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Barbie: A Film You Should Definitely Watch With Your Mum

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Leeds chapter.

Making £276 million globally on opening weekend (the new record for a film directed by a woman!), Greta Gerwig’s Barbie was arguably one of the most anticipated movies of the year, especially after its dual marketing with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, and their tied release dates.

The film revolves around the iconic, perfect Barbie, known as “Stereotypical Barbie,” played by Margot Robbie, who begins to malfunction in her day-to-day life – her feet go flat, she falls in a heap when leaving her house, and she has persistent thoughts of death. So, she leaves her perfect plastic life to embark on a quest to restore the boundary between the real world and “Barbieland”. To her horror, she discovers that the real world is nothing like her girl-power wonderland, where the Barbies hold all the positions of power and influence while the Kens are just accessories: it is very much a patriarchal mess.

Gerwig does not shy away from exploring this – Barbie’s first experience with men in the real world consists of staring, catcalling, and sexual harassment. Indeed, the entire film is incredibly on the nose with how it explores the struggles women face every day, particularly the topic of motherhood.

In the opening scene, we see young girls bored of playing mother to dolls, a fact echoed by Helen Mirren’s sardonic narration. The creation of a Barbie doll gave the girls something new to imagine; a future where they could be anything – a doctor, astronaut, sportswoman, journalist, even president!

Just not a mother.

From the get-go, motherhood is presented as separate to these girls’ careers, a sentiment every girl has experienced in her life, whether externally or internally. Like so many, my own mother gave up her flourishing career for 18 years when I was born, to focus on being around her children. Having both a successful career and successfully raising children is considered impossible for women: they must choose one. Of course, men can have both, no problem.

In Barbie, the mother-daughter relationship between Gloria, played by America Ferrera, and her daughter Sasha, played by Ariana Greenblatt, explores this dynamic. Sasha views her mother as representing this ideal of motherhood that puts being a mother before being a woman and an individual, a sentiment Sasha is desperate to avoid.

After experiencing a vision of the woman whose sadness appears to be causing her to malfunction, Barbie initially assumes Sasha’s teen angst is to blame. Instead, Barbie discovers it’s Gloria’s loneliness and isolation from her husband and her daughter that has caused the rift between reality and fantasy.
In my opinion, watching Gloria and Sasha follow Barbie back to Barbieland and renew their relationship was my favourite part of the movie, made even more special by the fact that I was watching it with my own mum. We loved the speech that Gloria makes near the end of the film, and we were talking about it for days following our first watch. Both of us were so pleasantly surprised at the brave and confrontational tone it takes (although knowing Gerwig’s previous work, this was hardly a new move from her). I highly recommend watching and talking about Barbie with your mum!

Edited by: Gabrielle Estorninho

Hey! I'm Charlotte, a first-year English Literature with Theatre Studies student at the University of Leeds!