WITH Barbie debuting at $155m in North America and $337m the world over, Greta Gerwig has clearly smashed the domestic box office record for a female director. Even though Barbie has emerged as the biggest film of the year, with many lauding its feminist themes, there have been some who continue to slam the recent Hollywood release for being ‘too woke’ and ‘anti-men’.
Billionaire Tesla owner Elon Musk is the latest to join mainly right-wing men in stating that he isn’t particularly happy with the message that the film puts out. Clearly irked with the feminist reimagining of the popular doll, Elon tweeted, “It [sic] you take a shot every time Barbie says the word “patriarchy”, you will pass out before the movie ends.”
Musk said this in response to a meme which poked fun at his decision to change Twitter’s blue bird logo to “X.”
Ben Shapiro, 39-year-old commentator, had recently set fire to Barbie dolls during a review in which he lambasted Barbie as a “woke” movie. In a 43-minute-long rant which he made live on YouTube on July 22, Ben said he watched Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer before he threw a Barbie doll into the bin, and burnt the doll along with Ken doll and a pink toy car.
In his viral video, Ben said that he wasted “two hours of my precious time, two hours I will never get back, two hours around my deathbed I will wish that I had not spent that time doing. It makes me viscerally angry”.
Ben also lambasted the movie for including a transgender character and refuted the claim that the real world shown in the film is the victim of a patriarchal mindset. During his outburst, Ben shows no qualms in branding the film as an ‘angry feminist claptrap that alienates men from women.’
Within minutes, the video went viral and many mocked him for being dressed up like Ryan Gosling’s character Ken, which could either have been intentional or coincidental.
“Dude went to go watch Barbie just to get mad lmao,” YouTuber Mutahar posted on Twitter.
Twitter troll Comfortably Smug posted: “Admit it – you hated the film because Barbie is taller than you.”
This criticism about the film being ‘anti-male’ puts forth a common misinterpretation about patriarchy.
The plot of Barbie is not at all convoluted. The Barbies, not the Kens are in charge in Barbieland. After Barbie and Ken enter the real world, Ken sees how men hold most positions of power, and brings these notions back to the Barbieland.
Ken takes over, changes the way things are done, which leads to Barbie’s crisis. Barbieland isn’t what it once was. As Ken implements the ideas he learned in the real world, matriarchal society is replaced with a patriarchal mindset and all the Barbies are pushed to lower positions. To undo the change, the Barbies trick the Kens into a massive tiff on the beach, and soon the order is restored, without making Ken weaker or stronger than he was when the film begins.
The condemnation – that the film is ‘anti-men’ – is based on a very inadequate reading of Barbie. To interpret men as bad especially when they are in charge isn’t the idea the movie puts forth. The movie also doesn’t show Ken as a figure of fun because Barbie doesn’t love him. On the contrary, the movie shows how Ken is enough as himself, and doesn’t require the support and love of Barbie. And that he has an identity outside of Barbie.
Through Ken’s journey, the viewers are given a peek into how boys lose their innocence and vulnerability when they are told that in a patriarchal society only men hold positions of social, economic and political power. We see a sudden shift in Ken when he transforms from a gentle boy into a man seduced by the patriarchy through his choice of clothes, how he acts ‘macho’ and begins to drink beer.
So clearly, Barbie isn’t anti-men, it is just anti-patriarchy.
To confuse growth with weakness is neither Greta’s intention nor her fault. To put it clearly, the movie is just a satire. But not everybody is ready to accept it.
Jack Posobiec, Human Events editor and alt-right political activist, too referred to the film as a ‘man-hating Woke propaganda fest.’ ‘They teach Barbie fans about rising up against “the patriarchy,” and Ken is portrayed as beta and borderline retarded. It’s a horrorshow,’ he tweeted.
He also shared a video clip of Ken’s I’m Just Ken song as he questions his ‘blond fragility,’ with him calling it ‘possibly the most anti-male film ever made.’
Matt Gaetz‘s his wife, Ginger too expressed her disappointment after attending a promotional event for the movie with her husband in co-ordinated, pink outfits. Ginger took to Twitter to say that the film “neglects to address any notion of faith or family, and tries to normalize the idea that men and women can’t collaborate positively (yuck).”
Rooted in real life, Barbie has resonated with the viewers because it doesn’t hate men, it just hates patriarchy. If this wasn’t the reality, the Barbies would’ve shown no inhibitions in getting rid of Kens after they took Barbieland back. Instead, both Barbie and Gerwig are compassionate towards Kens. This brings us back to the original thought – the movie is against patriarchy and the confines of the worlds that both Barbie and real women have to put up with.
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