Men hating Barbie is ‘sadly predictable’, but they should still go see it

Multitude of reviews for much-hyped 'Barbie'

With mainly dazzling reviews, a 90 per cent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and an opening weekend that smashed box office records, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie has been celebrated.

While the plot of the movie was mainly kept under wraps until its release, with Gerwig at the helm it probably shouldn’t have shocked anyone that Barbie was going to have some feminist undertones.

Predictably, those who like to bash anything remotely “woke” are not impressed by the film, namely conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who claims the movie’s success comes down to having the right politics.

You can make one of the world’s most boring, crappy comedies, you can waste an extraordinary amount of money and talent, you can waste some of the greatest IP ever created,” he said in his review.

“But as long as you slather it in a bunch of warmed-over Gloria Steinem nonsense, the critics will just salivate over you.”

Some conservatives aren’t too happy with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

In a 43-minute video, he made it clear he was dragged to see the movie, and said it was the “flaming piece of dog s–t, piled atop an entire dumpster on fire, piled atop a landfill, filled with dog s–t”.

Jennifer Stokes, a senior lecturer in digital and information literacy at the University of South Australia, has a very different take on the movie and said the outrage in his video was “sadly predictable”.

“The rage is likely a cynical tactic to generate more viewership for his channel,” she told The New Daily.

“Content with stronger emotional valence draws greater attention online, so polarising content often works to grab attention. Whether we feel angry alongside him, or angry at the comments he makes, it still draws attention, which is powerful in the attention economy of the internet.”

The only thing Shapiro liked about the film was the production design, but claimed given the source material, it would be “really hard to screw that up”.

Shapiro was annoyed by the lack of clarity around what age the film is aimed at and assumes that Gerwig and her partner and co-writer Noah Baumbach couldn’t decide whether the audience should love or hate Barbie.

The movie does offer some commentary on how women are treated in the real world, but according to Shapiro, the movie seeks to show how men run everything in real life, which in his opinion, can’t be true.

I mean, Greta Gerwig is a lady, she’s making a good living off of this, Margot Robbie is playing the lead,” he argues.

“In fact, the entire cast aside from basically Ryan Gosling is women, so it seems like women are doing OK.”

Ms Stokes said this was a pretty strange claim to make.

“It is hard to look at the homicide or domestic violence statistics for women in Australia and say that women are doing OK,” she said.
“More positively, the attention Gerwig has drawn for this work highlights how few female directors have made films with [more than] $100 million funding attached.”

The right hated Barbie before it came out

Just like any movie or piece of media, Barbie isn’t for everyone and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

However, it seems some people had made up their minds about Barbie before they saw it.

Even before Barbie was released, figures from the political right were outraged that a transgender actor portrayed a Barbie. Shapiro even made a few tweets about Hari Nef’s casting as “Doctor Barbie”, one where he misgendered her.

Ironically, Mattel released a Barbie of transgender actor Laverne Cox just a few years ago.

Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk claimed the movie was “trans propaganda” before the film came out and called for a boycott.

After seeing the movie Ginger Gaetz, the wife of conservative politician Matt Gaetz, was disappointed the movie didn’t address family values.

“The 2023 Barbie movie, unfortunately, neglects to address any notion of faith or family, and tries to normalise the idea that men and women can’t collaborate positively (yuck),” she said on Twitter.

Another concern conservatives have is that Barbie might not be for children. In Australia and in the US, the movie is rated PG, so children should not be seeing this film without an adult present.

Slamming Shapiro’s rant on The View, host Whoopi Goldberg reminded people that, just like with many other movies, much of the film’s content will go over most children’s heads.

“The kids know it’s colourful and it’s Barbie. They haven’t lived through what the adults have lived through, so when they’re seeing this movie, that’s not how they’re looking at it,” Goldberg said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Does Barbie hate men?

At one point in the movie, Shapiro claims the message of the film simply boils down to men and women not being able to coexist.

“The basic sort of premise of the film, politically speaking, is that men and women are on two sides and they hate each other and literally, the only way you can have a happy world is if the women ignore the men and the men ignore the women,” he says.

Ms Stokes said it seemed as though Shapiro missed the point of the movie, including Barbie and Ken’s conversations throughout.

In the movie, Ken’s job is “beach”, while the Barbies take on dream jobs like lawyers, doctors and authors.

The movie does flip gender roles on its head and at the start of the film, in Barbieland, it’s the Kens who are oppressed, but by the end of the film there is equality in Barbieland.

Ryan Gosling’s Ken is also seen to be upset that Margot Robbie’s “Stereotypical Barbie” doesn’t return his affection, to his dismay and Shapiro’s.

Ken discovers the patriarchy

In the real world, in the movie, Ken discovers the patriarchy and tries to take over Barbieland, which Associate Professor Lucy Nicholas from Western Sydney University notes parallels men in real life finding themselves engrossed in extreme anti-feminist or misogynistic thinking.

“Having undertaken research on online anti-feminist discourses, Ken’s journey from aggrievement to masculine ‘enlightenment’ parallels themes we found in men’s rights activist spaces,” Professor Nicholas wrote.

“Radicalisation into this world is often motivated by a feeling among boys and men of being left behind by a feminist world or system that doesn’t value them.

“This then leads them to long for an imagined natural order of patriarchy where women are back in their place and men regain their entitlements.”

At the end of the day, men should still go see the film, because it’s smart and fun, Ms Stokes says.

“It is about identity play and the Kens have some amazing scenes, which encourage laughs about the patriarchy in much the same way earlier scenes of the Barbies encourage laughs about the limits of her dreamworld too,” she said.

“This movie is a fun, accessible way to reflect upon issues of gender equality.

“It is beautifully shot and a strong conversation-starter. It also highlights how complex and difficult it is to be a woman, but offers hope for change through equality.”

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