I’m a Barbie Girl In a Brutal World

Lessons from the new “Barbie” film

Rachel Wayne

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“Did I break the glass ceiling or does life just suck?” Composite by author, original photos by Arunachal Art and Nicolla Nuttall

Like many millennial women, I grew up with Barbie. That unforgettable shade of pink, the plethora of outfits, the PTSD from trying to comb their hair or put on those tiny plastic heels…Barbie was a crucial part of my childhood, along with Beanie Babies, slap bracelets, and questionably dark cartoons.

I had many Disney Barbies, including Belle and Ariel, but of course, I had the stereotypical blonde Barbie. I’d imagine her on adrenaline-packed adventures: rappelling down a cliff, battling a ninja, diving underwater to fight a shark with a squeaker in its mouth. Ken was there, too, always to support with his mysteriously vague bulge and vacant smile.

So naturally, I was eager to see the new Barbie film. I expected psychedelic colors, zany nostalgia, and plenty of scenery-chewing from the cast, and I was not disappointed. And I was pleasantly surprised to see a nuanced take on toxic masculinity and second-wave feminism as well.

For sure, the movie has important messages about workplace equity, gender-based harassment, and the illusion of empowerment. But that was preaching to the choir for me. I know very well that sexism is not “solved” and that womanhood has zero guarantee of, well, anything.

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Rachel Wayne

Artist/anthropologist/activist writing about art, media, culture, health, science, enterprise, and where they all meet. Join my list: http://eepurl.com/gD53QP