Another couple of Barbie Thoughts (WARNING contains spoilers)

This film begins with a relentless series of references to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the music and visuals here remind us of the opening scene of that Kubrick classic. But in Barbie the screen is full of little girls playing with their dolls. It’s not very exciting and the predominant colour is… beige. Now there’s nothing wrong with beige, but it is a colour that can sometimes be associated with things being a bit dull and uninteresting. And in the scene the little girls suddenly encounter a huge glamorous Barbie, and so decide to smash their beige baby dolls, disposing of them forever, so they can embark on a much more interesting life with new shiny Barbie.

Jump to the end of the movie and we find Barbie now living in the real world, walking into a huge corporate building. Is she going to be the new boss of Mattel? Is she going to be coming up with lots of exciting new ideas? Is she starting her own company? Nope. She’s going there to see her gynaecologist. And what colour is she wearing? Pink? Sassy black and white? Nope. Beige. Barbie is embracing reality. Normality. The day-to-day existence of most of us. And which new doll has been adopted into the Barbie world because of the adventures in this movie? Ordinary Barbie.

My wife pointed this out to me, and so I’m pinching her genius thoughts here. And also the genius thoughts of my daughter who pointed something else out. I think all men should see this film, because, with all its comedy, it is quite an indictment on the behaviour of so many men in the world. It could be a wake-up call. Sidelined by all the Barbies, feeling lost and left out, the many Kens kick back with a macho version of themselves, taking over Barbie world and muscling up, driving big cars, and endlessly playing their guitars at the women. Referring to the Barbies as their long-term, long-distance, low-commitment, casual girlfriends. (ouch!) But here’s the thing, at one point Ken hides his face because he is crying, and Barbie tells him it’s okay to cry. However, as my daughter pointed out, what they should have done is have one of the Kens tell him it’s okay to cry. Because not much will change unless we men tell each other those kinds of things.

I don’t think many men will go see this film, partly because they will wonder what their buddies will say. I felt very at ease telling my female friends I was going to see Barbie, not least because I knew that being directed by Greta Gerwig, it would be profound and thought-provoking. But I was more cautious about telling the men. And that’s daft. We men are so much at the mercy of peer-pressure. We are all grunting and shuffling and flexing our way through life, afraid to be different in case we look foolish. I know that’s a ridiculous generalisation, but there’s certainly plenty of us to generalise about. Me included. Let’s man up if we can, even just a little, and be a tad more vulnerable, and obviously weaker, and just a little more upfront about what life is really like. We may feel about as cool as a waddling duck, but healthy humanity is found in reality, not in oneupmanship and the false economy of pleasing the other guy. 

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