Is Movie’s Barbie a Frankenstein Wannabe?

  • Post category:News / US News

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It was almost the end of the movie. On a whim, I sat there, as a young woman in my 20s, with hundreds of adult men and women (somewhat scantily) clad in pinks, sparkles, and flash to watch a sentimental journey unfold.

Several cheap laughs and a half-baked, simple plot later, it was apparent this movie, “Barbie,” was much more than a trip down memory lane.

After the Kens, the Barbies, and the CEOs could not tell “conventional Barbie” — the tall, slender, blond bombshell figured-version of Barbie that comes to mind when we think of the brand — whether she could become human, she turned to her “creator,” real-life Barbie inventor Ruth Handler.

As the lights fade, and Barbie speaks alone with Handler — a kind, elderly woman — a hushed reverence is created on screen. Pastel pinks and blues color the once-neon plastic set of the movie, and Handler takes Barbie’s hands in a style similar to Michelangelo’s fresco, and all is revealed to Barbie.

So much for living in a nonbinary society, where there is no creator, “sex” is a construct, and the term “woman” is still unknowable to those of us who are not biologists.

“Barbie,” the film, is intended to be much more than a pink plastic paradise. It praises a woman’s ability to be anything she wants, while simultaneously vomiting pink poppycock from one end of the screen to the other.

There’s a coherent, logical progression through which the director, Greta Gerwig, and her team accomplished that.

First, the definition of being “human” as presented to “conventional Barbie” is in the knowledge of death and emotion — an insidious lie and dangerous presupposition. Knowledge of death, and the ability to die, are not what make a person a human being. Similarly, human emotions are not all a human being is made of.

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While death is certainly part of life, death is not the defining component to it. While emotions are part of the human experience, they are not the human himself or herself. Human beings who are not more than their emotions cannot control themselves.

This heinous oversimplification is the presupposition that grounds the next installment of the Barbie creation story, which Gerwig picks up in the relationship between men and women.

Second, the definition of “man” is only through the “woman.” Ken only knows his place through his relationship with “conventional Barbie.”

That was perhaps the most surprising twist of the movie, given its agenda. There are characters in the film that are notably different in sexual orientation than a binary male or female role. However, this is mostly a tale of binary proportions.

Throughout the movie, Ken and the rest of his gang (also almost all named “Ken”) begin as dumb surfer-type dudes just aching for attention from their Barbie, and are eventually led astray after living in the “real world” of Los Angeles into adopting the ways of the “patriarchy.”

That means that Ken and his counterparts get obsessed with horses, saloon doors, subservient women, man caves, and other sorts of notably male accoutrements.

It is only after “conventional Barbie” and her girlfriends manipulate the dumb Ken and his friends into infighting that Barbie and her girlfriends retake Barbieland as the female-dominated, pink-high-heeled Amazonian utopia it was meant to be.

This is a utopia filled with “ordinary women” not subject to the demands of society and men who have emasculated themselves in order to become good.

The viewer needs to keep in mind as well that Barbieland was created, at the beginning of the movie, amid a desert of primitive pioneer girls who only played with baby dolls in hopes of becoming mothers, not with dolls that had the perfect female body type and were accompanied by a boy.

In addition, a small bit throughout the movie is that the “pregnant Barbie” was discontinued long ago. While the mother-daughter relationship is honored throughout the film in the human characters, the role of motherhood, and the ability of a woman to be pregnant, is notably absent.

That being said, it’s refreshing to see the culture acknowledge such a binary distinction as that of “man” and “woman”—but that is only step one. To acknowledge that there are male and female is not to have a right view of either.

The created order is a relatively simple one: Women were not created to be manipulators of men. Women were not created to be subservient to men. Men were not created to be animals in the presence of women. Men were not created to lord it over women. Man and woman both have the same Creator, and that creates the ability for a co-equal, co-dependent, symbiotic relationship teeming with role diversity, physical difference, and abiding friendship to flourish in the hearts of both.

It’s no surprise that that men and women understand themselves best when they understand each other better. That is an eternal truth. However, the film’s rewriting of male and female relationships further fuel the divide between the sexes, and the desire for dominion in both sexes.

That leads to the crowning achievement of the film, Barbie’s ability to become human.

Third, “conventional Barbie” is not subject to her creator. Gerwig took a page out of Mary Shelley’s book “Frankenstein” when she wrote this film.

Allowing “conventional Barbie” the ability to tell her maker what she will and will not be is astonishing. By some hocus-pocus, Gerwig expects the audience to think that the true monsters were the CEOs at Mattel, or the Kens who fought against each other, or the Ken who loved “conventional Barbie” a little too much—but that’s not the case.

Literature — and life — don’t work that way. The monster is always what cannot be controlled, what cannot be harnessed, inside one’s own self. In an act of celebrated rebellion, “conventional Barbie” does what modern culture celebrates: She defines herself. She has no boundaries. And she is no longer “conventional Barbie,” or even Barbie. She is now the monster: The less than lovely doll who can become human by her own sheer will. In an effort to become a hero, she is the new—albeit celebrated—Frankenstein.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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