I saw Barbie, and I'm not sure what the controversy is all about.
Let's start with the movie, which I think we'd all agree has become a cultural phenomenon, making an enormous amount of money in its first weekend and certainly on a path to perhaps generate a billion bucks in ticket sales. Good for them, I say. The movie business needed some movie to come along and goose the box office, and Barbie is doing the job.
(So, apparently, is Oppenheimer, though its audience is smaller. I'll let you know - I'm seeing a noon show today.)
Here's what I think of the movie. Barbie is a little silly (it is about a doll!), a little preachy, but ultimately a fun time that works on a number of levels - there are jokes for kids and different jokes for adults. Co-writer and director Greta Gerwig has been enormously successful in creating a "Barbie-land" where live versions of the iconic doll - in all her various permutations - exist, though somewhat less so in navigating the trips to and from the "real world" where Mattel executives (all old white guys, natch) cash big checks selling dolls, dolls, and more dolls. (The movie walks an uncomfortable line. In some ways, it is anti-corporation. But its very existence is likely to sell a ton of dolls.)
It is almost impossible to describe the plot of Barbie, but much easier to describe the subtext that informs the narrative. The film is really about Barbie (a fabulous Margot Robbie) trying to figure out her place in the universe - she assumes that in the real world women are as accomplished as all the various Barbies, but is confused /disappointed, for example, to discover that not all the members of the Supreme Court are women. (Join the club!) Ken, played with what only can be called daring by Ryan Gosling, is perfectly happy being Barbie's accessory (which, let's face it, he's always been), until he discovers a little something called "patriarchy," which sounds pretty good to him.
In the end, I would argue, Barbie is a movie that, while highly stylized, creatively inventive, and a little subversive, actually is pretty harmless. Girls should see it, and, quite frankly, boys should see it, because the message is fairly simple: nobody should be anybody else's accessory. I'm a father of boys and a girl (now men and a woman), not to mention a husband and son and brother, and I'm pretty comfortable with that message.
As I said, I'm not sure what the controversy is all about.
Maybe there are people out there who think that some folks should be accessories to other people. I can understand why some folks would find it overly preachy (I did, even though I agreed with the feminist points being made), but I think turning Barbie into a cultural fulcrum is a mistake. It actually turns the movie into more than it is, or should be.
It also is possible that some people just don't have a sense of humor, and that some people are always looking for a fight, something about which they should be outraged. It must be exhausting to live that way.
Here's what I would say about Barbie. Take your kids. Take your grandkids. Leave your outrage at the door. And then, on the way out of the theater, tell them - whether they're boys or girls - that they don't have to be anybody's accessory. And then, relax. Go get some ice cream.
That's it for this week.
Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.