The new Barbie Movie (2023) may surprise you with complex messages about gender, identity, and self-acceptance.

Written by Emma Evans

July 31, 2023

I recently went to see the new Barbie Movie and it was so much more than I expected!

To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place.
Unless you have a full-on existential crisis.
Or you’re a Ken.

For generations, children have played with Barbie dolls. In its infancy and beyond, Mattel wanted to create a world of possibilities for women; they could be anything they wanted! Pilots, Doctors, Construction workers, Astronauts! When you had a Barbie doll you could pretend that you were living in an alternate universe where anything was possible, and everything was pink!

You may have been one of the sceptics when it came to the 2023 version of a Barbie movie, I certainly saw some very interesting debates on social media! It made me, as a therapist, chuckle at the complexity of feelings that this movie brought out, even before anyone had watched it.

One of the things that struck me about Greta Gerwigs brilliant movie was just how she dealt with a lot of complex subjects. In an interview in Vogue, Gerwig said that she wanted to make a movie that would “challenge people’s ideas about what it means to be a Barbie.”
She also said that the movie would be “a feminist film” that would “explore the idea of what it means to be a woman in today’s world.”

In the past, Barbie has been criticised for promoting unrealistic body standards and gender stereotypes. However, the new film challenged these stereotypes and offered a more progressive view of womanhood.

In addition to its strong feminist message, it also explores themes of self-acceptance and identity.
Barbie experiences an existential crisis in the film, which leads her to question her own purpose in life.

Some of the more feminist complex ideas in this movie are;

  • The idea that Barbie is not just a one-dimensional character. The film explores Barbie’s inner life and her journey of self-discovery. This challenges the stereotype that Barbie is just a vapid, materialistic doll.
  • The idea that beauty comes in many forms. The film features a diverse cast of characters, including Barbie and Ken and lots of other characters from all backgrounds and physical abilities. This challenges the idea that there is only one way to be beautiful.
  • The idea that women can be strong and independent without sacrificing their femininity. The film shows Barbie as a capable and confident woman who is not afraid to break gender norms.

But apart from being entirely about Barbie and the feminist movement, this clever movie also has some interesting things to say about male psychology!!

One of the key themes of the film was the idea of toxic masculinity, but also one of vulnerability.
Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, is initially trapped in a traditional masculine role. He is obsessed with his appearance, his muscles, and his possessions. He is also afraid to show his emotions, and he often resorts to anger and aggression to deal with his problems. Barbie has a great day every day, but Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him. This shows the vulnerability of male ego and how some men place all of their own self worth on the attention of women, or the adoration of other men. We see this in other areas of the movie where a lot of the Mattel exclusively male board of advisors are continually trying to stroke each others egos.

However, as the film progresses, Ken begins to challenge his own ideas about masculinity. He learns that it is okay to be both sensitive and emotional, and he starts to embrace his own unique strengths and talents. He also learns that he can be a strong and supportive partner without conforming to traditional gender roles.

The Barbie movie’s portrayal of Ken is a positive step forward. It shows that men can be strong, supportive, and emotional without being stereotypically masculine. It also shows that men can challenge toxic masculinity and embrace their own unique identities.

The interesting concepts we see throughout the movie are;

  • Men can be sensitive and emotional without being weak.
  • Men can be strong and supportive without being stereotypically masculine.
  • Men can challenge toxic masculinity and embrace their own unique identities.
  • Men can be successful in any field, regardless of their gender.

If you have yet to see the movie I’d highly recommend it. It certainly made me walk away with lots to think about and although I think a lot of young children won’t necessarily understand the undertones of the movie, it might just bring up useful conversations between parents and youngsters!

Emma Evans – Director of APHP & NRPC


Published : Jul 31, 2023