This past weekend, my fiance and I took a trip into town to watch the Barbie Movie. I had really been looking forward to it, because I'm a) a Barbie girl at heart and b) my sisters had seen it and were begging me to watch it so we could talk about it.
We had read much of the reviews of the movie from our social media, some praising it and others completely bashing it in an overly aggressive fashion. Methinks the movie was not made for the latter group, and I'm surprised that they spent the time and money to go.
I was particularly excited! I love Margot Robbie as an actress, and after growing up watching the animated Barbie movies (Swan Lake and The Nutcracker were my absolute favourites) I was curious to see what would come from a live action interpretation.
And I will say - I was impressed. I loved it as a movie, with comedy, a sprinkle of action and boatloads of pink. We had a great time and I would highly recommend it to anyone who grew up in the era of Barbie dolls and wants a fun movie to check out.
While I was anticipating some emotional response to the movie, I was completely taken aback at the "existential crisis" I had at the end. I won't spoil it for everyone who hasn't seen it, but you might anticipate some waterworks. Even reliving the moment in my mind waters my eyes all over again.
The premise of the movie is Barbie seeking out the reason for her world turning from "perfect and stereotypical" to "lifelike and difficult", in a paraphrase. She travels to the real world to find the person playing with her, while Ken engages in his own shenanigans along the way. Barbie shows a stark contrast between the world promoted to children through play and the life they'll have as they transition to adulthood. And I wasn't expecting to be smacked in the face with the message that life in a human world is difficult, and messy.
I sat in the theatre with tears streaming down my face, grieving the beautiful and easy life I was promised by the world as a young girl in kindergarten - that a home and family are so easy to create. That when I'm older, I'll have so many wonderful friends and can do absolutely anything I put my mind to.
I rehashed every moment in high school where I felt unwanted by other groups of girls, unattractive to the boys I liked, and stupid in the classes I hated. That despite being kind and trying to share, it was not easy to belong to big groups of friends. That even when I studied until I fell asleep at my desk or worked out while injured and sick, it wouldn't be enough for the scholarships or awards or sports teams that I wanted. Where Barbie was all of these things, I was not.
I sat in the despair of my university years, where every waking moment was focused on my studies to get the internship and the credentials. Where I was invited to the "getting ready" part of the evenings, but never the parties they were for. Where deciding what I wanted to be also came with so much terror about being able to afford it, and how much sacrifice I would make to keep my head above water. Barbie wouldn't have needed student loans to pay her rent because she came with the Dreamhouse.
And I sit, now and still, in my adult years, reminding myself that I am enough and allowed to take breaks and that I will be okay. That I have a roof over my head and a partner who loves me endlessly and my go-to girls for everything. That I don't need the lush and fabulous life of spending and having things outside of my basic needs. That even when I am feeling broken and at the bottom of the barrel, I am still a flawed but loved human being. That my inner child is safe and can be expressed through the joyful small things.
The Barbie movie was an eye-opener for me, if nothing else. That we work so hard for a packaged sense of perfection, to the loss of who we are and what we value. And that turning to put our attention back to what is the most important to us is hard. I mean, it makes sense. At every turn in life, we are bombarded with messages that we aren't skinny enough, wealthy enough, mentally well enough, happy enough. We spend our days trying to keep up with the Joneses while also trying to come back home to ourselves.
I'm proud that I show up for myself mentally to rebuild the way I think about money and love and life, even when it's hard and scary.
I went to see the Barbie movie for the fun and the feminism, and I happily got both of those things. I don't really have a ton of critique for the movie either, outside of the things I usually critique movies for (diversity, character development, etc.). And while I wasn't expecting to get a lesson in the unlearning of consumerism, capitalism and patriarchy, I'm so glad I did.