The new Barbie movie: feminism in pink?
With the new Barbie movie the most famous plastic doll in the world is making a big comeback at cinemas this summer. For months now, fuchsia and pink have been trending on social media and a major fast-food chain has even started selling burgers with pink sauce. Yet the film is supposed to question consumerism and today’s power relations. Europe’s press is highly divided about whether it succeeds.
A marketing coup for Barbie maker Mattel
The film instrumentalises feminism to cash in on it, criticises journalist and writer Johanna Adorján in the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
“Adult people, starved for cinema films without superheroes, are flocking to the cinema, giving late capitalism, which is already in high spirits, another huge laugh. What was it we sad consumers were promised: that ‘Barbie’ would take a satirical look at consumerism, feminism and toxic masculinity? Well congratulations to Mattel’s marketing department, it really couldn’t have gone any better.”
Times are changing
Ana Requena Aguilar, editor for gender issues at eldiario.es, delights in the progressiveness of the film:
“Only with a story like this could legions of women and girls reconcile with Barbie. ... There is a new common sense that has its roots in feminism and the LGTBI movement. It shapes our ideas about the world we want to live in. ... Barbie can’t be the same as she was in the 1980s because we’re not the same. Ken can’t be the same, and on his quest for a new identity he alternates between authoritarianism and doubt. ... This sounds familiar.”
A manifesto for emancipation
Novaya Gazeta Europa is full of praise for it says is as engaging as it is hilarious:
“In all truth it can be said that in no other mainstream comedy in the entire history of cinema does the word ‘patriarchy’ come up so often. ‘Barbie’ is not just a comedy but a manifesto for equality, a humorous guide to gender issues and a source of quotes and memes for years to come. The bluntness and poignancy with which Gerwig and [screenwriter] Baumbach expose the inequalities of today make you grin and bang your head against the plastic waves of the dream beach.”
Back to square one
Commenting in Newsweek Polska, columnist Dominika Olszyna sees the Barbie film’s alleged feminism as just a big PR stunt:
“An abundance of pink has returned to the shelves, just like when I was a child, only now in stores where adults shop. The Barbie film is supposed to make us reassess what has happened with feminism, the expectations of women and men and consumerism, but in fact we’re back to square one. The only conclusion we can draw is that even the perfect doll can have a hard time, and that life is complicated. Barbie is in crisis, Ken is in crisis, we are all in crisis. To lift our mood, we can buy something pink.”