I finally saw the Barbie movie.

I didn’t see it in the theater when it was released (I saw the hilarious Theater Camp instead). I watched it on Max, and before anyone says “You should’ve seen it on a large screen,” my home setup involves a projector with a good sound system. And Barbie is not Godzilla Minus One where the viewer needs to see it on an epic scale to truly appreciate it.

So, I finally saw Barbie, and… I hated it.

It should’ve been a slamdunk for me since the movie checks all my boxes:

✅Is women-led.
✅Has a strong feminist message.
✅Is PINK!
✅Showcases a mother-daughter relationship.
✅Has sexy men in short shorts and cropped tops.

And to a lesser extent: it’s about Barbie. I don’t play with Barbies (anymore) but Dollsexposed is a sixth-scale world and incorporates quite a few Barbie accessories and furniture pieces. Plus, we did a Barbie tribute post earlier this year.

Before we begin, I feel like I need to disclose this: I’m not trying to be a dick about this movie.

I know how it feels to love and “get” a movie whilst the rest of the world hates it. After all, I love Alien 3, Wonder Woman 1984, the all-women remake of Ghostbusters, Stepford Wives with Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, and Glenn Close, The Hobbit trilogy, Connie & Carla, and the list goes on.

If you saw Barbie and loved it, I’d say you’re with the right company as apparently the rest of the world loves it too, so don’t let one review from a nobody bother you.

Also, you have the right to love the movies (and music and other things) you love. If you love it (or even like it), it shouldn’t matter what others tell you. I mean, as long as it’s not Sound of Freedom or Flamin’ Hot Cheeto movie by Eva Longoria or other truth-twisting crap like those.


World Building

The movie fails when it opts to use the same cartoony feel (the way the characters talk, move, and behave; the set design) for both Barbie Land and “the real world.”

Barbie Land is a fantasy land. It’s elevated, it’s surreal, it’s pink and pastel and neon, it’s great.

The issue is that the “real world” has the same, cartoonish feel.

Los Angeles isn’t great (trust me, I live in LA). Barbie stays in the west side (Santa Monica, where the rich people live) and the movie captures some of the industrial beauty of the area. Didn’t see homeless people in any of the Venice Beach scenes, though.

Let’s zoom in on the Mattel Headquarters:

The CEO, COO, CFO, and the board members are all… men? That’s not what Mattel is. There are six men and five women on Mattel’s Board of Directors.

What’s up with the girly-girl meeting room if it’s all men anyway? I mean, pink chairs? A heart table? A pink heart light fixture?

Also, what’s up with the cubicles in that super OCD office? It’s far too roomy to be nefarious and far too nefarious-looking to be the creative department. The call from the FBI agent does go to one of the cubicles, so it’s supposed to be Mattel’s crime unit? They should use all the resources to bust scalpers instead.

Rhea Perlman’s Ruth Handler is either a ghost or Mattel has been keeping the “actual” Handler alive. The CEO says nothing when Handler appears in Barbie Land in the third act. And she also acts as Barbie’s spiritual guide? So, she’s like a fairy godmother too?

And what about how people behave in the “real world?”

Barbie & Ken get catcalls whilst rollerblading in garish neon outfits in Santa Monica. If anything, people would want to take photos with them IRL.

Barbie & Ken don’t have to return the pink and black outfits they steal. Even if they aren’t returned, aren’t those supposed to be evidence? Maybe this is a metaphor for Ruth Handler stealing the Barbie concept (and not returning it).

Speaking of stealing, nobody notices Ken stealing all the books from the school library. Really? In that black getup with the fringes and the cowboy hat? Really?

The Scooby-Dooby Doors chase scene at the Mattel HQ. Really?

I get that Barbie doesn’t want to copy Toy Story or Lego Movie with how they connect Barbie Land to the real world, especially since Will Ferrel’s role in Barbie is more or less the same as his role in Lego Movie, but the portal concept needs some serious overhaul.

Basically anyone can go through the portal? Cardboard decor and backdrop just appear out of nowhere and nobody else sees them?

If it’s just the Barbies and the Kens who can open the portal, then the Mattel CEO has got to be a doll because he’s able to transport himself and the other board members (plus Aaron) to Barbie Land. Did Barbie forget to close the portal?

On a related note, what’s up with the Barbie box? I understand that it’s a metaphor for putting women in a box (as in as a commodity and or with restraints) but what does it do? The CEO says it should take Barbie back to Barbie Land. Is it another portal? If so why do the CEO and team opt to take the longer route? This box says “The Original Stereotypical Barbie.” Does that mean every Barbie has her own box?

Why is it only Stereotypical Barbie who’s affected by Gloria’s drawing and morbid thoughts? There are other blonde barbies. And why Gloria? Why now? I mean, surely there are other women (and gay men) who play with dolls and have an existential crisis?

The same goes for the Weird Barbie. How does that work? Every time someone desecrates a Barbie, Weird Barbie becomes stronger? Drawing Barbie’s face with markers seems pretty tame compared to whatever shit Sid does to toys in Toy Story.

I get it. It can be difficult to make a believable movie about parallel worlds, but it’s not impossible.

Miyazaki handles the two worlds in Spirited Away in a beautiful (and believable) way.

Tim Burton also does two worlds so well in some of his movies (Corpse Bride and Beetlejuice come to mind).

If Barbie can freely move back and forth between worlds, they could’ve also taken a cue from Henry Selick’s Coraline or the anime movie Belle.


The Many Storylines

I’m fine with multiple storylines because what is life but many stories intersecting with one another to create a beautiful cacophony from which humans can rise above, receive epiphanies, and ultimately complete an arc?

But what disappoints me is that Barbie bites far too many storylines to chew just well enough. In fact, Barbie bites too many plot points, down it with a bottle of Pink Mountain Dew without even chewing, gets sick, and regurgitates them all over me. I’m kinky but I’m not an emetophile.

Sorry, I was being a dick, wasn’t I?

Here are the storylines I discovered in Barbie:

Challenging patriarchy.
Smashing capitalism.
Ken getting back at Barbie for friendzoning him (toxic masculinity).
Kens having a war with one another (also toxic masculinity because it’s almost always men who start wars).
Mothering (and daughter reconciling with the mother).
Barbinocchio (choosing to become a real person), this one came out of the left field for me.

One of my Dollstagram friends pointed out why the Barbinocchio plotline doesn’t work for them:

I don’t agree with them about the length of the movie. At almost two hours, it’s long enough. If anything, it could use fewer storylines and a tighter script.

Barbie has many lovely details like drinking air and showering with no water, Barbie’s makeup disappearing when she’s becoming more distressed and human-like, all the full-scale toy stuff, and the Mattel logo censor bar.

However, ultimately, it feels like Greta Gerwig had one genius idea (Barbie & Ken go to the real world, Ken discovers patriarchy and toxic masculinity and brings those back to Barbie Land) but relied too much on tiny, set dressing and speeches that she (and her creative team) neglected to build a solid narrative around that genius idea.

Barbie could’ve been a great rallying cry for feminism, but ultimately, it feels plastic and superficial.


Other Observations

Ruth Handler wasn’t only guilty of tax evasion, but she was also sued for ripping off the Lilli doll. Mattel settled the lawsuit in 1963.

Mattel may now be pro LGBTQ rights but back then, they absolutely hated Earring Magic Ken for looking gay.

How does Barbie know what fascism is? (Edited: it makes sense that Barbie knows what fascism is; they have their own democracy, but I stand by this next question:) Or even what Mattel is? It should’ve been a foreign concept to her.

I was going to ask the same thing about the cynical mentions of Zack Snyder’s Justice League and The Godfather but I thought oh, probably Stereotypical Ken brought them to Barbie Land. That defense is membrane-thin, I know, but I’m giving Barbie the benefit of the doubt. However, it was such a missed opportunity to be cunty on Justice League and Godfather, knowing there are other movies that received so much more toxic masculinity and racist backlash, like that Star Wars movie with Kelly Marie Tran and Captain Marvel. Feels weird to trash Justice League as it’s also a Warner Bros. production like Barbie.

“Some of my best friends are Jewish,” now rings differently after the 10/7 terrorist attack and the subsequent antisemitism around the world.

Speaking of, Barbie is still very heteronormative for a homoerotic movie, and the only time it shows gay men is when they’re leering at Ken (counterpoint: at least they’re wearing pink).

It’s official: I seem to hate every movie with Helen Mirren in it. She seems cool but there’s no movie starring Dame Mirren that I love or like. Not one. Well, maybe Caligula. But I watched it only for the dicks.

Finally, can we talk about when President Barbie says “motherfucker?”

Meanwhile, insults for men largely stem from allusions to weakness and femininity, either from references to women or stereotypically feminine men, such as pussy, cunt, sissy, wimp, poofter, motherfucker, cocksucker, son of a bitch

(Emphasis mine, read the full article here.)

It took me out so much, not because I’m a prude, but because of the misogyny associated with the word. It feels very out of place for a supposedly feminist movie.

Anyway, I’m going to leave you with these sexy men in short shorts, although I could do without the Gangnam-style dance.

Dollsexposed showcases queer erotica, kink, fetish, and activism through twelve-inch doll photography.

Their adventures in the doll world began in 2011 before establishing a home on dollsexposed.com eleven years later.

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