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ryan gosling and margot robbie in barbie movie
ryan gosling and margot robbie in barbie movie
Warner Bros
Culture > Entertainment

So you didn’t like the Barbie movie? Here’s why. 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mizzou chapter.

If you haven’t seen Warner Bros. highest grossing film, you’re missing out on a storyline that makes you think. 

The Barbie movie has made approximately $1.3 billion at the box office, $155 million of which was made just in the opening weekend. The film is also currently the highest grossing female-directed film, aligning well with the feminist theme throughout the movie. 

After Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, starts experiencing abnormal feelings and bad luck in Barbie Land, she and Ken go on a quest to the real world. Once they arrive, Barbie learns about the reality of what being a woman is like and Ken learns about the patriarchy. Ken takes his knowledge back to Barbie Land creating his own patriarchy-inspired “Kendom.”Barbie on the other hand is left to try and return Barbie Land back to normal—or some version of that. 

The film challenges some viewers to be uncomfortable as it digs at how society is run and the role men and women play in it. With uncomfortability, comes controversy. 

Barbie in the Real World 

Barbie travels to the real world only to realize Barbie is not idolized like she thought. Mattel, Greta Gerwig and Warner Bros. try to highlight how the original purpose of Barbie was to help young girls and women in society feel empowered to do anything. To hold power in businesses and government, to be doctors and lawyers, to be a caregiver if they want to, to own who they are and what they want to be. In Barbie Land, women are strong, intelligent, and beautiful. Anything is possible there. 

But the high standards of Barbie Land aren’t realistic. Part of the real world’s expectations and norms were shaped by Barbie, but not in the positive ways they intended. Barbie has received backlash for emphasizing an “ideal” body image and characterizing women based on looks rather than intelligence. 

The Barbie movie aimed to strike down some of those mistakes made by the company while acknowledging that Barbie’s original goal is not as easily doable in the patriarchal environment of the real world today. However, the topic turned out to be hard to grasp for some people. 

The Anti-Man Agenda

Some argue that the movie was anti-man and an example of “toxic femininity.” 

In Barbie Land traditional gender roles are swapped. Barbie land is a matriarchy. All occupations are held by women (Barbies), while the Kens are simply there as companions swooning over Barbie and looking pretty in a female-dominated world. 

As Time Magazine explained, Ryan Gosling’s Ken character “[offered] a searing social commentary on modern man’s insecurities dressed up in bubble-gum pink.” Hit them where it hurts: insecurities of not being “manly” enough in a patriarchal society. 

Many political commentators and public figures found Ken’s portrayal emasculating, taunting and embarrassing. The negative feedback did not come just from men either. The wife of Republican Sen. of Florida, Matt Gaetz was also disappointed by the film. Ginger Gaetz tweeted, “Disappointingly low T from Ken” in reference to his less “masculine” way of dressing and acting. 

Ryan Gosling’s Ken character faces changes and discoveries throughout the film just like Barbie. In the real world, Ken learned the way he was being treated in Barbie Land was less than what he was worth, alluding to a phrase to come later in the film: “I am Kenough.” Allowing audiences to see how men are emotional beings just like women and that it is not an emasculating trait.

In a way, Ken was an outlet for Gerwig to represent struggles women have faced throughout history– and still do to this day. Instead of being recognized for intelligence and strength they are praised as motherly figures and their looks. 

Ken sees the power men hold in the real world and desires the same forBarbie Land. The real world and Barbie Land are parallel worlds and by the end of the film prove that neither societal structure is fair and truly strong. 

Political commentator Ben Shapiro claims Barbie was one of the worst movies he’s ever seen, as he argued about target audience, inconsistency, politics and more in a 43 minute long video review he released in July. The biggest critique of all was his interpretation of the “anti-man” and feminist theme. 

He said, “The basic premise of the film politically speaking is that men and women are on two sides and divided and they hate each other. And literally the only way you can have a happy world is if the women ignore the men and the men ignore the women.” 

The movie structures itself off of sarcasm, irony, symbolism and parallels. Barbie Land represents the real world in a parallel universe. Producers overemphasized the patriarchy of the real world and the matriarchy of Barbie Land to get their point across. Kens in Barbie Land are portrayed as real-world women, and vice versa. Neither societal structure actually works fairly. Separating women and men is not a solution suggested at all, it’s a pointing out of what does not work. 

Shapiro interprets the swapping of roles differently, as he stated, “In the real world the patriarchy rules. Men are really bad. Women need to separate off and hate men in order to be unblinded to patriarchy and then they can overthrow the patriarchy and create paradise. That’s the thesis of the film.” Contrary to his belief, the film actually suggests that the world will not work as a matriarchy just as much as it doesn’t work as a patriarchy. 

Who Runs the World?

At the end of the film, the narrator, voiced by Helen Mirren, cheekily says “Well, the Kens have to start somewhere. And maybe one day the Kens will have as much power and influence in Barbie Land as women have in the real world.” Women have slowly climbed a ladder in society, but there are still many steps left to go… This is the message Barbie tries to draw light to. 

While doors have been opened for women today, there is deep-rooted oppression that needs to be unlearned as the real world is still dominated by men. Not all men act in the ways that the Barbie movie portrayed, yet it shouldn’t have to be something women have to worry about in the first place. The way Ken was treated in the film that certain audiences hated so much, is in fact how women are treated today. 

New York Times spoke with director, Greta Gerwig where she explained, “My hope for the movie is that it’s an invitation for everybody to be part of the party and let go of the things that aren’t necessarily serving us as either women or men. I hope that in all of that passion, if they see it or engage with it, it can give them some of the relief that it gave other people.”

There are things in our world today that do not benefit men or women, such as patriarchal beliefs—roles women should or shouldn’t play, how men should or shouldn’t act, who society should or shouldn’t be “run” by. The feminist movie wasn’t anti-man but rather pro-equity. 

Whether you hated it or loved it, the Barbie movie has successfully sparked conversation, the first step to active change. 

Ellie Weien

Mizzou '26

My name is Ellie Weien and I am studying Strategic Communications at the MU J-School. I have always loved the outdoors, hiking and camping as I grew up in Colorado. But aside from nature I grew up loving rom-coms, reality tv, music and fashion. I'm excited to be writing for Her Campus to highlight and share topics I find interesting and enjoy.