Barbie doll's tryst with Patriarchy – hidden or blatant

Toufiq Rashid
17 Aug 2023
Barbie movie review

New Delhi: For two days, my 11-year-old daughter and two of her friends were busy deciding on outfits to wear for the movie Barbie. I was forced to go with another mom, as we dreaded leaving the kids alone in the movie hall.


The scene there was as expected, more women than men and some, well most turned out to be in pink.

Word of mouth said it was more for adults. Well expected, Barbie is no infant doll, she has always been a sexy siren. Considering the lyrics of the 90's hit song "Come come Barbie let's go party", I was apprehensive to take the tweens.

But surprise surprise, it worked out well.


Before I get started, the first thing first – Barbie is not for kids. No, it's not adult content. But it doesn't have tinkle bells and fairies and kind-hearted monsters. It is about 'real people'.

It is for adults as it resonates with people who have lived a life in the real world, not kids who still live a protected life at schools and homes. 

There is a dose of feminism-Barbie is blamed for objectifying women and taking the feminist movement 50 years behind. How much of that would kids understand, God only knows.


The movie starts with the fantasy of Barbie Land, all pink and perfect again. Where women are not just your stereotypical 'beautiful blonde dolls' but there are diverse women of different ethnicities, sizes and shapes. They don't just look beautiful, which they BTW do, but are much more than that. With perfect clothes and more perfect hair, having a bad hair day my lovely ladies is an anomaly, a malfunction.

The girls' favourite toys 'believe that they have been 'the answer to all the problems the real world ever had'. 

The Barbies are achievers and rule the world. The 'women's power' is plastered all over the world and they believe, 'all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved' with their inventions. 


They feel they are 'an inspiration' every empowered woman or girl owes a thank you too.

Men are pushovers and are Kens, who are just Kens without any identity except for being 'Barbie's arm candies' and yes, every night is a 'girls' night'.

I might also want to give the 'Barbie the Sexy doll-spoiler alert', the movie has no scenes of intimacy, nudity, not even a kiss. Unheard of in today's 7-plus-rated movies as well.


The problem starts when one Barbie, Margot Robbie, starts developing thoughts of sadness and death, everything goes wrong with 'her perfect days' and she develops an anomaly – flat feet and some cellulite on her legs. 

The stereotypical 'Barbie' gets upset and events after events lead her to the real world to find the reason for her misery. And that's when the movie takes a twist which the moviegoers would have not expected. 

Barbie dolls tryst with Patriarchy.


Barbie can't believe she has lost her purpose in the real world. On the other hand, the real world pleasantly surprises Ken, when he finds 'all thing men' – all CEOs, businessmen, macho actors, sports persons with faces plastered all over the city are men. What he sees makes Ken-Ryan Gosling believe being a man is enough to grant you position and power.

However, when a degree becomes a prerequisite for jobs, he asks if 'the place is not practising Patriarchy well enough''. 

"We do but we are good at hiding it", comes the not-so-surprising answer. The same is highlighted well in the things that follow.

Barbie's world may have been all pink and perfect, but the movie is a social satire and it has its moments. Some people might say a little too much lecturing, well I won't because it resonated with life all of us have lived as females in a majorly patriarchal world.

If you are a man, you might even feel a little bad but that is how it is. 

Like it or not patriarchy exists. At homes, in offices, on the roads, in friend groups, and even in malls and marts. 

The fact remains at times, it's hidden and at other times it's blatant. 

When a driver on the road feels, you can't drive because you are a female, it's blatant, when the boys gang at work have each other's back, it's hidden. 

It's also hidden when people try to patronise you showing sympathies, but it's blatant when opinions are formed on how you handle certain things. 

The monologues in the movie at times would seem stretched but they might resonate when you remember how people made you feel about being a mother. 

Many women have told me how attitudes change, the moment you give birth. 

People start presuming you might not be 'good enough now'.

When an interviewer never asks a man how he will manage since he has children and family but won't hesitate to ask a female the same. When the way you look is giving credit for your success.

The movie might make you a little uncomfortable but please take your daughters as well as your sons to see it. So that tomorrow they can see and identify patriarchy in its various forms – blatant or hidden. 

They can understand that patriarchy reflects even in the term 'super woman' – when they realise that women may or may not be super but that people's expectations of them.

Man is ok doing sans the tag because he carries no burden of being super at work and excellent at home.

Take them to see the movie, so that they refuse to subscribe to the idea of a woman having multiple arms carrying, a scalpel and a ladle while handling a computer and a child.

Why? Why should we celebrate that idea? Women need their breaks, they can have breakdowns, and they can have faults and flaws.

Coming back to the movie, Greta Gerwig doesn't fail to highlight the need for parity in the most natural way and Robbie carries the burden of realisation that it doesn't exist with ease. 

The movie leaves you with the hope that gender parity in the real world is possible.

A foreign newspaper called Barbie a 'candy coloured feminist fable that simultaneously manages to celebrate, satirise and deconstruct its happy plastic subject'.

Well to tell you the truth, while sitting in the audience I didn't find a single woman who wasn't celebrating. There were laughs, there were soft signs as well.

In fact, my 11-year-old and her friends started taking pictures of the subtitles when they picked up threads of some dialogues. 

When I asked her if she understood anything, all she could tell me was "Yes Mama, she was right, Being human is a very difficult task”.