The Barbie Movie & how it influenced Conversation about Gender Roles

Issue 23: January 31, 2024

The Barbie movie has become Warner Bros highest grossing worldwide release of all time. It brought close to $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office and became one of the only female-dominated movies among the top-grossing films of all time. Even without these statistics, it can easily be said by many that Barbie was one of the most popular movies of 2023, and many would call it the movie of the summer.

For those who have somehow still not seen Barbie, the movie emphasized what the Barbie doll has been pushing for decades: that women can do all the same jobs that men can do. It included themes of feminism, female empowerment, and the journey to self-discovery. As a result, Barbie has become extremely relatable to women everywhere. It has had a large impact on men as well, as some have stated they have come to further understand women’s struggles in society because of the movie’s impact. According to a survey conducted by Resume Builder, 53% of viewers say Barbie improved their opinion of women in the workplace.

Some have viewed the movie as anti-men because of its portrayal of toxic masculinity. Others believe it showed an accurate portrayal of men and women being victims of the patriarchy, with the purpose of encouraging men to reimagine their masculinity. I interviewed Dr. Jori Sechrist, a Sociology Professor here at McMurry. She and I discussed the patriarchy and its effect on men. “There hasn’t been a shift in expectations for men in the same way there has been a shift in expectations for women,” Sechrist said. “Women can achieve everything that men can, but men are still restricted from moving into feminine areas. Like men who want to be a single dad, as in not having a partner but want children, is seen as very problematic. That to me is where patriarchal thought is really problematic for men as much as it is for women. It keeps men from realizing their full potential, too.”

We also discussed how society views masculinity and common stereotypes that men have. Sechist said, “I think Barbie did a good job illustrating this part. The Ken doll not being able to realize his individuality and potential illustrates how contemporary masculinity boxes men into this little tiny box that doesn’t really allow them much flexibility.”

It was very shocking to many that Barbie director Greta Gerwig and actress Margot Robbie who played Barbie herself, are not nominated for the Academy Oscar Awards. Barbie did receive nominations in categories such as Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Production Design, and America Ferrera was nominated for best supporting Actress, and Ryan Gosling for Best Supporting Actor. The lack of nominations for Gerwig and Margo caused outrage over social media, and some Barbie actors spoke out. Ryan Gosling stated that “There is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no Barbie movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally-celebrated film.” Simu Liu tweeted, “Together they started a movement, touched the world and reinvigorated cinema. They deserve everything. They ARE everything.”

Many people including Sechrist were proud of them for showing support when they did not have to. She stated that, “Both of those two men have come out very much in support of Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie. I think it’s a good move. They don’t necessarily have to come out and be as forward about what they think on that.” Overall, Barbie has had an impact on people all over the world and has initiated so much conversation about gender roles in society, and ways we can grow and change. Barbie encourages men and women to disregard gender stereotypes and society’s expectations about who they should be. If you still have not seen this film, take mine and millions of others’ word that it is incredible and worth your time.