Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al talk about the most discussable movie of the summer made by the unlikely pairing of feminist indie director Greta Gerwig and Barbie’s corporate overlords at Mattel. Does the film convey at least a legitimate teen version of feminist existentialism, whereby oppressed women question their identities? On this account (says Mark), even the Ken plot is less about the perils of manhood than about how oppression creates stunted half-people who of course then will act foolishly initially when given some power.
But was the film actually enjoyable? Can any film both work as a Hollywood Blockbuster and as a meditation on serious social and philosophical issues? Can the film redeem the brand? Is this post-post-ironic cinema? Will Barbie 2 address intersectionalist feminist issues raised by thinkers of color?
We touch on toy movies as actually connecting to how people play with toys (see also The Lego Movie), the weirdness of products like “kissing Barbie,” and the past history of (animated) Barbie cinema.
You can listen to a more systematic treatment of some of the theoretical issues here in The Partially Examined Life’s episodes on Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.
Here are some of the better resources we ran across preparing for this:
- NPR’s Pop Culture Happy hour did a two-part episode on this, first not spoiling, then spoiling. (A good source for some black feminist thoughts and the point about “wheelchair Barbie”)
- “Barbie Is About as Good as a Barbie Movie Could Ever Be” by Richard Lawson
- “I Saw ‘Barbie’ With Susan Faludi, and She Has a Theory About It” by Jessica Bennett
- “Ken is a bell hooks critique come to life in ‘Barbie’” by Noor Norman
- “What “Barbie” Gets Right About Male Psychology” by Monica Vilhauer
- “The ‘Barbie’ Movie Is Ending Relationships Left And Right” by Brittany Wong
- “The Often Wacky, Sometimes Wicked, and Always Wondrous Eras of Barbie” by Katie Baker
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Audio editing by Tyler Hislop of Pixel Box Media.
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