The Barbie Movie Has Finally Hit the Theaters. Has It Lived Up to Its Hype?

Starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, the much anticipated Barbie movie is already breaking box office records less than four weeks from its release date.

With its $ 1 billion (and counting) profit debut, the massive production not only sees Greta Gerwig as the first-ever female director boasting this kind of professional achievement, but it also marks the highest Monday Gross for a Warner Brothers film, a record previously held by the instant classic The Dark Knight.

Much of the credit for this unprecedented success goes to the monumental Barbie movie marketing campaign. It has managed to draw to the theaters people from across all demographics. This has turned Barbie into the hottest movie of the Summer of 2023 and possibly the whole year.

But just because so many people have already seen the movie, it doesn’t mean absolutely everyone loved it. In fact, we could go as far as saying that the Barbie movie is one of the most polarizing pop culture events of recent years.

From adoring repeat crowds and straight-up haters, the internet has displayed a wildly diverse range of reactions, with many viewers even debating over the real message behind the movie itself.

In order to better understand this phenomenon, we will take a deep dive into the nitty gritty of this blockbuster and the audience’s reaction to its marketing campaign. Read on.

Barbie’s Marketing Campaign Immersed Us in a Barbie Utopia

A universally beloved toy, to this day, Barbie dolls still maintain a special place in people’s hearts.  

This perhaps explains why, rather than foreshadowing much about the movie storyline itself, the hive mind behind Barbie’s marketing campaign skillfully tapped into the nostalgia evoked by the Mattel doll.

Not knowing what to expect, millions of spectators picked their favorite hot-pink outfits and rushed to the movie theaters, hoping to be transported into a dreamlike utopia – which sure enough they did, but only to be snapped back out of Barbie Land and forced to confront some uncomfortable truths.

Whether it is by accident or purposely orchestrated, Barbie immerses us in the flawless magic of an imaginary world yet reminds us that rather than striving for perfection, we should embrace the little flaws that make us human.

Luckily, the sobering plot twist doesn’t mark the end of the carefree and fun Barbie vibes that have dominated the movie’s marketing strategy so far – quite the opposite.

Upon the movie launch, in fact, there has been a string of brand new merch releases. 

Mattel has gone as far as creating a whole Movie-inspired Barbie doll collection.

TikTok account thedollaisle has got their hands on all three of the Margot Robbie-inspired dolls and accessories and reviewed them.

The Barbie Movie Sparked a War of Contrasting Opinions

Barbie’s somewhat enigmatic movie trailer has perhaps sparked even more interest among the crowds. The dreamlike Barbie Land vibes, the bright outfits, and the overall atmosphere of the movie have been enough for many viewers to get their tickets.

Call it open-mindedness, curiosity, or more complex sociological phenomena such as FOMO or the bandwagon effect, the result doesn’t change: the movie arguably presents one of the most diverse audiences, which is reflected in the diversity of the reactions themselves.

Feedback ranges from bold statements such as the low IMDb rating (a mere 6.6) and claims of a cultural assault on men all the way to the praise of women empowerment and a call for more female-led stories in Hollywood.

As the movie stars and creators have repeatedly explained, the hope is for young women to be empowered by positive feminist messages such as “you are enough” – a call for young and adult women alike to rejoice in their strengths and embrace their imperfections.

So why the harsh critiques? 

Some seem to believe that having an imaginary female-led world in which Barbie displays the brains and assertiveness and Ken is kept out of the spotlight, is rooted in an “anti-man” agenda. 

Even Tesla C.E.O. Elon Musk has taken it upon himself to Tweet (or, as per the latest update, to “X-ee”) about the Barbie movie, sarcastically criticizing the number of times patriarchy is brought up in the film. The same sentiment was echoed by Jack Posobiec and many of his followers, who doubled down on his negative remarks on the blockbuster.

At the end of the day, it’s safe to say the movie has sparked some possibly much-needed debate on gender roles, modern-day patriarchy,  and what it means to be a feminist in 2023.

Barbie Is a Clever Coming-of-Age Movie… Or Is It? 

The Barbie movie hype is one for the ages. Although every bit as fun and light-hearted as expected to be, the film is likely to make its viewers take a stand.

Objectively speaking and despite the sparks, glitters, and funny moments, the movie is very much geared toward empowering women. Greta Gerwig’s intent can be appreciated in various moments of the film, namely America Ferrera’s touching monologue on womanhood.

Still, branding the movie as “anti-men” might arguably be a bit of a stretch. This is because, beyond the heated debates, the film sheds light on the pressures and expectations laid upon people of all genders and orientations.

After all, when Ruth Handler invented Barbie, the intention behind the revolutionary doll was for young women and girls to rid themselves of the barriers of a restrictive society. For the first time, girls had been invited to dream about exciting careers and becoming everything their hearts desired. 

Ultimately, you don’t need to be a woman to benefit from the Barbie movie’s invitation to self-love and acceptance. In many ways, the film echoes several of the themes often explored along Greta Gerwig’s extensive filmography: the coming-of-age urge to transition from naiveness to self-discovery and the awareness that comes with it.


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