"Barbie" Movie Review--She's Everything, And So Is Ken
By Ciara Buckland -- Eagle Staff Writer
"Barbie" is a film that will speak to and connect with everyone and anyone. The film's message focuses on women's empowerment; some may see that as anti-male messaging but it's actually the opposite! What makes this a radical story is that it invites people to reimagine feminism so that it doesn't ignore male struggles because we all need some more “kenpathy” in our lives.
For context, the movie is set in Barbie Land, a woman's utopia where Barbies do everything on their own and run everything but the beach, which is the job of all the Kens. Kens are essentially second-class citizens in Barbie Land, a predominantly woman-ruled world that speaks volumes for itself and seems to leave men on the shelf. Looking at Barbie's feminism that makes her so awesome and powerful, Ken begins to recognize his own feelings of subjugation and marginalization, leading him to sing, “What will it take for her to see the man behind the tan and fight for me?”
The first time seeing the film, the portrayal of men as mostly marginalized made me sad; I already felt sorry for the Kens who couldn't find a place in the world. Then I worried my empathy was misplaced and supposed to all be for Barbie when I realized the film was made to make us feel for Ken, too. Barbie is the embodiment of feminism - she’s self sufficient and is happy doing life on her own, but when REAL human thoughts start invading her mind she goes off track and begins to question things. Real feelings to Barbie seems like the worst fate imaginable. To help herself, she has to take a trip outside of Barbie Land to the real world to find herself.
Of course, Ken comes with Barbie to the real world and has an awakening of his own, opening an important message on patriarchy and its harm to everyone. In the real world, Ken finds that the patriarchy means he is respected and powerful. Ken decides to bring the patriarchy to Barbie Land, but when Barbie confronts him over it, we see Ken for the first time display his feelings - a sense of pain. He tells her something ironic - an echo of what Barbie told him earlier in the film - to leave, that this was his house, and you can't have Barbie in Ken's house. You can't help but root for him even at his most wayward.
Something has to give; the characters realize there's no place of value for each other in their respective worlds - at least not as they're currently constructed. Towards the film's end, the Barbies have the option to restore Barbie Land exactly how it was, but they choose not to. President Barbie determines, “No Barbie or Ken should be living in the shadows.” Ken bursts into tears and Barbie apologies for taking Ken for granted for so long and encourages him to discover his own identity and self worth. This is a great message to put into the world and hopefully impact some to be more mindful of equality.
The film clearly points out while patriarchy is cruel, so is a world that disregards men and their feelings through a form of inverted patriarchy. It also acknowledges identity crisis and loss of hope and life purpose among American men - struggles that are often ignored, making the problem worse. This is why we all need kenpathy - both for men living in a woman's world and women living a man's world.