Dickson: My take on the Barbie movie

Jul 25, 2023, 1:00 PM

The Barbie movie portrays itself as feminist... but is it?...

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ryan Gosling, left, and Margot Robbie in a scene from the "Barbie" movie. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

(Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

I’m not telling you to not see the Barbie movie. Let me just say that upfront. This is just one woman’s take on the new blockbuster.

I went to see it with my 34-year-old daughter Laurel, my two teenage sons and my husband. Laurel, who has Down Syndrome, enjoyed it. She enjoyed it just like the little girls down the row from us did. She loved the colors and smiles and music.

Most of the message went over her head.

My sons thought they were going to love it. They’re the ones (surprisingly) who asked to go see the movie. But they were not crazy about it. Especially Ethan, my 18-year-old.

“I wish I had known it was going to be so political,” he said. “Then I could have decided if I wanted to see a political movie or not.”

I have to agree with Ethan about the Barbie movie

Shortly after the opening scenes with “Hi Barbie,” and the morning routine of breakfast and floating down from her rooftop, Barbie’s director/producers started to tell us why they made the movie.

They told us. And told us. And told us again to make sure we didn’t miss it.

Women are and have always been oppressed. Men are all either stupid or bullies or manipulative or all of the above.

Men don’t understand women. Ever. Women do everything they can to get ahead — but all they get is crumbs.

I am not saying there isn’t some truth in this diatribe. Most stereotypes have some truth. That’s why they’re stereotypes.

What I’m saying is two hours of belittling men and empowering women did not leave me feeling empowered.

Win-win or go home

I am a believer in win-win. I cannot feel great about myself, my gender — my anything — if it depends on somebody else (or an entire gender) feeling bad.

If only there had been one thoughtful man, one character who was supportive and multi-dimensional. If any of the men had had a speech even a quarter as strong as actress America Ferrera’s.

“It is literally impossible to be a woman,” Ferrera’s character says. “You are so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us.”

What if Ryan Gosling’s portrayal Ken (or any of the male characters) had said: “It is so confusing to be a man. The world, and all the men and women in it, still expect me to be everything to everyone. I have to make serious money to be marriage material but not work so much that I ignore my family. I have to know my own mind but be supportive of all viewpoints. I have to like sports, but not just sports, like steak but appreciate vegans, work out enough to have a six pack but available to do 50% of everything at home. I have to know what I want and get what I want but then feel guilty that I did. I have to be everyone’s best friend but not care when you don’t like me. Can I catch a break?”

One feminist’s view

I consider myself a feminist. That is not a dirty word to me. It is one I’m proud of. I have always tried to stand up for myself, for my right to education, to career opportunities, to equal pay, to equal voice, to respect and to autonomy.

What I do not do is paint whole populations with broad strokes. All men are not oppressive. All women are not oppressed.

Are there still instances of both? Yes. I see them all the time.

But thanks to the amazing women who came before me, I am the beneficiary of what feels very close to equality in all aspects of my life.

It wasn’t always that way.

I was sexually harassed as a young woman at work, as most women my age were. I’ve been paid less, put down and dismissed for my gender in more situations than this column has room to include.

But so have men, for different reasons, in different ways.

I am ready to move on. How about you? I am ready for young girls to grow up without a chip on their shoulders, and for young men to grow up without the pressure and guilt that feels like a requirement of being male.

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Dickson: My take on the Barbie movie