Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, is the highest-grossing Warner-Brothers film to date and has made waves in people’s lives, regardless of gender since its arrival on the big screen. Its modern critique of patriarchal standards and feminism has audiences calling back to it scene by scene to find more connections between the film and their everyday lives. But how do Barbie’s signature pink, beach, and cardboard cutout travel montages change the general outlook upon women in our workforce and how we view ourselves?
This is a fair warning for those who have not seen Barbie; spoilers are ahead! *
Barbie: On a Silver Platter
Barbie and Ken venture to our world, far away from the women-led society of Barbieland, to remedy Barbie’s unfortunate, sudden ailments like thoughts of impending doom, depression, and flat feet. As Barbie’s knowledge of her name being a positive influence on the lives of young girls is shattered, she comes to realize that the real world is far from perfect and riddled with subtle and overt misogyny. The film strongly critiques the unrealistic beauty standards that Barbie imposes upon young girls.
Much to her chagrin, Ken brings patriarchy (and a newfound love for everything horses) back to Barbieland, disrupting societal norms and keeping the Barbies as pretty faces meant to serve the Kens. Rather than Barbie saving the day, the human mother she brings with her imbues her words of humanity and feminist wisdom, bringing theatergoers to tears. Upon hearing the modern woman’s struggle, the brainwashed Barbies come to their senses and regain control over Barbieland.
The Journey to the Real World
While the corporate grind and its setbacks are not as apparent in the film, gender-based issues in the real world like discrimination and the pay gap have remained prevalent despite moving towards professional equity. As a movie that so directly confronts the problems that patriarchy poses upon women in the workplace today, Barbie allows everyone to join a discussion about how our current societal structure affects women in their day-to-day.
ResumeBuilder’s recent survey surrounding the movie suggests that Barbie has made a significant impact on the opinion of women in the workplace. I will admit my skepticism at any sociopolitical change coming about from a movie about a children’s toy; however, the results exceeded my expectations. Over half of the participants reported that their opinion of women in leadership improved after watching Barbie. Two out of three people surveyed noted that they were made much more aware of the patriarchy and how it affects our work environments.
While the Barbie movie exudes fun and laughs from its uncanny musical numbers and one-liners, Gerwig presents audiences with a film worth watching with substance beyond what’s expected of the stereotypical Barbie.
Learning What We Are Made For
One of the most poignant moments in the movie, was when Barbie was having a conversation with Ruth, her creator. Despite the success she has in returning Barbieland to near its former glory, she decides to leave her fellow Barbies behind in favor of living and feeling her truth with humans. Barbie traveled to our world and willingly chose to stay, flat feet and all.
I have been thinking about this since I first watched the movie myself. If I were Barbie, I would love to live in that world. But fleeing the world I live in now does not make the change we need to achieve equity. After some internal debate, I think Barbie left Barbieland to embrace what it means to be human. Living in a utopia left her unfulfilled, and Barbie’s choice to leave stems from a self-reflection that brought forth a more gratifying life.
There is strength in self-actualization. In self-reflection. Learning about yourself and challenging your environment despite obstacles inspires women to be proud. To recognize themselves as powerful, influential, and able to achieve greatness no matter your niche.
Something I Learned Forever and Again
I often realize that movies that tickle me inspired to be littered with cliche, but in Barbie’s case, the cliche holds truth. I have grown to understand that obstacles in a professional setting are just something in the way of my pursuit of something better, and relenting to those hindrances only affects my path forward.
Gerwig’s Barbie may have noted the intention behind the original Barbie doll as superficial in the grand scheme of things. However, Barbie reinvigorates herself as an inspiration. There is no one way to be Barbie, as there is no one way to be yourself. Anyone can be anything, and anything that pushes the limits of who you are as a leader, a woman, or a human with persistence, makes you better for it.
Want more blogs about Women’s Equality? Check out our other articles here!
An Introspective Take on Women’s Equality by Megan Chavez
Women in the Workplace: From 2022 to 2023 by Wendy Fong