I purposefully have avoided any reviews of Barbie. I had one friend text me and tell me that I HAD to take my 11-year-old daughter to see it and why she thought that, but other than that text, I let nothing on the interwebz color my opinion of what I was getting myself into today. I hate to spoil it for you, but BARBIE FRIGGIN’ RULED!!!
I can honestly say it was part nostalgia. Yes, I absolutely grew up playing with the Barbie dream house I was passed from my older sister. It was orange and yellow because it was a 1970s dream house. I recall acting out sooooo many dramas in that house and surrounding it. Alone. In my basement. With my friends. Adding in things I got over the years like the camper and ‘57 Chevy and the pool where you could pump the corner and make bubbles come up. Yes, I was incredibly spoiled and had lots of Barbies. I even had the Hart family! I remember packing them up in bags and taking them to my best friends’ houses for sleepovers. I remember delighting in getting a few of the special Holiday Barbies. I also can remember the games I would play with them and how that evolved over the years; until I lost all interest in playing with them.
This all came flooding back to me in waves today watching the movie next to my daughter. The memories. The friendships. The relationships. The little scenes that were acted out. The evolution. The representation. And then the stunning reality hitting me at some point near 12 years old…which my daughter will be soon, that no matter how hard I tried or how much I worked out or how much I dieted (yes…all things weighing on my mind at 12-years-old thanks to the vibes at the Performing Arts school I attended), I would never look like Barbie. I would never even come close to looking like Barbie. And I absolutely cared about that. And it made me angry.
It made me angry at the world for teaching me that this was the goal. A tiny waist, perky tits, long neck, long blonde hair, blue eyes, feet willing to always be in heels, both being sexualized but also not sexualized simultaneously. I mean, HUGE tits, tiny waist, obviously butt…but no vagina? It made me hate my deformed leg, my drop foot, my thick thighs, my Jewish nose, my belly that I was already battling. It made me seethingly mad at my parents for waiting so long to have me! Maybe if they weren’t so old, I would have had a shot at looking like my sister or my nieces!
I teared up today, more than once, remembering these feelings. How long has it taken me to break free of the societal pressure and patriarchal bullshit of these dolls and how they made me feel? How many more little girls, in the last 30 years, have felt exactly the same way that I did? That if they didn’t grow up to look like Margot Robbie, they were garbage? That they would need to use their bodies in other ways to get attention or find love?
I know, I know, this goes so very against the grain of what I share these days, but I couldn’t have been a phoenix that rose from the ashes in a great and powerful transformation if I started out just hunky dory with my life, right? These ideas that were planted in my mind by the Barbies of my youth are STILL floating in my mind. And this movie does an AMAZING job expressing just how ingrained these patriarchal misgivings are sewn into the very fabric of so many women.
We grew up with a little example of how we were never going to measure up and that we either needed to be extraordinary-an astronaut, a doctor, the president-or at least possess an unattainable physical body in our bedrooms, playrooms, and basements from jump. Honestly, I INHERITED my first ones and her house from my older sister. And my sister didn’t even have proper representation at all considering she is adopted from another country and not white. What. The. Actual. Fuck???
But I digress. The movie. Barbie. SPOILER ALERT AHEAD!!!!! STOP READING IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE!
I MEAN IT! I AM GOING TO RUIN PART OF IT!
The sheer genius of the casting of this movie is not lost on me. The fact that America Ferrera, of Ugly Betty, fame plays the role that she does and says the things that she does about how Barbie made her feel and that the constant comparisons and the way that that male gaze and influence worked its way into the very fabric of our self-conceptualization at such very young ages is BRILLIANT! I wept when she was speaking. Legit, tears streamed down my face as she explained that we can never measure up! That we will always never be good enough and that we can never ask for money, but are expected to be rich. That we are supposed to be beautiful but not too beautiful and supposed to be part of the sisterhood but also stand out and no, I’m not looking up the script, just putting down what my brain latched onto, but man, was it moving. And so very true.
And my friend was right. You need to take your daughters to see Barbie. If for no other reason, they need to see that Ken is an accessory! More importantly, they need to know that they do NOT need to be anyone else’s expectation of them. They don’t need to be society’s version of beautiful to be adored. They don’t need to be pleasant to be accepted. And they can be completely and utterly ordinary and be a fucking rockstar of a woman!
Also the last sentence of the movie is GOLD! Go see it. It doesn’t disappoint!