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“Barbie” was not “Kenough”

Courtesy of People Magazine
Margot Robbie (left) and Ryan Gosling (right) outshine the lackluster script with boisterous and exciting performances.

I owned countless Barbies growing up, but I always wanted more. I vividly remember roaming the aisles of Target and Walmart, begging my mother to buy me just one of the many dolls lining the shelves. Unsurprisingly, she often said no before reminding me that I had a number of dolls at home I rarely played with. But she didn’t get it. There was a certain appeal to the new dolls in stores, an appeal that the Barbies I owned had lost the second I took them out of their boxes.

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” held that very same appeal. Trailers teased a somewhat compelling story centered around everyone’s favorite blonde icon; after initial screenings, viewers and news sources alike praised the movie for its innovation and surprising depth. Naturally, I was excited to see it, though the feeling quickly dissipated when I actually sat down to watch it. The box came off, and despite high expectations, I found “Barbie” to be painfully mediocre.

“Barbie” follows a stereotypical blonde Barbie (Margot Robbie) as she grapples with an existential crisis brought on by sudden thoughts of death and various changes to her appearance. After consulting Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), Barbie learns that to return to normal she must leave the confines of the matriarchal Barbieland and venture into the real world to find the girl playing with her. Strapped into her hot-pink convertible, Barbie embarks on her journey to reality with Ken (Ryan Gosling) stowed away in the backseat. While initially reluctant, Barbie allows him to stay with her, and together the two enter the mystical world of Los Angeles. There, Ken explores the male-dominated world while Barbie seeks out Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), the girl she once belonged to. Sasha is quick to tell Barbie that, despite commonly-held beliefs in Barbieland, many perceive Barbie to be problematic. Distraught, Barbie leaves Sasha only to be confronted by a group of Mattel CEOs hoping to return her to Barbieland by sealing her in a box. Barbie manages to escape their clutches with the help of Sasha’s mother, Gloria (America Ferrera), and Sasha herself. Together, they return to Barbieland where they discover the Kens have taken over. Luckily, the Barbies, with the help of Sasha and Gloria, manage to restore order to their world all while clad in matching pink jumpsuits. With order once again restored to Barbieland, Barbie decides she wants to remain in the real world and trade in her status as a doll for that of a real woman.

“Barbie” has a lot—one could argue too much—going on. The movie includes a staggering number of loosely related subplots that lack any degree of coherence. It often feels more like a poorly combined collection of individual stories in desperate need of a modicum of consistency to make it less overwhelming. Even worse is the concerning number of themes “Barbie” tries and fails to properly address. Within its 114 minute runtime, viewers are bombarded with messages about self-acceptance, mother-daughter relationships, gender roles, societal expectations, female empowerment and inclusion. The movie bit off more than it could chew, resulting in surface-level incorporations that utterly fail to communicate the complexity of its major themes.

My biggest problem with “Barbie” was that it was in no way revolutionary. Despite numerous publications and hoards of viewers praising “Barbie” for its refreshing take on the female experience, I found it to be lacking in any noteworthy commentary or messages. The film contains a lot of recycled ideas about feminism and gender equality with very little, if anything at all, added to truly distinguish itself from similar works. Of course, that’s not to say these ideas aren’t important. They absolutely are. But that doesn’t mean “Barbie” deserves its sensational reviews simply for mentioning them in a completely unoriginal way.

Gloria’s somewhat famous monologue was one of many examples of said unoriginality. I found the speech to be rudimentary and more akin to a cheesy motivational post rather than a truly inspirational piece of dialogue from an inspirational movie. Even so, the section of dialogue received overwhelmingly positive reactions for its supposed accurate description of the trials of womanhood.

Film critic Stephanie Zacharek nailed “Barbie” on the head by describing it as “very pretty but not very deep.” The film certainly featured some fantastic hot-pink sets and outfits eerily identical to those I was desperate to own growing up. Unfortunately, the set and outfit designs didn’t make up for the movie’s shortcomings.

As much as I wanted to love it, “Barbie” was, to quote the movie itself, not “Kenough.”

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About the Contributor
Rebecca Warber, Copy Editor
Rebecca Warber (she/her) is a second-year student studying English. As her choice of major suggests, she loves to read and write in her free time. More often than not, you can find her in the Law Library, either writing for The Observer or desperately trying to finish whatever reading assignments are due that day.

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