NYC. Out of the box. Couldn't find the box ;).
Barbie manages to be very entertaining and surprisingly meaningful and avant-garde and totally commercial, all at once, swallowing its own bait. I loved some of the thematic overlaps with S1 of A Simple Herstory, too (alongside world smashing and space-time mind melds). So many of these existential swirls of identity, womanhood, power, and becoming real — in the zeitgeist. What does it all lead to? The gyno's office, apparently.
I don't know if the movie is a work of genius. Maybe. Probably. The cultural debate it has generated over the deepness of its 'depth' (and its allegiance to 'the truth') makes me wonder if that is, in fact, a marker of its genius. The feminist clichés it espouses are clichés, but, ok. Ideas around women's existence and concerns have, historically, often been denounced as shallow or less-than or passé and non-urgent, especially when framed around beauty, motherhood, partnership, and commerce. And girly delight — pink and poofy — combined with a scattering, intellectual pastiche, can't be profound, right? The film also submerges itself in satire ("man-hating" 🙄). But, then again, we're post satire, these days...
I saw one critique taking issue with the film's supposed didacticism — telling us its ideas, instead of showing them. ("Ideas are forever." I take issue with this idea, but that's another post). Isn't that Barbie, though? Telling us vs. showing us? She is a doll, after all. I think so much of her agency comes from telling us. Barbie is, in actuality, more flat-footed (pun intended) and plastic than our fantasies of her. As a doll, she must give way to a childlike realness of functionality. She is stiff, stilted, and blunt. Foundational to her identity is the strange straightforwardness with which we (royal), as her players (especially le children), imbue her. (Not to mention her Maker's ordinances of identity: Stereotypical Barbie, Surgeon Barbie, Astronaut Barbie...). We then stage her and act her out, usually with bumper-sticker succinctness and clumsy hand gestures. A multinational toy doll spewing Aristotle is an awkward merger of worlds. It's supposed to be. Maybe the only honest option is this (deceptive) simplicity? Unapologetically telling us, splaying her zingy Mattel branded brilliance, is, perhaps, on-brand. And, suddenly, perhaps, the film can't live within slicked up, intellectual male prowess, and it's no longer a man's world...(?).
The fact that the film is poised to break the billion dollar threshold at the box office and has already spawned a zillion think pieces says something about where we are, the events people crave, the purchasing power of women, how the system is rigged, and how we wriggle the system, and the meta-subversion of it all. People also seem to want things that have a slippery and transcendent, existential logic. Innovative 'imperfection.'
Barbie, Oppenheimer & Ideas That Live Forever
I Saw ‘Barbie’ With Susan Faludi, and She Has a Theory About It
I hope Gerwig scores her Oscar directing nom. #barbie