July 25, 2023


“Over the weekend, moviegoers turned out in force for Greta Gerwig’s neon-coated fantasy comedy ‘Barbie,’ which smashed expectations with $155 million to land the biggest debut of the year.” Variety

See past issues

From the Left

The left praises the movie, arguing that it is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Barbie is an impressive achievement as a film and far, far funnier than any studio comedy I can remember in recent history. There are perfect jokes about everything from stilettos to boy bands to fascism and Matchbox Twenty; I’m still giggling at some of the gags…

“Gerwig’s solo directing career thus far (which includes Lady Bird and Little Women) is a triumph of reimagination, an exploration of what it means to find out who you are and not allow yourself to be shaped by nostalgia and sentimentality while also living with deep, real love. That she managed to infuse the same sensibilities into Barbie is something near a miracle.”

Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“‘If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you,’ promises (or threatens) the trailer… Are audiences meant to cheer on the empowered girlboss exploits of the live-action embodiment of a now 64-year-old fashion doll? Or, on the contrary, should we be critiquing the male gaze–driven industrial economy that made generations of little girls believe that the highest achievement of adult womanhood was an anatomically impossible waist-hip ratio? And what about those of us who grew up Barbie-indifferent?…

“Yes, yes, and yes, responds Barbie: This movie is for you… Can any one movie be all those things at once? Gerwig’s answer to that conundrum is to serve up a multilayered concoction that’s as busy as a fully accessorized Dreamhouse: an earnest feminist manifesto inside a barbed social satire inside an effervescent musical comedy, all designed in colors and textures so sumptuous they make 1950s Technicolor look desaturated. Barbie never completely resolves the paradox at its heart… [But it] is a delight of improbable proportions.”

Dana Stevens, Slate

“The reactionary weirdoes decrying Barbie as peddling the ‘woke’ agenda haven’t pulled much of a gotcha, accurately summarizing the textual substance of a film about one woman’s sudden burst of institutional consciousness. Like a college freshman taking an intro class on gender – or perhaps like a high-schooler seeing a mass-market blockbuster with a developed political streak for the first time – Barbie becomes abruptly aware of the untenable societal pressures heaped upon womankind, released in a cathartic monologue by normal-person surrogate America Ferrera…

“She resolves the many contradictions of the male gaze by slicing through the Gordian knot, simply concluding that whatever women want is fine, so long as everyone lets them live their lives in peace. It’s a pretty anodyne statement… The steadfast refusal to coddle male ego may be the most unabashedly subversive notion in a project often conflicted about its opposing mandates as a critical work of art and a commercial good for sale.”

Charles Bramesco, The Guardian

From the Right

The right is generally critical of the movie, arguing that it pushes a political agenda.

The right is generally critical of the movie, arguing that it pushes a political agenda.

“As bubbly as the film appears, its script is like a grumpier-than-average women’s studies seminar. At one point, nearing the climax, ‘Barbie’ stops cold so a Mattel doll designer (America Ferrera) with depressive inclinations can deliver a long monologue on how miserable it is to be female. For instance, she feels pressured to have lots of money but also pressured to not appear to seek it…

“Try to imagine ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ as written by someone who not only hated Mario and Luigi but blamed them for highway fatalities, climate change and gorilla abuse while tossing in some Proust references… Don’t we go to a movie like ‘Barbie’ to escape the harrumphing tone of the most aggrieved Twitter users?”

Kyle Smith, Wall Street Journal

“From its opening moments, Barbie is intent on telling viewers that it is about feminism, and it takes itself seriously (but not too seriously)… We’re told, repeatedly over the course of two hours, that being a woman is hard. But beyond a final grasp at choice feminism — women should be whatever they want to be, whether that means a mother or an astronaut or both! — viewers are not offered much of a path forward. As for any idea of what’s good about being a woman, forget about it…

Barbie echoes a shallow view of womanhood often perpetuated by transgender ideologues, who fetishize the trials of femaleness (periods, catcalls, sexism in general) while imagining the beauty of womanhood as no more than a doll’s costume to put on or off. In Barbie’s view, being a woman is tough, fraught with double standards (something we’re sure men never have to face), and there’s really not much good we can say about it. But at least there’s a lot of pink.”

Madeline Fry Schultz, Washington Examiner

Some argue, “Barbie is an undisciplined, goofy film for women (primarily) to gather for in posses, dress up, and revel in spectacle and recollection. It’s two hours of beautiful people wearing gorgeous outfits that observers can recall owning and playing with on linoleum or shag carpeting. Like Saturday-morning cartoons, the movie is a pallet of marketing that just so happens to be good, and, as such, it is palatable consumerism in motion…

“The politics of the movie are similarly inhuman and absurd — this is the rendering of a world supposed by children, with all the logical errancy that kids produce when all they know of life is from patching together mental woodcuts from whatever Mom and Dad divulge. That Barbie‘s Ken thinks men run the world by telling everyone what to do is correct — it is precisely what a little girl would imagine employment must be like after observing her mom coming home and routinely grousing about her jerk boss Kent… Grab some lifelong friends and delight in a juggernaut of capitalism… not everything has to be a battleground.”

Luther Ray Abel, National Review

A libertarian's take

“What’s most interesting about Barbie is how, in being unconstrained — not just by age, class, or education, but by adult trappings like marriage and children — she embodies the paradoxes of an entire generation of women. Like Barbie, the Archetypal Millennial is both wildly accomplished yet developmentally trapped in perpetual adolescence…

“The irony is that while Barbie prepares to launch her fifth presidential run, while also coding and dancing and saving the whales, millennial women are still trying to figure out how to have it all… If Barbie can remake herself against the gravitational pull of obsolescence, if she can rage, rage against the dying of her cultural relevance, then maybe, so can we.”
Kat Rosenfield, UnHerd

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.