Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for the “Barbie” movie.
Despite the alarms sounded by some conservative media outlets, the new “Barbie” movie, which released on July 21, does not contain any LGBTQ storylines, nor does it have any overtly queer characters. The movie does have a heavy-handed message, however, about the power dynamics between men and women.
“The new BARBIE movie forgets its core audience of families and children while catering to nostalgic adults and pushing transgender character stories,” said a July 10 article from Movieguide.
Yet while the film does have at least one transgender actor, there are no transgender characters. In fact, Matthew Huff, associate entertainment editor for Parade, told NBC News, “For a movie that spends so much time dissecting gender norms and highlighting the importance of diversity, I really wish ‘Barbie’ had openly acknowledged queer people.”
‘Barbie’ Movie Is Not for Kids
“Barbie” is a frothy visual spectacle (and an extended commercial for Mattel) that achieves its fair share of well-earned laughs. Margot Robbie is perfect as Stereotypical Barbie, who lives in a paradise where everything revolves around her. Barbieland is populated by Barbies of every variety, each of whom has her own dreamhouse, and who hold every important societal position, including those traditionally held by men.
One Barbie is president, another is a lawyer, and another is a Nobel Prize winner. Because the Barbies have achieved this ideal of female empowerment, they assume all women in the Real World have as well.
The existence of the Kens in Barbieland is to give meaning to the Barbies. The primary Ken, played by the scene-stealing Ryan Gosling, is enthralled by Stereotypical Barbie and lives for her to notice him. Every day is a good day for Barbie, the movie’s narrator (Helen Mirren) tells us, but Ken only has a good day if Barbie looks at him…and Barbie isn’t all that interested. When Ken asks to stay the night (he is not sure what they would do together), Barbie says she can’t because it’s girls night. And every night is girls night.
One night during a bash at her dreamhouse, Barbie shocks everyone, including herself, by saying she has been thinking about dying. The next morning, she wakes up to bad breath, a cold shower, expired milk, cellulite and—GASP—flat feet. In desperation, she goes to see Weird Barbie, who gets her name because she has been played with too hard by her little girl in the Real World. Weird Barbie explains that to solve her problems, Barbie must journey to the Real World and find the girl who has been playing with her.
Despite being based on a children’s toy, “Barbie” is not a kids’ movie. It’s not that it has content that is extremely inappropriate, but there is adult humor and, with a PG-13 rating, children are clearly not its target audience.
A ‘Barbie’ World Is a Woman’s World
In addition to the warning from Movieguide, another came from author Peachy Keenan, who called the film “The Pink Menace.” “‘Barbie’ is the slickest, most visually appealing, and therefore insidious, packaging of feminist clichés and trans grooming we’ve seen yet,” Keenan wrote.