Strongest Real World Messages in Barbie

Barbie has been one of the most promoted movies of 2023. With Great Gerwig directing the live-action Barbie movie, many fans of the classic toy believed that the movie would hit a home run. Along with a stellar cast including Margot Robbie as Barbie herself and Ryan Gosling as Ken, Gerwig launched a record-breaking film.



On the surface, the film looked like a magical departure that likely hinged on the nostalgia for Barbie and the controversy surrounding her. Barbie has meant many things to many groups of people, both positive and negative. The film has received a similar divide. Many audiences love the film, while some ridicule it for being hollow, superficial, or pitting men against women. In reality, Barbie hopes its audience will leave feeling entertained, but also thinking about some important realizations of life.

Updated by Alexandra Locke on January 21, 2024: The Barbie movie was a summer sensation that captured the world’s attention. It has many critics, but there’s no denying that it has a lot of important messages throughout its runtime. Since CBR’s standards have recently changed, this article has been updated to reflect those changes and add even more important messages from Barbie.


15 Barbie Can Be Anything

Barbie was created by Ruth Handler in the 1950s. Before Barbie, young girls played with baby dolls, which essentially reinforced the idea that they could only garner joy from being a mother. Barbie was originally made to change the way young girls played with dolls, so they would have experiences that distanced themselves from motherhood.

Originally, Barbie was just a tall, beautiful blonde woman in a bathing suit, but she quickly grew into a massive line launched by Mattel. While Barbie did gain a love interest in Ken, she never got married and she never had children. More than that, Barbie became an astronaut, a doctor, and even the president. Barbie could be anything because Barbie was meant to be every woman. She was designed to empower young women to be independent and strong.

14 Barbie Has No Ending

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In the film, Barbie decides to leave the safety of her home with the other Barbies to become human. She takes destiny into her own hands and propels herself forward into a world of uncertainty, so she can discover who she wants to be. The ending of Barbie isn’t the end of Barbie’s story and that’s because Barbie has no ending.

Barbie doesn’t get married or settle down to have kids. She doesn’t grow old. She doesn’t stare down her own mortality because Barbie is designed to continue growing and adapting. Barbie keeps changing as the world changes around her, so she can always be a message of hope and inspiration.

13 Misogyny Tainted Barbie’s Image

Margot Robbie as Barbie on a background of all pink “Barbie” movie posters

Barbie was always meant to be a toy that empowered women to be strong and believe that they could be anything they wanted. Unfortunately, Barbie has been criticized over the years for not being inclusive enough. She’s been accused of reinforcing unrealistic beauty standards and expectations that no girl can live up to.

For this reason, many girls began to hate Barbie because they believed in the lie that she was misogynistic propaganda. When Barbie enters the Real World in the Barbie movie, she’s smacked in the face with this disturbing reality. She and the other Barbies were supposed to help girls, but many women around the world hated Barbie because they misinterpreted her meaning.

12 Ken Can’t Exist Without Barbie

Ken spends most of his existence trying to get Barbie’s attention, earn her approval, and win her love. In Barbie Land, Ken serves no other purpose. It’s always Barbie and Ken, but Barbie can exist without Ken. There is no “just Ken”.

This emphasized how toxic it is to simply exist for the sake of another person. Oftentimes, people become so obsessive about their relationship that they no longer know how to function as a single person. In this way, Barbie warns against the very real possibility of becoming someone else’s accessory.

11 Barbie Being Perfect Isn’t Enough

Margot Robbie's Barbie takes the place of the black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Barbie is supposed to be perfect. She looks flawless, and she can do anything. Even that perfection, however, isn’t enough. The second that Barbie steps into the real world and starts seeing the complex and often extremely negative and even harmful ways of life, she begins feeling emotions she’s never experienced before.

Despite literally being made to be perfect, even she fails to live up to the expectations put on women. Gloria delivers a long monologue about how difficult being a woman is and what rules need to be followed to get people to like you. Seeing even a literally perfect doll fail to meet the criteria puts into perspective how difficult navigating the world as a woman actually is.

10 Complacency Guarantees Problems Will Remain

Kate McKinnon portrays the role of Weird Barbie holding a high heel and a Birkenstock in the live-action movie.

Of the many messages in Barbie, one of the strongest focuses on taking action. When Barbie starts to experience negative feelings and physical changes, Weird Barbie offers her the choice to put a bandaid on the situation and stay in Barbie Land or travel to the Real World to fix the root of the problem.

Barbie, as a lot of people would have, chooses the easier solution, but Weird Barbie reveals that it isn’t possible. She just wanted to give Barbie the illusion of choice. If Barbie had remained in Barbie Land, she would have become more and more dissatisfied with her life. But by taking action (even if it was forced) Barbie helps Sasha and Gloria and finds ways to deal with problems she previously didn’t have the tools for. Barbie calls for everyone to take action to inspire change, because if people are complacent, nothing will ever change and the same issues will persist.

9 Ideas Can Live Forever

Issa Rae as President Barbie on a Barbie movie poster

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The woman who invented Barbie, Ruth Handler, died in 2002. She named the doll Barbie after her daughter, Barbara Handler. There were many reasons for making Barbie the way that she was. Barbie is strong, independent, and fulfills many different roles in society, some powerful, and some common.

No matter how many times Barbie has changed, though, she has survived for over 60 years. While Ruth may be long gone, her legacy has lived on. Barbie was designed to live forever. Ideas are powerful enough to change the world and ideas are the closest thing humans will ever come to immortality because they can last forever.

8 Everyone Has Value

America Ferrera looks shocked while driving as Gloria in Barbie.

Throughout the Barbie movie, many extraordinary Barbies make appearances. The audience meets President Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, Surgeon Barbie, and many other fantastic and high-achieving Barbies. The film, however, decides to focus on Stereotypical Barbie for a very important reason.

Although the main Barbie is beautiful and physically “flawless”, she doesn’t have a specific job or any noteworthy talents. That doesn’t stop her from not only inspiring Gloria, who owns her real-world doll counterpart but also saving all the Barbies from the Patriarchy. It’s Stereotypical Barbie (who is currently broken), Gloria, her angsty teenage daughter, Sasha, Weird Barbie, and several other malfunctioning Barbies that save Barbie Land. The film puts a lot of emphasis on just being true to one’s self. Even “ordinary” people are capable of changing the world. They don’t need to be extraordinary to be valuable.

When Barbie returns to a Patriarchal Barbie Land, she initially feels powerless to fix the problem. Thankfully, Allen, Weird Barbie, Sasha, Gloria, and a lot of unpopular Barbies are there to help get her back on her feet. Together the Barbies (and Allen) band together to break the Kens’ spell on the other Barbies and take back Barbie Land.

Without help, Barbie would never have overcome Ken and his Patriarchy. A community of support is vital in any situation, but especially in one that seems hopeless. Minds and hands can come together to overcome innumerable situations if they work together.

6 People Don’t Need Romance

Barbie and Ken don Cowboy and Cowgirl costumes

Modern society puts a lot of pressure on the idea of romance. By a certain age, it’s expected that people want to get married and maybe start having children. This expectation exists for everyone, though there is noticeably more of an expectation for women to marry and have kids.

The Barbie movie not only talks about the importance of being able to be happy on one’s own, but it also ends with Barbie and Ken going their separate ways. They can be friends without being romantically inclined. People don’t need romance to have fulfilling lives and this movie shows that off perfectly. Sometimes, it’s better to be single.

5 Adults Can Be Unsure Of Their Desires

By a certain age, adults are expected to have everything figured out. They’re expected to grow up, have a stable job, and make a life for themselves. Life, however, is hard. Things don’t always go the way people want. Sometimes, adults are forced to settle to make ends meet. Other times, what once brought them joy no longer does.

Ultimately, the Barbie movie is a story of self-discovery. People are complex and go through transition periods throughout their lives where they don’t know what they want, or they don’t know what to do. Barbie makes it a point to say that this is a normal thing that people experience, and it’s okay not to know what they want. Life is about learning and growing.

4 Change Is Inevitable

Rhea Perlman plays Ruth Handler in Barbie

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Barbie says many times that she doesn’t want anything to change and that she never asked for any of this. She’s forced on a journey to the real world to discover why she’s malfunctioning by helping the girl who owns her, but she really doesn’t want to.

There are many reasons that Barbie has to go on this reluctant journey. Among them is the need for change. Many people fear change. They want things to stay exactly the same as they are because they’re comfortable, but the world is forever changing. People need to grow and adapt with the world, or they’ll be lost in a rut.

3 Toxic Masculinity & Toxic Femininity

A scene from 2023's Barbie shows Ken holding roller skates while Barbie drives

After visiting the real world and seeing that it caters more to men than it does to women, Ken finally sees a place where he might be appreciated. Not only is he handsome, which gains him positive attention from both men and women, but he’s the stereotypical attractive guy who would be welcome anywhere. Because he has such a positive experience, he begins researching the Patriarchy and the concepts behind men ruling the world.

Ken then takes these ideas back to Barbie Land to tell all the other Kens about it in hopes that they can take over. This display of toxic masculinity destroys Barbie Land in a matter of days. That being said, the reverse wasn’t much better. Yes, the Barbies of Barbie Land were thriving, but the Kens felt repressed and insignificant, much like women often do in the real world. Reversing the world’s current problems isn’t the answer to true equality and freedom.

2 Insecurity Can Destroy People

Ryan Gosling sitting on bed in Barbie shirtless

The Barbie movie explores Barbie, Ken, and Gloria’s stories as they face their own struggles and self-doubts. These insecurities lead to Gloria hating her life, Barbie giving up when she sees no solutions, and Ken actively introducing the Patriarchy to Barbie Land, which quickly destroys everything.

The power that insecurity has over people who battle with it can be suffocating. It can make even the kindest and most honest person do terrible things to themselves or others. That said, overcoming that insecurity can make a person more powerful than they were before. Insecurity is a monumental force that can be detrimental to people who struggle with it, but beating it can also be a breath of new life.

1 Womanhood Is Complicated

Womanhood is complicated. Nowhere is that more apparent than when Gloria gives an impassioned speech about what it means to be a woman. Now more than ever, women are constantly being told contradicting things regarding almost every aspect of their lives. Even when people are trying to empower women, it can sometimes have the opposite effect based on a woman’s experiences.

The reality is that womanhood (and manhood too) has no right answer. Like most things in life, womanhood feels different to everyone, and the best thing any woman can do is to figure out what is right for them and stay true to their convictions.

Barbie Film Poster

Barbie

Release Date
July 21, 2023

Director
Greta Gerwig

Cast
Margot Robbie , Ryan Gosling , Ariana Greenblatt , Helen Mirren

Runtime
114 minutes

Main Genre
Adventure

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