by Rob DiCristino
“Does anyone ever think about death?” asks Barbie (Margot Robbie), bringing an abrupt halt to one of the impromptu dance parties that make life in the aptly-named “Barbie Land” so whimsically magical. They don’t, she discovers. Not once. Not ever. Actually, despite their wide range of career opportunities and extracurricular pursuits — the local Dreamhouses are a densely-populated cornucopia of chefs, doctors, Supreme Court Justices, pop stars, astrophysicists, and Ken (Ryan Gosling), whose profession is defined simply as “beach” — the plastic denizens of Barbie Land don’t seem to have much of anything on their minds at all. Every day is the best day ever, isn’t it? Why would they busy themselves with existential purpose when there are volleyball matches to be played and glittered sports cars to be driven? Barbie Land is an ideal, a universe in which women are celebrated for their agency and beauty in equal measure. Here, our Barbie is in complete control of her perfect life. What more could a woman possibly ask for?
And so goes Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a predictably sharp and often hilarious satire that celebrates the cultural ubiquity of Mattel’s flagship franchise while directly confronting the ways it has crippled feminism, promoted conspicuous consumption, and intentionally reinforced a patriarchal model of society in which women are literal accessories to the men who hold all the real power. Co-writers Gerwig and Noah Baumbach are gleeful and ruthless in their assault, presenting a heroine who has been so numbed by opulent privilege that the mere suggestion that she may, in fact, be bad for women — outlined in a ferocious tirade from tween Sasha — sends her spiraling even further into crisis. An already precarious situation is complicated when Ken, who joins Barbie on her adventure because he lacks any semblance of identity without her, discovers a world that blindly empowers men regardless of their abilities. He, in turn, transforms Barbie Land into his Kendom, where men — and horses, apparently — are in charge.
Barbie hits theaters on Friday, July 21st.