizes that they are the ones running everything. This helps to open Barbies eyes as to how her presence in the human world did not change the world for women as much as she was led to believe.

As Barbie is feeling defeated about the image she is leaving in the real world, she fully agrees to get back in the box. Once she is in the box, two of the men begin to zip tie her wrists back, signifying the way Barbie’s are packaged when we get new ones. Throughout this interaction, Robbie’s character starts to realize what is truly happening, and she immediately shoots out of the box from fear. When she begins running, the CEO calls for everyone to chase after her.

Once Barbie bursts through the front doors of Mattel’s headquarters, a car pulls up and it is revealed to be Gloria with her daughter from before, Sasha. They tell her to get in the car and kick off the beginning of a high-speed chase. Throughout this scene, Barbie and Gloria interact for the first time, and it is shown that the real person who was playing with our Barbie the whole time was Gloria. As Robbie’s character thinks over the memories she saw of Sasha before, the picture gets bigger to reveal that it was Gloria playing with her daughter’s old toys the whole time.

After this scene, Barbie decides to bring Gloria and her daughter, played by Ariana Greenblatt, back to Barbieland with her. This is where we get the scenes of the Kens taking everything over and are brought back to the conflicts among Gosling’s characters’ feelings. During this whole debacle, Robbie’s Barbie doubts herself and everything she stands for. She explains to Ferrera’s character that there is no point in trying to stop the Kens, for she is only “Stereotypical Barbie,” she does not know how to do anything like the much smarter Barbie’s would.

Gloria and Sasha decide that they must bring our Barbie back to Weird Barbie, where her journey all began. Here, the group meets all sorts of past dolls that never made it on shelves for long-lasting periods of time. These include the “Growing Up Skipper,” “Barbie Video Girl,” and “Earring Magic Ken.” They all continue trying to encourage Robbie’s Barbie to believe in herself and prove that she can do anything she puts her mind to.

While trying to build “Stereotypical Barbie” back up, a few of the outcast Barbie’s in the group are also trying to break the seeming “spell” that was put on the Barbie played by Alexandra Shipp. When the Kens took over, the other Barbie’s were placed under a sort of mesmerizing spell that led them to all give up their positions in power to do whatever the Kens wanted. This trance they were put in became so strong that nothing could break it. Nothing except for the speech that Ferrera’s character delivers.

During Gloria’s speech, she explains what it is like to be a woman. Towards the end, she says to, “You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.”

As Gloria continues speaking, Shipp’s Barbie breaks from her trance, realizing who she is again and remembers how smart she was before the Kens warped her view. These moments in the movie are part of what portray the messages hidden underneath. Gloria’s speech is meant to show everyone that there really is no right or wrong to being a woman. All the double standards that are placed into society are pointed out by Ferrera’s character as she describes that as a woman, it is almost as if one can never win.

The significance behind Shipp’s Barbie, and all the other Barbies, being caught in a trance by the Kens is one that can be interpreted. Personally, I saw it as the women within society who see the issues,

yet never do anything. It also reminded me of the many times that I have seen women get into relationships and begin to lose themselves. I have friends who started dating someone and it seems more as if they become the guy and stop believing in everything they did before. It is as if all their views from before meeting this new person just disappeared into thin air.

From a personal standpoint, I think the movie did a fantastic job at doing exactly what it wanted to. I believe that it captured everything that Gerwig and Robbie were trying to show the world. It opens up the chances for more serious topics about the double standards within society to be talked about. I personally enjoyed many of the serious scenes because they showed this other side to an iconic symbol that was mostly seen as a “childish” item.

Part of the message that really stuck with me was that of which explained how society cannot properly work with only one gender in “charge.” This film was able to describe the differences between what a woman-run world and man-run world and how niether of them were the perfect fit. I feel as if this was one of the first times I have seen a movie that showed these opposites within such a short time frame that still kept a solid message that it constantly went back to.

Another piece of this movie that made it one of my favorites was all the different tracks of music. Out of the many songs that were created for the film, there were two that stuck with me. The song performed by Gosling himself, “I’m Just Ken,” was one that will stick with audiences forever. The lyrics, the singing itself, and the dancing, pulled the song together to make it into a masterpiece.

The other song that changed a part of my brain chemistry had to be “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish. Eilish was not even part of the original plan and she did not write the song until after she already watched the movie. Gerwig approached her and her brother, Finneas O’Connell, once the movie was finished and asked if they would write the song for her. It allowed her the chance to write the lyrics that were tailored towards the movie while also still having the creative ability to make it feel right for herself as well.