Escape from the doll’s paradise, matriarchy, the hero’s journey: the essence of the movie Barbie. Movie Barbie (2023): plot summary, meaning, what this movie is really about, explanation of the ending, similar movies.
Country: USA, UK
Genre: comedy, adventure
Year of production: 2023
Director: Greta Gerwig
Actors: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera
How long it lasts: 114 minutes
While the famous critics are in raptures, ordinary viewers are trying to understand what Greta Gerwig has shot, because of what her picture literally “tears” the world box office. At first glance, the plot and meaning of the movie Barbie seem pink-glossy and naive. However, the tape with Margot Robbie, already named the best movie of 2023, deeper than it seems.
What the movie’s about Barbie
Brief description of the content of the picture. The action of the movie “Barbie” with Margot Robbie begins in Barbieland. In this matriarchal world Barbie-like absolutely everyone – from ordinary people to the president. Everything is run by Barbie, and Ken content with the role of a spectacular “appendix”.
Every day is a priori the best day for all the inhabitants of this world. They walk, have fun, dance and build relationships with their lovers.
One day with the most ordinary Barbie begins to happen strange things. As the story progresses, she begins to think about things that have never bothered her before – in particular, death.
Wanting to understand what is happening to her, the protagonist goes to the house of a local freak girl. From her she learns the following: the meaning of the strange metamorphosis happening to her is that somehow a gap has formed between Barbieland and the real world. To fix the situation, she needs to go to Los Angeles and find a girl who plays with her like a toy.
Barbie decides to go to the real world, taking her boyfriend Ken as a traveling companion. Once in the real world, the girl encounters representatives of the Barbie doll manufacturing company. Not at all happy about her appearance, they decide to send her back to Barbieland. The company is headed by a man and slowly the protagonist learns that patriarchy rules the world.
Next, she and Ken break up, and he returns home alone. Having experienced amusing adventures, Barbie eventually returns to Barbieland too and, to her horror, sees that Ken, who liked the idea of patriarchy very much, has decided that the power there should belong to men.
The girl realizes that her cozy world must be saved. In the end, she and several other dolls manage to correct the situation and everything starts to go as before. Moreover, Barbie makes peace with Ken, but realizes that she doesn’t love him….
Barbie Explanation of the ending
Explanation of the painting’s ending. Toward the end, Barbie is confronted with the concepts of aging and death and finds both an all-encompassing horror and a kind of beauty in them – simply because, unlike her doll-like existence, there is meaning in it all.
Suddenly she realizes that she no longer wants to be a doll. What she wants most of all is to become a human being and, once in the normal world, to live a normal life. An older woman named Ruth Handler, CEO of Mattel, the Barbie doll company, agrees to help her.
Ruth asks her if she’s willing to adopt everything associated with humanity, and tells her that it’s much easier to go back to Barbieland and continue to exist as an image, an idea. But the doll agrees to any hardship and becomes a woman named Barbara.
Previously, Barbie was essentially a puppet and represented a stereotypical and unattainable model of femininity – just a perfect body without the slightest sign of genitalia. In the finale, the protagonist visits a gynecologist, and this can be understood as a realization of her own independence.
Probably, the meaning of the ending of the movie “Barbie” is that the heroine decides to take control over her own body in her own hands: she is not a doll, but a human being like everyone else. At the same time, this scene symbolizes Barbie’s readiness to get rid of the stereotypical image imposed on her and start living the way she wants.
It is noteworthy that at the very end of the picture Barbie closes her eyes and images of other women flash before her mind’s eye as lightning to the song “What I was made for” by Billie Eilish. This is probably the clue to the ending: this mise-en-scene speaks of her subconscious readiness to become a mother. But not because she has to, but because she wants to.
The meaning of the movie Barbie
Barbie doll, released in the late 50s in the United States, has become a brand and a pop idol. She was created to give young ladies the opportunity to play adult and slowly prepare for it.
But at some point, something went wrong. Over time, flawless, white-toothed beauty-Barbie became the cause of complexes of many girls and made them suffer because of the inability to approach the ideal …
Greta Gerwig’s picture became a phenomenon even before it was released. Having created a powerful advertising campaign, the authors interested both children and adults. The shot hit the target: if the first attracted by the beautiful picture, the second – embedded in the tape hidden meanings.
In the center of the plot is a stereotypical “perfect Barbie”, enjoying life right up to the loss of her doll’s paradise. It is easy to see the reference, but if the first people were kicked out of Eden after breaking the prohibition, Barbie loses her kingdom after she starts to think about death, stops being perfect and behaves very strangely. After that, Barbie, along with Ken, are sent out into the real world. This rendezvous not only radically changes their worldview, but also puts the whole structure of Barbieland upside down…
According to many viewers who have made a parsing of the picture, one of its meanings sounds like this: you can not be a consumer, because it is vulgar. At the same time, Greta Gerwig does not take the position of a mentor and does not impose any model of behavior. Although the patriarchal system is mercilessly ridiculed by the film’s creators.
But still you should not take “Barbie” too seriously – despite the quality work of all the participants of the project, it is mostly a funny parody of our society. It may seem that this or that theme is not revealed enough here, but it can be considered as a “chip” of the tape. Its main task is to make the viewer think for himself.
Like any talented work, “Barbie” effectively sends semantic messages to absolutely different people, regardless of their cultural and educational background, gender and upbringing. According to viewers and critics, there are three of them in total.
Patriarchy and matriarchy
The movie clearly shows that in Barbie’s pink doll world, a woman is in charge. According to many viewers, there is a very disturbing hidden meaning here: it is as if a woman is being told where and under what circumstances she can be in charge.
That is, she is only condescendingly allowed to imagine herself as director, Nobel Prize winner and president. The matriarchy is conditional, it is just a game: men run the real affairs. This message, which is not too pleasant for many, is more fully revealed in the following message.
According to one interpretation of the picture, all its events suggest that the power of the “new femininity”, about which there has been much talk recently, is about to manifest itself in the world. The essence of this idea is that a woman wants and knows how to be beautiful, but not for a man, but for herself. In addition, she is ready to make all important decisions in life herself – despite the notorious public opinion, and sometimes in spite of it.
That is, a woman is ready to fit into this or that reality, but she does not want to humiliate herself. She does not reject a man, but she does not give up herself for him.
The difference between “patriarchal” and “new” femininity lies in the actions performed and their reasons. In the first case, a woman tries to please a man and at the same time gives up what she used to do, her abilities and talents. The complete opposite of this is the denial of female nature, including external beauty and seductiveness. These are two extremes, and in the middle is the “new femininity,” which has nothing to do with the rabidly denigrated “feminism” of the 21st century.
Becoming an individual
What is the essence of the movie “Barbie” (2023)? It is important to realize that this is a kind of fairy tale, which is literally about the transformation of a doll into a human being. As the plot unfolds, Barbie goes through a typical “hero’s journey” and at the same time makes a sort of movement through archetypes.
The essence of the path itself is this. At first, the future “hero” is in an “infantile” state. He does not think about who and for what purpose has established the rules, but simply floats along the stream. This happens until the moment of initiation, after which he begins to break the rules, thus turning into a troublemaker, a “trickster”.
Well aware of this, Greta Gerwig wittily plays with the existing archetypes and the “hero’s journey” itself. If at the beginning we see a typical doll who is confined in her world, then Barbie adopts a “trickster” model of behavior, gets out of her comfort zone and becomes more flexible and wise.
At the end of the picture, she, grown up, changed, is supposed to lead Barbieland and she refuses this role. What does she do? The same thing she did before – only in a completely different role….
Another opinion: what about love?
Some viewers saw a slightly different message in “Barbie” that they found quite disturbing. Indeed. Self-determination, taking responsibility for one’s own life – that’s good, of course. But the creators of the film openly tell us that the goal of the modern (super)woman is the rejection of any ideals in favor of individualism. She is able to live without a man, who at best she needs as a partner, and at worst as a sperm donor.
However, looking at Ken, who conventionally personifies modern men, one should not be surprised. He is devoid of archaic aggressiveness, but he is infantile and not romantic at all. How can one not think of the brilliant “Dogma” and the lamentations of one of the characters about his anatomy? In the context of the events of the last twenty years, his words are perceived as prophetic.
As the film progresses, it becomes clear that its creators are trying to push the man out of the family: he must, in their opinion, accept his non-dominant position and find something to his liking. This raises the question: what next? Nothing can replace the family, founded by nature itself for the purpose of the continuation of the human race. What to do with the above-mentioned “truth of life”? Greta Gerwig cannot answer this question.
That is why in this movie there is no theme of love for another person – there is only indulgence of the egoistic message: dare, be brave, love only yourself and express yourself.
In fact, there are no people here – there are only sexless individuals trying to compensate for the lack of the most important thing by searching for special preferences in terms of personal and social development and adaptation.
Barbie is a kind of turned inside-out ideal of male dominance, only now it’s a woman. Of course, it can and does happen. But not yet everywhere: love, apparently, has been thrown off the ship of modernity. Although it is a wake-up call: the rejection of masculinity leads to a disruption of world harmony. This in turn can easily lead not to emancipation, but to the enslavement of everyone and everything …
Maybe the success of the picture will contribute to the release of the sequel, and we will still see a movie about the love of Barbie and Ken? After all, there is nothing good in extremes – just as there is nothing wrong in returning to classic romantic stories, but with new opportunities for self-actualization.
One last thing
The Barbie movie is like a layer cake. In each of them there are both interesting references and provocative messages. On the one hand, this picture is a typical advertising product of the company “Mattel”, whose shares rose by 40% after the release of the picture on the screen. Knowing this, it is hard not to notice the contradiction: the picture denounces and ridicules what it promotes.
On the other hand, Greta Gerwig trixterously asks each of us: who are you – an unreasonable child or a hero? At the end of the day, we are only offered a proposal, and whether to take it or not, whether to accept or refute it, is the free choice of each of us.
Here are some movie clips that are similar in meaning to the movie Barbie with Margot Robbie:
- Penelope (UK, USA). Penelope Wilhern belongs to an aristocratic family. Because of her ancestor’s meanness towards her beloved, she, like all the girls in the family of the amorous Leonardo, is under a terrible curse.
- Desperados (USA, 2020). Fate, not very favorable to Wesley, finally gives her a meeting with Jared. However, after the first night together, the guy disappears, and the girl goes looking for him.
- Bride Wars (USA, 2009). Emma and Liv are friends. The only thing that could break them apart was the ridiculously coincidental date of their weddings.
- The Other Woman (USA, 2014). Beautiful Carly suddenly learns that her lover Mark has a wife. After getting acquainted, the girls become real friends.