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Home > 5 Lessons We Can Learn From Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

5 Lessons We Can Learn From Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

Barbie Main Image

How this smash hit shows the complexities of womanhood and the world

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (2023) has proved to be a huge success after grossing $1.34 billion worldwide, making Gerwig the first solo female director to have achieved this great accomplishment. All of which is well deserved after the thought-provoking yet equally comedic film was released. For those who have yet to see it, go do that ASAP.

The movie follows stereotypical Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, and Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, as they leave Barbieland and set off to the real world in order to right a few wrongs. As the plot progresses, Barbie and Ken end up on a journey of self-discovery. They learn new things about themselves, but the audience is also doing some learning as well. Those who pay close attention instead of just calling the movie a “feminist brainwashing tactic” see that there’s something for everyone and a lot to learn about the world we live in. So listen up, Kens, Barbies, and especially the haters. Here are five lessons we can learn from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie:

5. Too much femininity, too much masculinity

At first, Barbieland seems like a utopian world. Everyone is happy in the matriarchal society, but slowly, the mistreatment and disregard of the Kens become evident. It is no longer the perfect world it is portrayed to be because there is no equality. Women are in power and getting positions they would struggle for in the real world, but it’s at the cost of men. Ken has no role other than to support Barbie, which comments on how women are treated in the real world. The script is flipped, but the outcome is the same: inequality persists. 

Speaking of the real world, it’s real. Women are looked down upon, while men take up positions of power. Women are mistreated and looked at as objects. The dynamic shifts almost immediately when Barbie and Ken get to the real world. Ken has a higher status here, while Barbie struggles with the harsh reality that she is viewed as less than. The stark contrast between the worlds truly does make Barbieland seem like a great place, at least for women, but that is eventually broken down due to a whole other group being oppressed. 

The two worlds work to emphasize the mistreatment of women, but they also comment on how too much femininity and masculinity can damage our lives and society. Yes, the real world sucks for women; we live in it, and many face inequality and oppression on a daily basis. However, it’s important to acknowledge that a world run solely by women isn’t the greatest thing either because it leaves men behind. Gerwig tries to showcase the true meaning of feminism, which many often misconstrue as “man-hating” and “kill all men,” but in reality, it is about achieving equality and dismantling gender-based stereotypes. It’s about giving men and women a seat at the table. Not just men or just women. The Kens rose against their mistreatment in Barbieland, much like how women are fighting against their mistreatment in the real world, and chaos ensued. Nobody truly wins if one group is above another. That is what Gerwig tries to show through the film: no one system can work until all genders are on the same level. 

4. Women are human

Shocker! Women are people, too! They have bad days and good days; they get mad and sad and feel every range of emotions on the planet. The Barbies don’t showcase that side of womanhood. That’s where Gloria, played by America Ferrera, and Sasha, portrayed by Ariana Greenblatt, come in. They are ordinary women living in the real world. They have their insecurities, aspirations, and dreams. At first, Barbie sets an unrealistic example of being a woman. Every Barbie in Barbieland is successful, happy, and carefree. As the story progresses, Stereotypical Barbie begins to realize there’s more to life than just Barbie. She starts to question her own identity and purpose in the world. She no longer wants to fit into the perfect plastic mold she was made for. She wants to be human. 

That’s all women want to be. Free of the labels and expectations placed on them by the patriarchy and other women. Toward the end of the movie, Gloria suggests that Mattel make “Ordinary Barbie,” which is shut down at first until the company realizes it would be profitable. It’s a little on the nose, but that’s what women and people everywhere want. To simply be and exist. To go through rough days without being judged and not constantly striving for perfection. Having Barbie herself choose to be human at the end showcases how a seemingly perfect life is never truly perfect. It is flawed and complex, just like women. 

3. Women aren’t here to uplift men

This should be common sense by this point in the 21st century, but Gerwig took the initiative to remind us that women do not exist for the sole purpose of supporting men. Firstly, she does this by flipping the script and showing how comical it is when the Kens worship everything the Barbies do. They exist to hype up the women around them. Seeing the roles reversed shows audiences that this is not normal behavior that either gender should accept. No person should exist for someone else; everybody must be their own. Women have been relegated to second-class citizens for a long time, and it is still taking a lot of work to undo the damage done in the past. They were seen as support systems for men. Individuals who are meant to make their lives easier by cooking, cleaning, and whatever else men don’t want to do. This model of living clearly isn’t sustainable, as women have their own lives to tend to. 

Gerwig further shows the ridiculousness of this concept at the end of the film, when Ryan Gosling’s Ken pines for Barbie and still gets shut down. Barbie decides to live her own life, separate from Ken, instead of choosing to be with him in the end. Her need to discover herself is more significant than her need to attach herself to a man. This also forces his character to move on and be independent. It goes without saying that people cannot always rely on others and make someone else the center of their universe. You are the center of your own universe, and Barbie choosing herself at the end of the film is a powerful move that tells all women that they can make it on their own; you are not a supporting character in someone else’s life.  

Women need women. Nothing was clearer than this. No, they don’t need to band together to overthrow the patriarchy, but they do need to stand together to fix it and change the world for the better. This was a great aspect of the film: there was no woman-hating women. Sure, Sasha’s character was a little resistant at first, but eventually, viewers saw the group at Barbieland band together in solidarity to solve the issue at hand—with the help of Alan, of course. Sadly, unity has not been so easily achieved beyond the screen. Many women still try to put others down to make themselves feel better and get ahead in life. Many of which stem from insecurities placed on them due to societal expectations. Gerwig emphasizes the importance of staying together in the face of adversity and how women can relate to each other transgenerationally. Regardless of age, womanhood is a universal experience. We can learn a lot from each other if one just opens up and listens. 

No person can create waves of change alone; it takes many to help you fight the battle. The Barbies couldn’t restore Barbieland alone; they needed each other and Gloria and Sasha’s help. Their unique personalities and experiences were seen as strengths instead of competition, allowing them to work together effectively and achieve their goal. They fueled and supported each other. The world is harsh, but Gerwig’s portrayal of female friendships and support shows how much easier everything can be if women get along instead of trying to tear each other down. We may all be different, but we are still tied together, and together is how you change the world.  

Barbie Mid Image

2. Use your voice

This doesn’t just apply to women. It applies to everyone. Voicing your opinion is how you find your place in the world; staying silent or being silenced is how groups are marginalized, resulting in a loss of identity. Throughout Barbie, Gerwig presents multiple cases in which certain characters were pushed to the side and the results of that neglect. The most obvious are the Kens, specifically Ryan Gosling’s Ken. Throughout the entire movie, he is trying to be heard and taken seriously by Barbie. Her disregard for him and not listening to what he had to say caused a great uproar in Barbieland, which eventually overthrew the balance of the worlds they lived in. Only when he caused this chaos was he truly heard, and an open discussion to find a solution was had. Men, people, everyone needs to be able to use their voice freely, and people need to start listening before drastic measures are taken. 

Another subtle allusion to the topic of silencing was when Mattel literally tried to shove Barbie back into a box because she was a “problem.” This is nothing new, especially in the real world. Women who become “too much” or are “too outspoken” end up being isolated from society and seen as issues that need to be contained. Barbie teaches us to do the opposite: don’t get in the box. Instead, run and fight like hell until you figure out how to solve the problem. We see this again in Barbieland with Gloria’s speech about being a woman and how she uses her voice to bring the Barbies back to who they really are. Using your voice matters. It inspires others to take action and can change the world. Sure, Barbieland is fictional, but the sentiment that Gerwig is trying to convey is very real and important. It also perfectly ties into the previous point: we need to use our voices in order to help uplift each other as women and as people. Use your voice, even if some find it loud and obnoxious. 

1. Close your eyes, now feel

At face value, Barbie looks like a fun movie to take your kids to and reconnect with the nostalgia of your childhood. In reality, it is so much more complex. There are still so many lessons to uncover from Gerwig’s incredible piece about femininity and womanhood; these five are just scratching the surface. The world is messy, and both men and women of all genders struggle to find their place in it. The nuanced piece presents all these aspects in a fun and entertaining way. It doesn’t solely focus on women, even if they are the story’s main subject. It’s essential to take these lessons with us and keep them close to our hearts for just as long as Barbie has been in our own lives. This movie is not just for women; it’s for everyone. It’s a mirror that is held up to us and shows us the flaws in our society, but it also shows us the good that can come from it. So the last little lesson is: close your eyes and feel everything. Experience humanity at its highest and lowest, but never forget to keep working for a better future for everyone. If you need a refresher on any of these lessons, Barbie is in theaters now and will be streaming on Max soon. 

Barbie Last Image

Barbie (2023) Warner Bros. Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Author at Dead Talk News | Posts

Yasmine, a talented intern in TV and film writing, possesses a deep-seated passion for storytelling. She is pursuing her degree in Cinema and Media studies and Creative Writing with a clear objective of becoming a screenwriter. Her primary creative outlets include film, reading, and writing, and she holds Little Women as her favorite movie.

Matt Keyser is a recent graduate of Cal State Fullerton University with a bachelor's in Communications-Journalism. He is a freelance entertainment reporter with a focus on film and television. As a former senior programming coordinator for the Newport Beach Film Festival, Matt's experience with critiquing narratives and documentaries has helped showcase his passion for television and cinema through his writing.