Review: Barbie


Why hasn’t “Barbie” been more of an awards winner? Nominations in abundance in many annual awards categories and victory at the box office hasn’t transferred to winning. The Oscars left out “Barbie” from Best Actress and Best Director. Why?

I’ve got that image of a beautiful, independent, stereotyped, pink-dressed Barbie (Margot Robbie is so great in the role) driving a shiny pink plastic Barbie car on the barren highway headed towards Reality. Then, irritated, she discovers shallow, bleached blond Ken has stowed away in the back seat. Once they arrive in Reality (Venice Beach in LA), they’re freaks in neon fashion. Then, Ken quickly learns about male patriarchy and Barbie, nearly kidnapped by her makers, learns about female suppression.

“Barbie” earned the most money, $1.44 billion, of any of the films produced in 2023 and was recognized by The Golden Globes for Cinematic and Box Office Achievement. It grossed more than the Golden Globes’ best film, “Oppenheimer,” the world performance phenom “Taylor Swift: the Eras Tour,” and the cult franchise “John Wick: Chapter 4.”

So, why hasn’t “Barbie” been an awards winner?

Sorry fans, it is dated. The first problem is that “Barbie” is a surreal, campy, goofy feminist expression of what we already learned in the ‘60s. It just retells the feminist message packaged in pink-perfect art deco with a misogynist twist from her maker, Mattel.

I’m asked, “But what about the new generation? Shouldn’t they be taught the message?”
I respond, “The teenagers and Gen Z people I know are light-years ahead of my generation. They are grappling with who they are organically, not so much on what they should wear and how much they should weigh.”

Other nominated films like “Oppenheimer,” “Zone of Interest,” and “Holdovers” have a gravitas and resonating, nuanced meaning that “Barbie” just can’t compete against. It’s also hard to win as a comedy, especially one that re-packages what we already know.

Why did an attack on Mattel end up lucrative?

Despite being characterized as misogynistic in the film, why did Mattel gain giant revenues from a revitalized popularization of their Barbie line after release of this film? “Mattel has calculated the revenue boost from the Barbie movie to be $125 million, including sales of dolls and related merchandise, and movie earnings. The majority of that revenue was realized in the third quarter, according to Mattel. Gross billings in the doll category were up 24 percent, and Barbie sales were up 14percent.” (

The New York Times has written that Mattel earned 5 percent of Barbie’s box office revenue, which adds up to $72,000,000 by the end of the year, with predicted total earnings of $100 million by the end of 2024. If the Barbie concept of the impossibly lean body harmed so many little girls’ expectations about themselves, isn’t it confusing that this movie criticizing Mattel shares with it the profits?

Did we get the message?

The whole “Barbie” film phenom is a muddle of perplexity for me except for America Ferrera’s now-famous monologue that accused Barbie/Mattel of creating an impossible standard for girls to live up to: “It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong. You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin.” (Town & Country, transcript).

But if this is the attack, why has Mattel made record profits from its Barbie line after the debut of the movie?

Being 74 years of age, I have been through the many facets of female oppression, from sports and career exclusion, inequitable salary prejudice and the #METOO movement. Want to make a comedy about slavery or the Hollocaust, too? Would it come off well?

Despite moments of truth like the Ferrera speech, the dated comedic satire of campy “Barbie” and shared profits with Mattel confused me about its real message. While it has been nominated for so many awards and it was good attempt, it is just compromised enough not to be a grand winner.


Director: Greta Gerwig
Writers: Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
Based on the commercial doll, Barbie, by Mattel
Producers: David Heyman, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley and Robbie Brenner

Cast: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman and Will Ferrell
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Editor: Nick Hoy
Music: Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, with songs by Billie Eilish and Finneas
Release: July 21, 2023
Budget: $128 to 145 million
Box Office (2023): $1.446 billion
Official Website:

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