If you havne’t seen the Barbie movie? The following review is submitted for your consideration. .
If you’re going to say “I have no intention of ever going to that movie, because it’s woke crap and I don’t care what you say”, that’s also fine. . If you want to leave a comment to that effect, I respectfully ask you to take it to, say, Fraters Libertas or Anti-Strib.
If you want to tell me I’m wrong about something to do with the movie, by all means, welcome.
I was probably inclined to dislike it, initially. Not because of any of its merits (Margot Robbie can do almost no wrong), or even any of what one might reasonably predict it’s flaws might be.
But do you want to know a little secret? I’m tired of popular culture bashing men. ￼
And no, it’s not just a parochial, knee-jerk, gender, politics response; I hate laziness and clichés, whether Amos and Andy, or speedy Gonzalez, or every villain on “Law and Order: SVU“ (hint: it’s always the Christian conservative.)
It’s become a cliché of modern screen writing and advertising; ￼men in popular entertainment are pretty much, either:
- – Neutered halfwits
- – Safe Buffoons (think Fred Flintstone) ￼
- – BroDudes, with undercurrents of stupidity, malevolence, or both.
- – villains with no more subtlety than a cad in a melodrama, tying the heroine to the railroad tracks
- – Actors with enough star power (Matt Damon, George Clooney, Harrison Ford) to avoid the clichés.
￼One typical example: from two years ago, a dramedy, called “Single Drunk Female“, a fairly promising concept ￼ about a 20 something advertising exec who drinks herself out of a career and into supervised probation. ￼ A fascinating premise.…
… that apparently couldn’t survive without turning every male in the cast into an impotent, helpless, hopeless buffoon, a one dimensional droog, a villain, or in the case of one and only one characterl, a supernaturally wise voice of reason.
Oops – I just checked my notes, and it turns out that that character, the ￼closest thing to a three dimensional male character, was ￼ actually a transgender woman.
I’d rhetorically ask “imagine what a steady diet of popular culture consistently painting men (who aren’t stars) as buffoons, douche bags and villains does to boys” – but you don’t really have to imagine it, do you? Sometimes it seems boys are living down to the example that popular culture has laid out for them for the past generation.
So yeah. I wasn’t inclined to see the movie, and I started the whole proces with a bit of a chip on my shoulder.
And as I noted this morning, I’d seen a couple of great movies on the previous two weekends – Sound of Freedom and No Hard Feelings. Why harsh the buzz?
I figured I’d do like I’ve done for the last 20 installments of X-Men, 49 Fast and Furiousers and 16 Avengers and Justice Leagues, and let someone else have my seat.
But my NARN colleague Jack Tomczak said it was worth a watch – emphatically .
So I figured – why not?
To keep an open mind, I tried to avoid the reviews – but I got sucked into at least part of Ben Shapiro’s scathing reaction. I will brook no babble about Shapiro, by the way; he’s a very sharp guy, really good at most everything he does. Literally, nobody in the media is covering the Hunter Biden scandal like Shapiro. I don’t get the hate some conservatives have for Shapiro, and I don’t have to worry about it.
And I did read one other, extremely positive review, from someone who’s probably closer to my side of the cultural divide than most.
So with a few misgivings, I went to the movie.
People on the right side of the cultural fence who’ve never seen the movie can be forgiven for assuming a couple of things:
- It’s “woke”. It’s from Hollywood, which has been destroying lots of beloved franchises lately, so it’s not an *unreasonable* default guess.
- It trashes men. As I noted above, it’s pretty much the ultimate lazy Millennial screenwriter trick. And on the sufr the surface, sure.
Michael Knowles isn’t my favorite commentator, but he nailed this point. If you look at the story behind the story – as the director, Greta Gerwig, urges the viewer to do – it’s a very sly *critique* of “woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” feminism and the collapse of social traditions.
There are so many pointers to this – without giving out any spoilers, I’ll point you to America Ferrera’s  understated but brilliant “Harried Mom” character, and her interaction with Rhea Perlman’s character, presented as the woman who invented Barbie and put Mattel on the map, but who I think actually represents…well, I’ll let you figure that out on your own , and on and on.
But here’s the connection that sneaks up on you, that is so brilliant and shuts the whole “woke” thing down.
The movie starts in a stylized prehistoric era  with little girls playing with dolls – which, narrator Helen Mirren tells us, were always babies, which always left the girls always playing Mommy.
And “then came Barbie”. The little girls then smash their baby dolls and tea sets, as the scene dissolves to perfect, pink, plastic Barbie World, with women doing everything that matters and men demoted to, well, Ken.
There’s even a sly aside to the modern world’s attempt to repeal biology when Helen Mirren notes that “Midge”, the pregnant Barbie, was discontinued.
A bunch of other stuff happens, and we fast forward to the final scene, the final *line* of the movie.
I won’t spoil it. But there is no way to put the opening – the literal and figurative smashing of traditions and expectations dating back to the beginning of time – and the closing together and *not* see that this movie is a *critique* of “third wave feminism”, and the changes in social norms that they have been about for the past few generations – throughout “Barbie’s” commercial life.
I won’t spoil it. Put on your critical hat, watch it, and tell me where I’m wrong.
“Men / Ken”.
As far as how it treats men – via “Ken”, singular and plural? Yep. Men are vapid, ineffectual, impotent, pointless.
And *that’s the point*.  And it may be even more brilliant than the critique of third wave feminism. 
Let’s step outside the movie and look at sociology, 2020s style.
What does every sociologist, especially on the right, identify as the problem with young men today? Lack of purpose, goals, meaning?
And that those young men fill in the gap left by the lack of *purpose* to masculinity by asserting it via mindless, deflecting hedonism and pointless violence? 
Because society sees them as being about as useful to the world as a bike is to a trout?
Again – no spoilers. But *that* – flopping around without purpose, and then wondering what that purpose *should* be – and its parallels with young mens struggles today, is the point of Ken (singular and plural). When you watch the movie, and see the arc of “Ken’s” behavior throughout, keep that in mind.
So what did the other reviewers miss, that I caught?
To me, the big theme was how very important *purpose* is to life. “Barbieworld” reflects “Modern” society in that everyone has all their material wants met (in fact, to a city full of dolls, they are irrelevant), and all the affirmation they need…
…but there is no purpose.
And it’s when, and how, Barbie and Ken discover that humans (not dolls, literally or figuratively ), women *and* men, need *purpose* in their lives that made me sit up in my seat and whisper “holy crap, this is good”.
Oh, yeah. The movie is a visual joy.
And not just the Barbieland sets – which are everything you heard they are. They look just like the little Barbieworlds that the girls in the neighborhood would put together out on Mrs. Goehner’s patio, only perfect.
But there are two other visual moments that are much, much better.
The visual change when Barbie meets Rhea Perlman is jarring – and a huge cue as to what lies ahead.
And there’s a scene, near the end of the show, where Ken and Barbie realize what’s missing in both of their lives – neither in Barbie World nor the Real World, but a place that has no visual definition but slowly, subtly shifting lights that are characters in their own right – one of the most striking bits of cinemetography I’ve ever seen. I may watch it again just for that.
Think that review was long? You should see the first one I wrote.
I don’t often urge people to go see movies – but I urge you ignore all the hype on BOTH sides, put on your critical hat, and check it out.
 Well, we did. Not sure if they do anymore.
 An actress I hate to love, but I love anyway.
 Hint: it’s a name the Sixth Commandment advises one not to take in vain.
 It’s borrowed from the beginning of “2001: A Space Odyssey”
 This is one of several parts Ben Shapiro got hung up on. Shapiro’s brilliant – I push back hard on the conservative hate he gets – but he totally c**pped the bed in his review. Which I *really* don’t get – it’s not like he’s too uneducated to see subtext, allusion and symbolism, especially when it’s *right there on the screen*. Very much the opposite. It’s almost like he c**pped the bed on purpose. Why would he do that? No freaking clue.
 Seriously. I may go see the movie again just to put together all the pieces of this subplot.
 No spoilers – but there’s a scene I’ll just describe as “Omaha Beach In Saving Private Ryan via Barbieworld” that made me double over laughing, and wince, out loud.
 Without getting into politics, much of modern society treats humans as interchangeable widgets whose meaning is to consume. I could write a piece ten times as long as this already huge review on the horrors of that subject alone.