'Barbie' Is a Major Box Office Smash, but It's Also Facing a Wave of Backlash


Jul. 24 2023, Published 10:48 a.m. ET

Margot Robbie as Barbie driving through Barbieland.
Source: Warner Bros.

Following a weekend in which Barbie scored the biggest opening of any movie in 2023, it's fair to say that there are plenty of people who love the movie. Barbie earned a rock-solid score of "A" from CinemaScore as well as a pretty favorable set of reviews from critics. However, there's a contingent that's less than thrilled by the movie's tremendous success.

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These people, some who have seen the movie and some who haven't, are arguing that the movie is objectionable. Why do some people hate the Barbie movie? Here's what we know.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in a car driving away from Barbieland.
Source: Warner Bros.
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Why do people hate the 'Barbie' movie?

The main focus of critique against Barbie is that the movie is "woke" and is specifically anti-male. Those who have criticized the movie have done so by claiming that its invocation of the patriarchy and treatment of Ryan Gosling's Ken in particular are reasons the movie should be boycotted.

Right-wing personality Ben Shapiro even recorded a 40-minute video designed to tear the movie apart.

Whether that video actually achieves its stated aim is for viewers to decide, but what's clear is that there is a contingent of mostly right-wing men who find the movie's take on masculinity and feminism to be objectionable.

This is true among people who have seen the film, and also among some who have not. The movie certainly takes on questions of patriarchy head-on, but its plot is a little more nuanced than some have acknowledged.

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Are the allegations against the 'Barbie' movie true?

Spoiler alert: The rest of this article contains spoilers for Barbie.

Barbie certainly invokes patriarchy frequently. The movie's central thrust is Barbie and Ken's journey to the real world, where Barbie meets the woman who is playing with her, and Ken discovers patriarchy and decides to take it back to Barbieland to allow the Kens to take over.

The third act involves the Barbies tricking the Kens into battling one another, which allows the Barbies to regain control of Barbieland. The movie's conclusion, though, is not that men are evil or that women deserve to dominate over them. Instead, it suggests that the real goal should be equality, even if that goal is hard to achieve in both Barbieland and the real world.

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Patriarchy certainly has some destructive effects on Barbieland, but the movie also spends plenty of time acknowledging that the previous paradigm in Barbieland, where the Kens had no power, also wasn't fair.

The ultimate resolution is to inch toward equality, with the Barbies still taking on more power, at least for the time being.

One of the overarching points of the movie, though, is that patriarchy is harmful not just to the women who have to be subservient to men, but also to the men who play the dominant role in that system. The Kens can never really be themselves under this system. They can only play a prescribed role.

Barbie certainly spends plenty of time on issues of gender, but it may not be as anti-man as some would have you think.

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