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Woke ‘Barbie’ Drowns In Feminism, Lectures

Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling can't save story captured by man-hating agenda

Don’t let “Barbie’s” dreamy, Day-Glo visuals fool you.

The film runs on hate, not affection.

“Barbie,” inspired by the Mattel toy dating back to 1959, loathes men to a degree that would make a Women’s Studies major blush. It hates the Barbie toy itself, dubbing it “fascist” and worse throughout the film.

“Barbie” also hates women with sweet memories of the doll. Just know you supported the “Patriarchy” all those years ago. And maybe even now.

That leaves an ambitious film, scattered with well-earned laughs, that disintegrates during a disastrous third act.

Barbie | Main Trailer

“Barbie” opens with a clever conceit. What if Barbie Land existed as another universe alongside our real, imperfect world? The toys-as-people conceit is funny at first but quickly loses steam.

Stereotypical Barbie, played with panache by Margot Robbie, suddenly finds herself victim to feelings from that other realm. She thinks about death, for starters, interrupting the dreamy existence everyone enjoys in Barbie Land. 

Except the men. The various Kens, led by Ryan Gosling, are there to be either ogled or ignored. Mostly the latter.

This Uber-feminist world has no need, desire or empathy for Ken Nation. And the lads are perfectly content because they don’t know any better.

When Barbie and Ken leave their world to visit the Real one, everything changes. Ken discovers the Patriarchy, and he likes it! (The screenplay mentions the “patriarchy” 10 times… 10!) Barbie encounters rampant sexism, like AMC’s “Mad Men” on steroids.

Had “Barbie” been set in the 1950s some of this would make sense.

Can Barbie learn why her perfect life is now not so ideal? Will Ken bring the Patriarchy back home? Will a movie that starts with promise curdle during the critical third act?

The answer to the latter, sadly, is “absolutely.”

That’s a shame since director/co-writer Greta Gerwig establishes inventive ways to bring the toy franchise to life. She even drops references to actual Barbie accessories during the film and uncorks a funny faux commercial about a new, “depressed” Barbie doll option.

The production design is sublime. If “Barbie” were an old home you’d say it had “good bones.”

RELATED: ‘BARBIE’ MARKETING IS CLASSIC BAIT AND SWITCH STORY

Gerwig, along with collaborator Noah Baumbach, have an agenda to push that drains the joy from their creation time after time. And it starts from the opening minutes with a cringe-worthy close-up of the all-female Supreme Court (where’s Amy Coney Barrett?).

Feminism! Empowerment! Down with the Patriarchy!

Every time the film gains momentum it pauses to make a mini-speech The characters can’t move beyond these moments because there’s always another minutes away.

It’s the perfect encapsulation of woke storytelling. The AgendaTM matters more than the narrative and mustn’t be denied.

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“Barbie” could still offer powerful points about sexism in the western world with a less heavy-handed approach. Show, don’t tell. Instead, it tells, and tells, until the story has nowhere to go. That leaves a finale brimming with poorly choreographed fight scenes, dance numbers that make no sense and conclusions that feel almost anti-human.

This movie hates men so much it hurts. Even a key character’s husband is emasculated in his fleeting screen time by both his wife and daughter.

Just Ken Exclusive

Gosling’s Ken is alternately cruel and dopey, drowning in a sea of masculine cliches. The rest of the Kens appear, well, gay and equally devoid of any inner life.

Of course, we can’t have so much as a flicker of romance between Robbie’s Barbie and Gosling’s Ken. Ewwwww, gross! That’s not empowering … at all!

“I don’t want you here,” Robbie’s Barbie flat-out tells him at one point. Never mind that little girls bought millions of Ken dolls so their Barbie could have a romance for the ages.

That doesn’t further THIS agenda, so it’s discarded.

America Ferrera, cast as a mother pining for her Barbie-infused youth, delivers a TED talk late in the film that gives the game away. It’s a feminist screed that regurgitates everything said up until that point.

It stops the movie. Cold. “Barbie” never recovers. How could it?

RELATED: GUESS WHAT TEAM BARBIE IS HIDING?

Ferrera’s daughter isn’t exactly pleased to meet Barbie in real life, or are we reading lines like this wrong?

“You represent everything wrong with our culture. You destroyed the planet with your glorification of rampant consumerism … you fascist!”

Oh, and please buy Mattel products after seeing our new movie!

Will Ferrell looks lost as the Mattel CEO trying to track down the runaway Barbie. Is he a cold, cunning capitalist? A man sworn to uphold the Barbie legacy? A male feminist eager to make the world a better place?

Darned if Gerwig and Baumbach can tell, leaving the great comic actor lurching from scene to scene in utter confusion.

The only thing missing from “Barbie?” Those blood-red Handmaid’s Tale costumes. They’re saving those for the sequel, most likely.

HiT or Miss: “Barbie” smartly adapts the iconic toy to the big screen but does everything in its power to destroy it.

145 Comments

  1. Just got around to watching Barbie on Max with my wife. Ooh boy. You called out a lot of the problems with this picture, Mr. Toto, but I think you were ultimately too kind in your review. This film is a mess from the beginning (save for the production design, as you pointed out, which is super fun). It’s like the filmmakers didn’t know whether they wanted to create a narrative that satirizes society in places or a satire that attempts to tell a narrative in places. Amorphous but ever-leftist messaging very quickly prevails over the story, and as a result — for all the beautiful and vibrant things on screen — the movie never feels cohesive (and sometimes not even intelligible). Robbie and Gosling have never felt less likable to me — I mean, these are two stars that are usually as magnetic as they come. That isn’t to say the performances aren’t great: the problem is all in the writing. You’re spot on in your diagnosis of the misuse of Will Ferrell. Just a badly misconceived character. The lecturing would have taken me out of story if there had been a coherent story to be taken out of. Others have pointed out that there is a lot that the filmmakers rail against, but there is almost nothing they put forth as an alternative. The messaging is all critique and no proposal. Their ideas are often contradictory or hypocritical when they are coming across clearly to begin with. One great point my wife made was in response to America Ferrera’s character’s address at the very end, where she was going on about how women can be anything. My wife turned to me and said, “When you state that women can be something extraordinary like President or ordinary like a mother, aren’t you suggesting that being a mother isn’t anything special?” I wanted to like this movie, but when a movie feels like its makers don’t especially like its primary source material and don’t know how to clearly communicate their own feelings about that primary source material, it’s tough.

      1. Thanks for taking the time to read my take, Christian. I truly wanted to like this film. I have two young daughters who love playing with Barbies, and I had hoped this might be something my wife and I could watch with them (with perhaps a fast-forwarded scene or two). Absolutely no chance of that happening. This is a cynical and hopelessly muddled film that I can’t believe really appeals to anyone — not even the creators, who would rather tilt at the windmills of The Patriarchy than tell a compelling story that both critiques the wrongs of misogyny and shows respect to a beloved toy and its fans. I think the thing that bothers me most is that this could have been a really wonderful film.

  2. Haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to, but it doesn’t sound like it’s “fun” at all. If I want to see male-bashing running rampant, I can watch daytime TV commercials for free.

  3. After watching the Barbie movie, I don’t want to live any more. I am worthless and my life has no point.

  4. I saw it. Yeah there were a lot of messages. Woke? If you’re thinking BLM white people suck then, Nah. Typical feminist stuff about how tough it is to be a woman well then yeah. If they had even touched on how a man’s life ai’t all it’s cracked up to be it might have worked.

  5. In a way this movie is very important. It shows that Wokesheviks, just like Bolsheviks, are not interested in getting equal, but in getting even. Their goal is not a better world, but a world where the oppressed become the oppressors and exact terrible revenge on their former masters. It is a world of GULAGs and Katyn Forests. The world where Kens are made to suffer 10-fold for the real and imaginary sins of man-kind, in a pink plastic Soviet Union under the leadership of Barbie Stalin.

    1. Indeed. The hate of the Wokesheviks exceeds their claim to virtue, and it always, always, reduces to hate.

  6. The film’s main message: A female-dominated world is ideal while a male-ruled world is toxic. I kept waiting for the narrative to somehow resolve this shallow, morally bankrupt notion but nothing happens. The final conclusion is the same as the initial setup: matriarchy good, patriarchy bad. No middle ground. Shameful gender war politics.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, and I was waiting for a similar, uplifting revolution. Hey, the Patriarchy is bad, but we went too far in BarbieLand and Ken and co. deserve dignity. Nope. Not at all.

      1. This actually is how the movie ends. I do think it could have been a bigger point which would have made the whole movie stronger.

      2. Isn’t this literally how the dissonance between Barbieland and the real world is resolved? The Barbies learn that change is part of life (and allegorically, society) and they’ve been disenfranchising the Kens and begin to make changes for inclusion. I came away with the very believable notion that patriarchy is bad, but so is matriarchy. It wasn’t a short scene either. Was it not forceful or expository enough for you?

  7. I frankly disagree with your analysis completely. I thought was a very delightful film with a heartfelt message at the end. You love bringing up the film’s “hatred of men”, but bear in mind that Barbieland is an imaginary world centered around a line of GIRL’S TOYS. One known for depicting its titular character in a number of high positions, including governmental roles like President. Presumably that would ultimately lend itself to a world led by women. Still, it ends with the Barbies essentially apologizing to the Kens for ignoring and kind of mistreating them, and I thought it implied that a level of equality would manifest between them going forward.

    My point in all of this is that I feel there’s a level of nuance to this movie which you clearly chose not to pick up on, and I find your cherry-picking of points verrrrrrrrrrrrry interesting. You’re so eager to point out that the teenage character calls Barbie a fascist, but you don’t bother to acknowledge that this is in the 2nd act of the movie before said character goes through a pretty clear change in attitude. You highlight Barbie telling Ken she doesn’t want him here, despite the fact that it very obviously ties into a conflict which, like I said, is resolved at the end when Barbie apologizes to Ken for ignoring and largely excluding him along with the other Kens.

    Why am I even writing this? It’s been three days since you published your review, and I’m not even convinced you’ll respond considering you seem more interested in firing witty retorts back at the senseless name-callers than actually engaging in discussion with people like me who have actual counterpoints. Yes, I also find it interesting that you’re choosing to ignore commenters with actual insight while telling others to “engage in actual debate”. You seem equally reluctant to do so, my friend.

      1. Over a week and still nothing? Tsk tsk. Did my mildly hostile, confrontational tone scare you away? I see you did respond to another opposing comment, so good on you, Chris.

      2. This just in: Christian Bloato continues dodging my criticism of his analysis after A FULL MONTH! More at six.

  8. Watching the trailers (not yet aware it was a Gerwig film) alerted my ability to discern that Barbie would indeed be a Hollywood propaganda project. Hard pass. If I want lectures I’ll watch philosophy videos on YouTube. Thank you for your excellent review validating my suspicions. Very sad to read those
    insulting rejoinders; name calling ‘sall they got.

  9. I am going to see Oppenheimer but I am skipping the Barbie movie entirely. Ferrara’s unhinged feminist rant full of Hollywood pablum turned me off completely. Women in America in 2023 are the most privileged group of people to ever have walked the earth, but it will never be enough. I am sick of spoiled people pretending to be oppressed.

  10. Ironically Ryan Gosling stole this movie because he was authentically funny playing Ken and the Barbies couldn’t come close because any humor had to be followed up with inserted messaging.

  11. Barbie has never been mistaken for a magnet for male tastes. However, as much as I would refuse to see the “Barbie” movie if it DIDN’T reek of wokeism and misandry, the fact that it DOES reek of it makes my refusal to see it even stronger.

  12. So the audience loses nothing by avoiding this film. Thank goodness. I’m curious to know what HiT thinks of better films such as “Clueless” and “Legally Blonde”. Both have pink-clad blonde West Coast girls who go on a Heroine’s Journey and improve themselves: Cher learns about humility and not messing with other people’s lives while Ella learns about dedication and hard work in law school.

    1. Those films were fun, smart and inspiring. They didn’t wallow in lectures. They entertained, first and foremost, and the cultural lessons flowed from there. Barbie does the opposite.

      1. You’re right. I would rather be able to see a movie and be entertained than be lectured.

  13. It’ll make its millions – might even make a billion – entirely on brand name alone, and Robbie’s catwalking round the world (on private flights no doubt – how very woke indeed) in appropriate dress(es).

    Wokes will hysterically scream of its success as proof that woke, works.

    More woke films will be greenlit (ab)using popular IPs, some of which may well flop hilariously.

  14. Well I just saw the film and thought it was pretty fun. And for what it’s worth, I took the daughter’s line (“You represent everything wrong with our culture. You destroyed the planet with your glorification of rampant consumerism … you fascist!”) as a joke. And I don’t want to spoil it, but I thought there were some fun and surprising character arcs. I will admit that I have a different political background than most of the readers here – but I respect all the views and actually like to read reviews that might differ from mine. So I appreciate your POV but will admit I dug it! Thanks!

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