The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Column | The ‘Barbie’ movie, unboxed

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie”(2023) lives up to social media hype
Courtesy of IMDb
Ken (Ryan Gosling) and Barbie (Margot Robbie) ride in a pink car in “Barbie” (2023)

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” is a feast for the eyes. Touted as one of two movies to watch this summer along with “Oppenheimer,” Barbie has welcomed —  and lived up to — the hype. 

Perhaps the most delightful part of the movie is that it fully commits to the bit. In Barbieland, where the movie begins, the absurdity of the doll world is embraced. 

The Barbies rule in Barbieland, a feminist utopia, believing that they have solved all problems for women in the real world. The Kens exist in relation to Barbie and have no conception of what patriarchy is. Stereotypical Barbie’s (Margot Robbie) feet remain constantly arched.

However, when Stereotypical Barbie begins to malfunction — her feet turn flat, she has cellulite and she thinks about death — she seeks help from Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon). 

Weird Barbie, in reference to Morpheus’ iconic red pill or blue pill question to Neo in “The Matrix,” offers Barbie a pink high heel in one hand and a Birkenstock in the other. 

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“You have to go to the real world,” said Weird Barbie. “You can go back to your regular life, and forget any of this ever happened. Or you can know the truth about the universe.”

And so, our reluctant protagonist embarks on her hero’s journey in search of answers, with Stereotypical Ken’s (Ryan Gosling) girly-pop attitude in tow. 

Throughout the movie’s two hour runtime, if the trailer is any indication, surprising deeply philosophical concepts are explored.

Barbie, after leaving Barbieland, is forced to contend with questions of her existence and the meaning of the Barbie brand’s legacy in the real world. 

In many ways, Barbie’s journey to self-discovery outside of others’ perception mirrors Margot Robbie’s own journey throughout her career. 

Robbie, who skyrocketed to fame after “Wolf of Wall Street,”  has managed to avoid the unfair stereotypes associated with actresses labeled as bombshells in Hollywood.

Her performances in “I, Tonya” and “Mary Queen of Scots,” to name a few, have cemented her place as a leading woman in the entertainment industry. Robbie, along with her husband, additionally co–owns a production company. 

Perhaps these parallels are part of why Robbie’s performance in “Barbie” feels incredibly authentic. 

The movie also spends a good deal of time developing Ken’s persona. Luckily for viewers, Ryan Gosling has fully embraced his so-called “Kenergy,” rebuffing those who disagreed with his casting. 

The movie is not without its flaws. “Barbie” attempts to accomplish much in a relatively short amount of time, resulting in hasty execution of some themes. Furthermore, the film’s shifts in tone often happen rapidly, causing the plot to oscillate between comedy and profound moments. 

However, “Barbie” overall is a wonderful movie that has the makings of a cult classic: easily quotable, funny and fashionable. Barbie dolls have always been a pop culture phenomenon — and “Barbie” the movie continues to reinforce this position. 

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About the Contributor
Jessie Wang, Senior News Reporter
Hi! My name is Jessie and I’m a junior majoring in CS + philosophy. I am an assistant news editor, and this is my third semester with The DI. I’m super excited to be part of our lovely newspaper! Feel free to contact me at my email below if you want to chat.
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