93 fellow stars.
Well I watched it. The big movie that everyone is talking about bringing waves of pink into your local movie theater. I looked very out of place compared to my peers, wearing nothing but black without even a splash of pink anywhere, as is my want to do. I didn’t do that to make some kind half-assed statement. It’s just how I usually dress and I don’t think I even own anything pink that still fits.
It was very gender essentialist. Absolutely no trans or non-binary representation at all. The feminism was definitely there but in a very brain dead sort of way. If this had come out in the early 00s it may have been more meaningful but these days it just felt very paint by numbers. Lots of fan service; they represent the toys in a very literal way which gave the little girl in me (who didn’t really get to be) a smile. Overall it was just more forgettable than anything else.
So the Barrie movie opens with a parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was an odd choice given the target audience. I’m pretty sure that went over the heads of most of the audience. Then it was a silly little bit about Barbie having an imaginary perfect world, except not that perfect because the men were taken for granted and got ignored by the women. Then Barbie starts having dark thoughts like thinking about death, as well as physical symptoms like her doll high heel feet flattened to be more like regular humans. Etc She goes to “weird Barbie” who tells her that the reason this is happening is because the girl playing with her doll is sad. So then she pulls out a matrix parody with a high heel shoe and a more normal pair of sandals. Except Barbie picks the heel- the blue pill, but weird Barbie doesn’t let her pick that and sends her off to the real world to find that girl and make her happy. Ken, having this far been most ignored by Barbie despite his many attempts to romance her, stows away in her car. At some point she finds him and lets him come along. Then when they get to the real world they split up and Barbie goes to find the girl and Ken goes to the library. The girl turns out to not be the one who was playing with her sad, it was her mom. Ken learns about how male dominated this world is yet completely misinterprets it and gets absolutely none of the subtly. He goes around town demanding to do “man jobs” only to be told he doesn’t have the qualifications to actually do said jobs. Then, frustrated he goes back to Barbie Land with a book on patriarchy. He turns out m Barbie Land into the Kendom and makes it all about the men without any subtlety at all. Then Barbie ends up going back to Barbie Land on her own with the mom and her daughter. When they get there they find out what the Kens has been up to and are horrified. All the other Barbies were essentially brainwashed to be maids at ever beck and call of the Kens. Alan, the other male doll in the line that gets ignored by the Kens decides he wants to help them take back Barbie Land. They find out that talking about how hard it can be to be a woman in the real world and somehow that breaks them out of the trance in a way that’s never explained. After they have all the Barbies back on their side, they each go to a Ken and pretend to be wanting to just go on a date with them, then they switch Kens to make them jealous. The Kens have a very cheesey war on the beach while the Barbies take the Barbie Land government back over for the Barbies and Allen. Then the Kens realize what happened but instead of being mad they’re just confused. Then Ken talks to Barbie about how it actually sucks to be a Ken because they’re essentially defined by their Barbie. Barbie is sympathetic and Ken misreads it as romance and tries to kiss her. She declines and tells him to figure out who he is for himself and stop identifying his life by Barbie and just be himself for himself. Then the creator of Barbie meets them and she tells Barbie she created her to be full of potential and how she was based on her daughter Barbara. They have a little paint by numbers dialogue about how being a human sucks and she’ll have to get old and die if she decides to become human. Barbie accepts those terms. Then the Moon and daughter drop her off at a place and she goes in to the front desk and refers to herself as Barbara with the creator’s last name (I forgot what it was) and they ask why she’s there and she says she’s there to see her gynaecologist. Then the movie ends while the credits show off the dolls from the movie.
So basically the plot is “being a woman sucks” but also “don’t forget about the men.” I don’t know how any of the headlines I’ve seen about it make any sense what so ever in light of the actual movie. Like it was subtle but the whole sequence of Ken trying to do jobs in the real world and being denied for not having the credentials was super important to understand his motivations and interpretation but also the message. Yeah men have a lot of privilege but they also still have to work really hard to get there. He goes back to Barbie Land to realize his patriarchal Ken utopia because nobody needs any credentials there to do any job. He explicitly states that to Barbie.
Like he also admitted he didn’t actually care about running the world as a Ken world and he actually didn’t like doing that part of it, he just wanted to matter. He wanted to be important. So if someone gets an anti-men message from it they either haven’t actually seen the film, or are too stupid to pick on the barely even subtle Ken story. The message of the film boils down to “Yeah there’s a lot of male privilege in the world today but also we need to remember to include them in our feminism or were doing them and ourselves a disservice”
But they completely left out including LGBTQIA people at all. At one point in the theater, I had an ADHD moment of impulsivity and I actually said that out loud. “Where’s trans Barbie?”
…and you know what? The more I think about it the more the damn movie starts to feel pretty TERFy. They depicted the most stereotypical gender essentialist world they possibly could and didn’t even bother to lampshade the lack of LGBTQIA representation*.
Saying X thing is not ladylike is a very common thing for a girl to hear constantly growing up. That’s why men tend to see women as sort of enigmatic and hard to read, and why women have so many expectations that aren’t directly expressed; they’re raised to think just being direct and saying what they mean around men isn’t ok. It’s a huge problem in marriages these days from what I hear but I digress.
Little girls don’t know any better than to take that message to heart and then they grow up to raise girls the same way because that’s how they were taught. It’s also why the pink and blue aisles even exist the way they do; little boys are forbidden anything that isn’t considered boy enough, while girls are restricted in the same way for their gender. If we did away with sorting toys by gender, and stop putting that kind of arbitrary barrier up, I’m sure you’d see a lot not boys playing with dolls and dressing up and whatnot, and girls into cars and whatnot, assuming parents didn’t get in the way. Gender essentialism is stupid. The real world doesn’t work like that and the illusion that it does isn’t caused by biology but by strict control, from parents, from bullying, by systemic inequality, and from violence. Currently in a lot of places it’s common practice for a doctor to just look at the baby’s genitals and decide which category to put them in and if there’s any ambiguity, which there is way more often than you know, they mutilate the baby to which ever they think is the more dominant at that time. They make them look “normal”. And usually they don’t even tell the parents they did it out of fear the parents would treat the child different for having been born hermaphroditic. There are documented cases of this ruining their lives as they grow up but nobody’s really talking about it or doing anything about it. And it’s speculated that a goodly number of trans people were babies who the doctor picked the wrong one. And there’s one really well documented case which is a big part of why trans healthcare is what it is. It’s a big part of why the idea that gender identity being a choice has been rejected in the medical community, and a big part of why they stopped trying in vein to fix dysphoria with therapy (it didn’t work). It’s also part of why I think circumcision on a child should be a felony, not a common practice but I digress. This boy was born as a typical male child with unambitious genitalia. Then they botched his circumcision in a big way. The doctor, probably thinking himself clever for thinking it, decided to just make this baby boy into a baby girl with impromptu surgery. So then the kid was raised in the typical way for girls and he was never told any of this, but the older he got the more he objected to being made to be a girl. Ultimately it got bad enough that they took him to a different doctor who did his best at corrective surgery. The boy then grew up to be a mostly normal man after that. That case was so well documented and was accidentally perfect proof that their idea of what gender is was absolutely wrong. Going from that, trans people saying they’re actually what their current gender is isn’t what they’re being forced to be, it’s not a big leap to say hey maybe they know what they’re talking about and actually know more about themselves than you can ever know, so they’re allowed to transition. Of course now years later our understanding of what makes someone trans has expanded, like that brain scan thing. But thinking of that boy who was forced to be a girl due to a botched circumcision, imagining after the correction surgery, a girl he’s interested in turns him down saying his medical condition “wasn’t her type”. Think of how awful that was for her to say. Think about how horrible he would feel after that kind of rejection. That’s exactly what the trans experience is. All of us grew up knowing something was wrong, that the gender we’ve been assigned isn’t the one we actually are. There’s a lot of reasons why some people take longer to come out and seek care then others and each is an individual situation, but we have one experience in common; gender dysphoria. When I look at a woman in a leotard dancing or doing gymnastics, know what goes through my mind? “You’ll never be like her, even if you get the surgery, you’ll be at best a facsimile of what she has. She was born with it and takes it for granted. She doesn’t know how lucky she is to be born cis. I might as well give up. I’ll never be the woman I was supposed to be. I should just kill myself.” And then we have society, which treats us horribly, like less than human.
There are literally social media groups that exist just to make trans lives harder. There’s people trying to pass laws against us every fucking day. There’s people who go out of their way to kill trans people, and worse – they often get off with a slap on the wrist because of something called the “trans panic defense” It’s horrible but it’s something we always have to be worried about. Recently there was a trans high school girl who got popular on TikTok advocating for trans rights. She was murdered in a public park in broad daylight by two of her fellow students. We get rejected by family, we’re discriminated against for employment. We have excessively expensive medical care on top of anything else we have going on. We have a high suicide rate, which means we lose friends all the time and there’s nothing we can do. And it’s worse for people who don’t have passing privilege. They’re often assaulted in public. And even worse than that, there’s the “trans broken arm syndrome” where medical professionals will tell you that whatever problem you’re having is because you’re on hormone treatment no matter if that’s actually relevant or not. It got its name from an incident when someone went into the ER for a broken arm and was told her problem was her hormones. Like how does that make any kind of sense!? Her hormone treatment didn’t break her arm you idiot. There’s another recent case when the medical workers just refused to treat a trans woman on the grounds that she was trans and they just let her die right in front of them. Now Florida is trying to pass a law to make that legal. There’s no upside. There’s no winning. There’s just pain, and sadness, and loss, and abuse, and expenses, and poverty, and other things I can’t bring myself to type out.
*Note: Apparently Doctor Barbie is played by a trans woman but I didn’t know that at the time of this writing. Also there’s a Laverne Cox Barbie apparently as well which I also didn’t know about. However, the way I’m looking at it is a little girl isn’t gonna know all that, she’s gonna know her dolls and she’s gonna know what’s in the movie itself. If it’s not part of the movie itself then it may as well not exist. If a little trans girl watched it, she wouldn’t be like oh Doctor Barbie is like me, because there’s nothing in the context of the film to let you know the actor is trans. She’s just gonna see another cishet pretty face.