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Barbie Movie 2023 Review: A Feminism Perspective on Gender Role Reversal and Stereotypes

Updated: Sep 23, 2023


Introduction

In this post, I reflect on the recent film "Barbie", which debuted in July 2023. This contemporary film boldly explores feminism and gender role reversal while navigating some stereotypes. My interest was piqued when my son recommended this film, highlighting its feminist undertones. The film has garnered attention from various corners, even prompting comments from former President Donald Trump.


Another reason why I decided to watch the film was that I thought it was a children's movie that would transport me back to the days when I used to sit and watch films with my children. Since I started my blog on Mama’s Reflective Musings, I have been nostalgic about those days.


Barbie's World - A Pink Stereotype

The Barbie Movie kicks off in Barbieland, a world dominated by pink and led by the iconic Barbie herself. The film intriguingly places other Barbies in leadership roles as politicians, doctors and lawyers, subtly challenging traditional gender roles. It is a world where men are shown in leisurely roles, a stark contrast to the real world that Barbie eventually steps into with her partner, Ken.


Gender Roles in Barbie Movie 2023

The real world presents Ken with a dose of patriarchy, leading him to plot a coup to establish a male-dominated society back in Barbieland. The film uniquely presents Ken as a "pretty, dumb blonde," a role that remains unchanged despite his leadership aspirations.


Humour and Empowerment in the Barbie Movie

Despite its complex themes and occasional stereotypes, the 2023 Barbie Movie presents a range of praiseworthy elements. The film showcases strong, intelligent women, suggesting that female leadership can indeed be transformative. Offering a fresh perspective on feminism, it masterfully blends humour with thought-provoking dialogue.


One of the film's powerful messages is encapsulated in Ken's self-affirming "Kenough," a statement reinforcing that every individual, irrespective of their gender, is complete in themselves. This is a message we, as women, need to be reminded of constantly. We are not weak, we are neither extensions nor dependents of men (or women, in Ken and other men's case), and our identities are not defined by men.


Barbie Movie: The Drawbacks

While the film presents a compelling narrative, it raises the question: Is such a world – be it Barbie's female-led society or a male-dominated one – truly desirable? Would I want my children to grow up in either of these worlds? The movie seems to favour a winner-takes-all scenario, but real life is not, and should not be, that black and white. Surely, there should be more nuanced options and opportunities beyond mere domination and subordination?


The film depicts Barbie as maintaining her beauty while seemingly consuming nothing, a narrative suggested by scenes of her pouring from an empty pot and sipping from an empty cup. This could potentially propagate damaging notions about body image, implying that one must consume zero calories to attain Barbie's aesthetic. The film indirectly addresses this issue, hinting at it through the conflicted attitudes of teenage schoolgirls towards Barbie. She is depicted as an epitome of perfection - an image most women, despite considerable effort, find unattainable.


Character and Artistic Exploration

The film's characters are intricately crafted, each embodying distinct traits and values. Barbie's transformation from a fashion icon to a leader challenges stereotypical representations, while Ken's portrayal provides a refreshing take on masculinity. The supporting characters add depth and diversity, enriching the narrative.


Visually, the film is a feast for the eyes, with vibrant colours and innovative animation techniques. The artistic direction brings Barbieland to life, weaving fantasy and realism in a way that captivates both children and adults. The visual storytelling enhances the film's themes and engages the audience on multiple levels.


Reception and Reflections

Audience reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with praise for the film's progressive themes and entertainment value. Parents appreciate the film's ability to engage children while conveying meaningful messages about individuality and empowerment. Critics have lauded the film's bold approach and its contribution to modern animated cinema.


Compared to previous Barbie films, the 2023 edition stands out for its depth and complexity. While retaining the charm and glamour associated with the Barbie brand, this film explores new territories, making it a standout piece in the Barbie cinematic universe. It's a film that transcends its genre, offering something unique and memorable.


On a personal note, the film resonated with me for its courage in challenging norms and inspiring change. It's more than just a children's movie; it's a cultural statement that encourages us to reflect on our perceptions, biases, and aspirations. A delightful watch that leaves you with thoughts to ponder long after the credits roll.


Concluding Reflections

In conclusion, the 2023 Barbie Movie serves as a vivid exploration of feminism, gender role reversal, and societal stereotypes. While some may view the film through the lens of children's entertainment, it delves into complex themes that resonate with a broader audience. By challenging traditional gender roles and embracing empowerment, the film offers a fresh and transformative perspective.


This film invites us to reflect on the societal norms that shape our perceptions and expectations. It encourages us to question, challenge, and redefine these norms, fostering a more inclusive and equitable world. Whether you're revisiting childhood memories or exploring profound feminist themes, the Barbie Movie provides an engaging and thought-provoking experience.


Join the conversation!

So, that is my take on "Barbie"! I hope you enjoyed reading my musings.


1. . How do you think films like Barbie contribute to changing societal perceptions of gender roles?

2. In what ways can we actively challenge and redefine gender stereotypes in our daily lives?


Share your thoughts and reflections in the comments below. Let's engage in a meaningful dialogue and inspire positive change!



About the Author

Nite Tanzarn is an Independent International Consultant with a passion for advocating women's and children's rights. Being a parent herself, Nite imparts her insights into parental guidance, with a particular emphasis on disseminating empowering messages to young people. Her aim is to assist parents on their journey, aiding them in fostering their children's growth, independence, and love for learning.

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10 Comments


Pierre
Pierre
Nov 05, 2023

Stereotypes of any sort are not healthy whether it is of a female dumb blond or a male dumb blond.

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 28, 2023
Replying to

Indeed, challenging and moving beyond all types of stereotyping is crucial for a healthier and more inclusive society.


Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Guest
Nov 05, 2023

Not every girl that grew up with a barbie doll prioritizes her looks and shopping and is a dumb blomd. Barbie is given too much power

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 28, 2023
Replying to

Acknowledging the diverse experiences and perspectives of individuals who grew up with iconic toys is important in these discussions.


Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Guest
Nov 05, 2023

I ove this movie for its strong feminist message.

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 28, 2023
Replying to

It's encouraging to hear that the film's feminist message resonated with you.


Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Guest
Nov 05, 2023

Barbie the origin of gender stereotyping

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Dec 28, 2023
Replying to

Your observation underscores the longstanding debate about the role of iconic characters like Barbie in shaping perceptions of gender roles.

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest

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Just saw Barbie last night so was interested in your blog. I think it is easy to either over think the movie's social messages or to trivialise them. So maybe important to say something about the entertainment - it was a very entertaining movie. The acting was challenging - the correct balance between frozen dollness and human expression - i think Gosling managed this better than Robbie but both were very good.. also having missed the Barbie era myself and not having any daughters, I was intrigued to realise that there were so many different Barbies including some without the impossible Barbie figure!!! I also hadnt thought that before Barbie all dolls put girls in the role of mothers.. s…


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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Jul 29, 2023
Replying to

Hi Pri,

I hope you're doing well. I completely agree with your perspective on the movie – the acting was truly excellent. I was so engrossed in the film that I felt compelled to write a review after watching it. To provide a comprehensive analysis, I decided to rewatch it, gaining a deeper understanding of the deliberate role reversal of the dominant narrative about women and men. This is a great start, and in the future, we hope to see scripts that not only challenge societal norms but also encompass a more extensive transformation of gender portrayals through rewriting the narrative.

It's great to hear from you, and I'm excited to read more of your insightful contributions on future blog…

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