“Barbie” is the greatest Mel Brooks movie Mel Brooks didn’t make. “Barbie” has more in common with “Blazing Saddles” than you might imagine. “Barbie” could justifiably carry an alt title of “History of the World, Part III.” Like “Young Frankenstein,” it is rooted in eternal truths about our quest to find our humanity.
Yeah, you could throw in a touch of “Little Mermaid” (when Barbie ultimately makes her irrevocable choice) and even a dash of “Rocky Horror’s” musicality and production numbers.
A farce? Well, its protagonist is a plastic doll, so…
But “Barbie” is so much more.
“It’s really hard to be human,” the Ghost of Barbie’s Creator tells her Creation. That message and theme is the historical foundation of all true art, is it not? Noir aside, art seldom comes in black and white absolutes.
Art is often gray. And in this case, it’s pink.
Let me jump immediately to this. “Barbie” is by no means a man-hating movie. Quite the contrary. More on this later.
But let me also be unequivocal. Any man who takes offense to this movie and uses it to fan the flames of a contrived culture war is an insecure, infantile coward, and really no man at all.
As males, we should be grateful for the clarity of the mirror held up to our faces.
“Barbie” took true courage to produce, particularly on the part of Mattel. That was the most brutal, self-administered proctological exam in American corporate history.
And, like anything worth pondering, it’s complicated. Yes, I do believe that the evolution of Barbie often represented a genuine effort to inspire little girls to pursue greatness in non-traditional roles. But in the process, Barbie was, like pretty much everything in our culture, annexed by The Patriarchy. Mattel pulled no punches in exposing the hypocritical dichotomy. Admirable.
Spoiler alert. Mother and daughter discovering—or rediscovering—themselves and each other will move you.
Being human is hard. It’s hard to be female. But it’s also hard to be male, and “Barbie” goes out of its way to acknowledge that. The Patriarchy suppresses women, but it also turns men against themselves and each other, frequently with disastrous results.
“Barbie”—a movie about a plastic doll—fronts up classic dramatic and literary themes that would get a nod from Sophocles.
But it also contains some very nuanced micro sub-vibes.
I’ll steal from a meme I sometimes see posted in social media.
“One day you and your friends went out to play for the last time. And none of you knew it.”
I cry every time I see it. And I’m having a difficult time typing now.