‘The first twenty minutes are so boring they’ll make you wanna leave. But then it get’s great,’ some friends told me beforehand.
I wasn’t expecting anything in particular when I went to see Barbie with a friend a couple of weeks ago. But in the first few minutes Greta Gerwig already won me over. Little girls, angry as hell, demolishing their dolls. It’s one of the scenes I will never forget. Not many things are as taboo as females and anger. And here we are watching little girls, devilishly mad, with ugly faces smashing their dolls and tea sets to pieces like wilde beasts. Gerwig couldn’t have made a better introduction on what was yet to come.
With an incredible sense of humour Gerwig makes sure Barbie not once turns moralistic, however patriarchy has never been mocked more accurately before and the message is clear, very clear: if we want a better world, things need to change.
It was not so much how Ken got only inferior jobs, was not validated in any way or allowed in Barbies space. Or how the Kens begged for just one Ken in higher parliament to which the Barbies reply that Kens can only have a lower position in court. A small step for the Kens. perhaps one day they will achieve the same rights women have in the real world.
Neither was it in the details, though all perfectly aligned, from Kens sweater ‘Kenough’ to the ‘and Ken’ on the mugshot in particular and the devaluating ways of looking at the ‘weaker’ sex, whichever that is, in general.
More important, Gerwig shows us, though she’s not the first, feminism is not the same as an anti man view on life, which remains a hard to eliminate misconception. True feminism means nothing more (and nothing less) than equality, in respect, rights, validation and opportunities. It’s a subversive misunderstanding that feminism would only harm men in favour of women. In the long run patriarchy disadvantages all of us, not only women.
But the main message unfolds when Barbie gets to choose to go back to her old life where her heels are still high, everything is perfect and every day is the best day ever, representing our urge to leave things as they are, maintaining the status quo, or know the truth about the universe. ‘You have to want to know,’ Crazy Barbie responds when Barbie chooses her old life over knowing the truth. Ever since, this sentence has been running through my mind ‘You have to want to know’.
You have to want to know what it’s like if things would be different. If things are not as obvious as they seem. For some reason there is a tendency to believe that change will make things worse. If things change how will that affect us and the people around us? You have to want to know who you are now to know who you are in a different world. Who you are does not depend on your other half, or your job or the things you do. But you have to want to know who you are apart from everyone else and the world around you, when roles and prejudices are not self-evident any longer. The entire movie is basically about existentialism interacting with patriarchy.
What Gerwig brought us, was not a movie about a highly popular and evenly misunderstood doll, or a lame parody of the battle between the sexes as some might say, she made us watch the bankruptcy of patriarchy. Ideas live forever. But there’s got to be some way to either adjust the idea or make room for new ideas for the benefit of a world that does more justice to all.