Barbie’s fantastic life in plastic delivers a fresh take on feminism and equality

2 August 2023 / by Nicole. Soroka
Barbie’s fantastic life in plastic delivers a fresh take on feminism and equality
Greta Gerwig made history during the film’s opening weekend while giving new meaning to Mattel’s most beloved doll

When Barbie and Ken step outside of their perfectly pink world, they both begin to question the life they have been happily living in their secluded Barbieland bubble. Directed and co-written by Greta Gerwig, alongside writer Noah Baumbach, Barbie was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, and for good reason; The production for this film has gone back further than a decade, leaving Barbie’s story to be one that has been carefully crafted and rewritten to perfection.    

 Originally, the idea of a live-action Barbie film was introduced by Universal Pictures in 2009, and while this idea failed to come to light, Sony Pictures gained rights to the project in 2014. For years, various production members took turns bringing their ideas to the table, including screenwriters Jenny Bicks and Diablo Cody. During Sony’s run with the Barbie film, both Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway were set to play the title character. While Schumer eventually stepped away from the film due to “scheduling conflicts”, which the actress later revealed was more truthfully due to creative differences, Hathaway was soon brought on to fill in Barbie’s shoes. However, Sony’s rights to the film expired in 2018 and Mattel reclaimed ownership. Later that same year, Margot Robbie’s production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, took on the Barbie film as their latest project. In 2019, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach joined the film as writers, with Gerwig being named the director in 2021. With the film’s production cemented down, and the star-studded cast seemingly growing by the minute, Warner Bros. adaptation of Barbie was finally making its way to the big screen.  

 Filming took place throughout early to mid-2022 at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden and Venice Beach Skatepark. Barbie brings together some of the biggest names and rising stars in Hollywood, including Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Simu Liu, Issa Rae, Michael Cera, Kate McKinnon and Ariana Greenblatt.  

 The film introduces the fictitious world of Barbieland, a female-run society where Barbies work together to accomplish great feats, while the Kens spend their days on the beach, enjoying a life of leisure. Unfortunately for Beach Ken (Ryan Gosling), his day is not complete until he catches the attention of Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie), who aims to include all of her friends in her daily activities. The sun sets on another pink-tastic day in Barbieland, and while everyone is enjoying themselves at the dreamhouse during a blowout dance party, Barbie realizes that something is off; she cannot help but think about death. The next morning, Barbie’s life is slowly unravelling, with her daily routine consistently being interrupted by strange phenomena. A dreaded visit to Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) reveals to Barbie that she must travel to the real world to find the child that is playing with her doll, in order to heal both the girl and herself. While Barbie longs to stay in her own world, she knows that she must travel to the real world and help the child who is causing her struggles. As she hits the road in her pink Corvette, Ken surprises Barbie with the news that he is joining her for the trip. Once they finally arrive in California, Barbie and Ken quickly realize the differences between their two worlds and begin to reimagine the way in which they are living their lives.  

Barbie has undoubtedly had the largest marketing run of the year, with countless partnership reveals leading up to the premiere. From the NYX Cosmetics Barbie Collection to the Barbie Cold Stone Creamery specials, Barbie can be found at every corner. Along with their products, the Barbie cast embarked on an international press tour from late June to mid-July, stopping in eight different cities across the globe. While the Barbies promoted the film in Australia, the two “Kenadians”, Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu, made their first tour stop in Toronto, Canada.  

Barbie first premiered on July 9, 2023, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, with the second premiere taking place in London, England on July 12, 2023, at Cineworld Leicester Square. While the press tour could not be held in its entirety due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, this certainly did not damage Barbie’s performance at the box office. Barbie premiered in theatres on July 21, 2023, bringing in a whopping $162 million domestically, with a total of $356.3 million internationally during its opening weekend run. These astounding box office numbers broke records, landing Barbie the title of highest grossing opening weekend for a film directed by a female and becoming Robbie’s highest grossing opening weekend of her career.  

Barbie was released alongside Christopher Nolan’s, Oppenheimer, which gained a lot of attention on social media prior to the release of the films. The opening run for the two films was dubbed as “Barbenheimer” weekend, due to their completely different plot lines and aesthetics. In the box office race between Gerwig’s and Nolan’s films, Oppenheimer fell short of Barbie’s earnings, making $82.4 million domestically and a nonetheless impressive total of $180 million globally. While many individuals attended double screenings of the films, Barbie was the clear box office favourite.  

As for the public’s thoughts, Barbie received an 86 percent audience score on RottenRotten Tomatoes, while the critics gave the film a 90 percent, “Certified Fresh” rating. Cinemas all over the world sparkled in seas of pink, bringing the feeling of togetherness and pure excitement back to the theatre for the first time in a long time.   

 In my opinion, Barbie was not the film I first imagined it to be. Every time I heard the cast speaking about how the film is completely different than what it appears to be in the trailer, I never knew how much that statement would resonate. However, after seeing the film for the first time, I was completely shocked at how well the plot was kept from the public prior to its release. Barbie brings a whole new sense of feminism to the cinemas, taking a beloved children’s toy and turning it into a series of characters that represent a variety of female voices. From working women to mothers, and those who are still young girls at heart, I found it heartwarming that Barbie proved that there is no one set definition of what it looks like or means to be a woman. For me, the Barbies did a phenomenal job of portraying the emotions and feelings that many women face throughout different phases in their lives. Greta Gerwig once again made a film that represents how empowering it can be to have women leading on and off the screen. While Margot Robbie’s Barbie provided the strength and beauty that is seen in many of her characters, including Kayla from Bombshell (2019), America Ferrera’s character sparked relatability and comfort, similar to how her character, Carmen, does in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (2005). On the other hand, the Kens cannot be overlooked in this film. I felt that Ryan Gosling’s Ken represented how difficult it can be to find your place in a world where it seems as though everyone around you has already found theirs. This film certainly fights for female empowerment, but the messages and takeaways from Barbie can extend to anyone, no matter who you are. While the bubbly, energetic surface appeal of this movie is a wonder of its own, Barbie will be remembered as a film that promotes love, womanhood and equality in the “real world”.  

You can see Barbie at your local Cineplex theatre today.