Growing up, I was a Barbie Girl. I had everything a young girl in the 80s needed for the perfect Barbie World and it occupied most of my closet floor. I had the multi-level Barbie mansion complete with working elevator. I had all the furnishings Barbie needed for her mansion, including a “flushing” toilet. I had the giant Barbie pool with wrap around deck and water slide. I had the fancy silver Barbie Corvette with Barbie Pink interior. I had a massive Barbie closet with an enviable wardrobe and more tiny shoes than I could keep track of, and way more than my dozen or so Barbies could wear. Twelve Barbies is a guess because I don’t really remember all the Barbies I had as a kid, but there were several. And while I had several favorite Barbies, I only ever had one Ken, and he was a gift.
While my Barbies had many adventures, Ken was decapitated in a horrible, single-car accident in the convertible Corvette. Yes, I started writing death scenes early in life. In my mind, what did I need Ken for? Ken didn’t have a fancy mansion with an elevator. Ken didn’t have a pool with plenty of space for entertaining (even when the water was left in the closet a little too long and went a little funky). Ken didn’t have a killer wardrobe or a cool car to drive around in. In fact, all the things Ken “had” belonged to Barbie. I didn’t hate boys any more than any other ten-year-old girl who thought boys had cooties did, but I didn’t need them to be in my play world for it to be complete. When Mattel told me Barbie could be anything, I believed it. A Veterinarian? Of course! An Astronaut? Absolutely! In my Barbie World, girls could do everything that wasn’t encouraged in the real world, and that was why I loved her.
Even though I loved Barbie in my day, I was pretty uninterested in the Barbie movie that’s been everywhere. It wasn’t because I have anything against it, or Greta Gerwig, or Margot Robbie. I have a weird taste in movies. For storytelling, I like books. Rom-Coms and typical “Chick Flicks” don’t usually interest me. If I sit down to watch a movie and it’s just two hours of things blowing up, I’m happy. We haven’t been to a theater in a long while, and I know my husband misses it, but I had no intention of the Barbie movie changing that. Seeing the vitriolic reaction to the movie might just get me back in a theater seat though. It’s not the GOP flipping out over a cartoon map that piqued my interest. It was a rant that went on for over 40 minutes by a guy I call Dollar Store Tucker that pushed me over the edge. The whiny little twit went on and on about the movie being anti man. He accused Barbie of misandry. Misandry being opposite of misogyny, isn’t what Barbie is all about. From what I understand, this movie tells girls they can do anything, and no, they don’t need a man to make them successful, and that message really hurt his feelings. So much so that he went out and bought some Barbies to burn them, and then got upset that people thought he was a little over the top about the whole thing.
Barbie isn’t a Man Hater. She also wasn’t created for forty-year-old men who fear empowering girls. The people who are trantruming over this message in the movie missed the entire point of what Barbie has always been. Growing up with her as a role model of sorts, Barbie never told me men were bad. The message she’s been giving to young girls since the 1960s is that Women are pretty awesome all by themselves and it is fucking vital for young girls to know that. I loved other dolls as a kid. I still have all five of my Cabbage Patch Kids from the 80s, and I played with them constantly too, but that play was different. You were just playing Mom when you played with those dolls. You were in a pretend pastry land when you played with Strawberry Shortcake and her Friends. But with Barbie, she told you you could be anything, and that message was so important to me.
Barbie lets you play a grownup in her world and no matter what the real world told you, in Barbie World the sky was the limit. Young girls need to be encouraged to be themselves and follow their dreams. They need to be told that they are equal to the boys in the world. They need to be empowered. Young girls do not need to have adult men politicizing their play and making it into something hateful. They do not need adult men feigning offense at the message that girls are good enough. They’re already living in a country that won’t call them equal almost 250 years after the signing of the constitution, they don’t need adult men interjecting that same insult into Barbie World. Now it looks like I’ll be going to the movies…