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Blog | 02 August 2023

What does the Barbie movie tell us about gender stereotypes?

New on the blog this week, our Communications Officer Mouse dissects what the Barbie movie really tells us about the patriarchy and toxic gender norms.

It’s currently impossible to avoid the Barbie mania. Not only is the Mattel/Warner Bros marketing team working to a Kris Jenner-worthy standard, but the subject matter also appears to have created a moral panic amongst some critics. All of this has cleverly contributed to breaking box office records by becoming the highest-grossing film directed by a woman in its first week.

But the Barbie movie is not quite what you would expect. This film recognises Barbie’s problematic past, humorising it, acknowledging it and rebranding it for a modern audience. Director Greta Gerwig understands the nuances of how gender stereotypes are portrayed in both the “real world” and “Barbie Land” in a way that can only make us laugh at its ridiculousness.

Claims that this movie is anti-male are, in my view, laughable. Ken’s journey through “Kendom”, from an inconsequential character only visible in the light cast by Barbie herself, to a beer-welding, horseback riding, mink-donning alpha male who discovers the “wonders of the patriarchy”, to finally a Ken who is liberated from the structures and expectations that bind him, celebrates men’s emotional evolution and demonstrates how the patriarchy only inhibits men’s progress.

Barbie tackles some pretty heavy topics, hidden behind a satirical and lighthearted guise of Barbie’s perfect pink universe. There seems to be only one enemy in this movie, the patriarchy, wrapped up in a super macho mojo dojo cellophane windowed box.

In answer to my question, this movie teaches us to respect and accept one another. To recognise that, much like Barbie’s overlord Mattel, the structures that damage our self-identity and plant insidious seeds within our society come from those who profit. The world would be a better place if we took a little from Barbieland, even if that just means a little more pink!