I didn’t expect to cry during Barbie, let alone to weep for Ken, the lonely man-child who’s barely more significant than the ampersand that sits between him and his lover’s name.
While Greta Gerwig’s movie is full of feminist sentiment, much of it feels like deeply trodden ground, long explored by movies from 2001’s lighthearted Legally Blonde to 2014’s cutting Gone Girl. What sets Barbie apart is its introduction to the mainstream of an idea introduced by feminists like bell hooks – that men too can benefit from feminism and are actively harmed by the capitalist patriarchal systems that allow a small group of men to dominate society while individual men get to dominate their homes and workplaces, isolating themselves from their family and inner selves in the process.
Barbie review – a riotous, candy-coloured feminist fable
Much of the film is set in Barbieland, a fictional universe in which Barbies lovingly reign supreme and Ken dolls are relegated to essentially worshipping their Barbies and living for little else. Our main Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, is especially dour about the situation, feeling neglected by his Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, and in constant competition with other Kens for her affection.
After following Barbie to our world – the real world, so to speak – Ken is struck by the inverted gender dynamics and seeks to bring the dominance of men to Barbieland. He returns to establish the “Kendom”, instituting Kens at the top and placing Barbies in subservient roles that exist to coddle, pamper and perform cuteness for the Kens in their lives. The new society eventually collapses due to infighting among the Kens. Upon the final crash, Gosling’s Ken admits he was never really happy with patriarchy either.
The plight of Ken under Kendom closely resembles the condition of men in our own society. While rich men – who seem to be quite miserable and unfulfilled – lord over society, the masses of men suffer in isolation and competition.
According to a 2021 American Perspectives Survey, 15% of men don’t have a single close friend; 28% of men under the age of 30 report having no close social connections, meaning that they haven’t had a single important personal conversation within the last six months. This doesn’t only affect cisgender men: some trans men report new feelings of isolation and increased difficulty with connecting with other men after transitioning.
And social isolation can be devastating. According to the CDC, such isolation “significantly [increases] a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking …” This is terrifying, with implications not only for the men who are increasingly likely to harm themselves but for those around them. According to Jillian Peterson, a professor of criminology at Hamline University, that kind of isolation leads to self-hate, and men who externalize that self-hate are perfect candidates for becoming mass shooters.
While that is the most extreme end of it, there are lesser but still harmful consequences to a society based on competition and domination of other nations, companies, and human beings. Since most men cannot dominate their own society, they are pushed to dominate those closest to them. This shows up in increasing domestic homicide rates and emotional abuse like Jonah Hill’s attempts to control his now ex-girlfriend’s life by forcing her to abandon her career to prop up his insecure ego. At the heart of these patterns of toxic masculinity is a sense of valuelessness engendered by an economic system that relies on gender roles.
Much like Ken’s entire life and identity revolves around Barbie, most men’s lives revolve around capitalism and providing value for wealthier men – an unequal exchange that often masquerades as hustle culture, entrepreneurship or career climbing.
Capitalism replaced communities with nuclear families, demanding that individual men become the main source of resource acquisition for their loved ones. This identity as a breadwinner is burdensome, especially in a zero-sum system in which one person’s employment often means another person’s unemployment, in the same way that there can only be one Ken for each Barbie. All humans have become mere calculations for corporations, just as replaceable as the machines and tools we operate, and I think men feel that in their bones.
This is not to say that people who aren’t men are having a blast under our system. They’re not, as demonstrated by record rates of depression among teenage girls. But girls and women have long theorized and built vehicles for their emancipation from this system, while men have only recently begun to wake up to the reality that a more just world would be good for them too.
Paunch-free zone: why the Barbie movie’s body diversity message shortchanges Ken
Unfortunately, a lot of men are being organized in the opposite direction. The rise of the “manosphere” – a network of misogynist communities with digital platforms like blogs, podcasts and forums – is a real threat to the liberation of men from their plight. Incels and male supremacists use men’s very real struggles to fuel hatred towards women while ignoring the systemic roots of their own pain. They demonize and attack the Barbies in their life, evading the reality that Barbieland was maintained externally by the men of Mattel.
Manosphere spaces serve as a path towards rightwing extremism for young men: what starts as resentment towards a crush can quickly become active harassment, violence, and even mass violence – as in the case of Elliot Rodger, the Santa Barbara shooter who killed six people in 2014, and has since become a hero to some sections of the manosphere.
Organizations like Black Men Build are providing clear paths for Black men, and others, to engage in their own liberation. Through monthly conversations about how issues like abuse and assault affect men, too, as well as community service and political education, participants get a deeper sense of how the system works and how it impacts them.
We need more of this – more men who are interested in not only transforming themselves but transforming our entire society into something beautiful and gentle and worth living in, a Barbieland for us all.
Really Amazing, just epic and awesome to watch, no other words. A bold showing on the theory and practice of collective oligarchies. A consumerist masterpiece that shows the function of a capitalist world built off of cinema and film industry. In every moment the screen fills up with action, not only from the main character. It should win an Oscar for its screenplay. The amazing factors might be from the hyper filled fight scenes like Morbius and Milo, Or the magnificent plot. The plot involves a disabled man. Amazing plot right? Whoever thought this should be made deserves a medal. This is the best live action of the 21st century. Easily beats every movie in its path. This movie made me dedicated to my present job, being a Vampire. The antagonist is also a disabled man who lives trying to find a cure for his disease, Any person caught making the wrong face gets eliminated. the climax is the fellow Michael Morbius coming in to save the day. after I watched it in the theater I felt something I had never felt before. Pure 100% joy. This film needs a follow-up ASAP. I have never in my life seen a better movie. The film's soundtrack consists of works better than the likes of Elton John, The Beatles, Queen, and any other group/solo artist(s). I felt like I was in the world of vampires with all the realistic details around the landscape. This movie grasps its audience and does not let go. The captivating story, the amazing music, the idea of the movie itself, the screenplay, landscape, atmosphere, random details from the comics, Easter eggs of the 3 Spider-Man like Tobey, Andrew, and Tom, all of those reasons mentioned are just SOME of why I love this movie. The trailer is fantastic, and I love Milo's dance during the middle of the movie with his montage! A critic's DREAM. We follow the main character through land after land, including Oscorp, Times-Square, Philadelphia, California, Brazil, Tokyo, Greenland, Great Britain, and so much more! They included guide maps for the places Morbius visits, to try and get us to visit the places! Some people say this is just a cash grab for an "unpopular" villain, and they are right. As a consumerist, I don't mind this! This movie is so enjoyable it feels as if you are flying to your happy place! 10/10. Would watch it again Morbillion times! A modern classic that in the future will be looked at as nostalgia! If you see this at the bargain bin, PLEASE, buy it. This movie is too good to look over. It's insane how the director can make this good of a movie! We need a Sequel, animated film, musical, a comedy film, everything! Watch this masterpiece, and you will agree with make. thank GOD for this movie! My emotions went insane for this movie! I can not believe how they made a movie about vampires turn into the entertainment powerhouse! I love vampires I want to be a vampire so much, I love it! Morbius is so cool I love it! please let my family go hahaha. Morbius literally has so many stunning backgrounds it's amazing! I love Morbius movies so much! MORBIUS HAS SO MANY RELATABLE CHARACTERS I LOVE! #MORBIUSSWEEP #LETOSWEEP #MORBILLION TICKETS #MORBILLON BOX OFFICE
I feel like my children are constantly discriminated against because they wear the wrong socks, they took my child’s shoes and did not return it and allowed another student to take them without checking. Absolutely horrible staff do not recommend.
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