‘I loved every minute of the Barbie movie up until the last line.’

Just like every other person in Australia on the weekend, I dressed up in pink and saw the new Barbie movie, and while it turned out that life in plastic is far from fantastic, I left the cinema with MANY THOUGHTS that I’m still struggling to process. 

Because, and I don’t say this about many films, but this one MADE ME FEEL THINGS. And not just lightly but in a GIANT ROLLER COASTER OF EMOTIONS kind of way. 

Now if you haven’t already gathered from the headline, this article is about to get real with spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie by now (and honestly, I don’t know a plausible reason why you wouldn’t have) then turn away. Or keep reading. But don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Video via Mamamia. 

So there I was, sitting in the cinema on Friday night with weeks' worth of the most epic marketing campaign running through my head, which essentially consisted of parading Margot Robbie around the world in life-size replicas of Barbie’s best outfits. It was like all my childhood fantasies of Dreamhouses and the Barbie camper my best friend had (that I was insanely jealous of) were about to materialise in front of me. 


But then I started to watch the movie and IT WAS SO MUCH MORE than perfect hair and Best Day Evers and giant blowout parties with planned choreography with the other Barbies (although that was all freaking awesome). It was — and maybe I needed reminding, because isn’t this exactly the point of Barbie dolls? — that women can be ANYTHING they want. From presidents to astronauts, doctors to pilots, lawyers to diplomats, this was a toy designed to inspire generations of kids to follow their dreams, and maybe amid the wash of pink and controversy around body types we’d forgotten that. 

Then there was the human mother-daughter relationship that I did not see coming. Because when it turned out that Barbie’s flat feet, cellulite and talk of death were the result of her owner’s depression, it wasn’t the predicted teenager who was responsible but *PLOT TWIST* her well-meaning mother. 

And precisely here is where director Greta Gerwig excelled in her totally unexpected, and brutally honest portrayal of a mum and her growingly distant daughter, that didn’t shy away from its imperfections but rather brought them to the silver screen in a way that I’d never seen before. It was raw, startling and, quite frankly, brilliant. 

And then there was — in what is certainly the greatest and equally heartbreaking part of the entire movie — the mother’s monologue. An incredibly powerful, show stopping speech about the perils of womanhood that painfully hit every single female nerve, delivered by none other than America Ferrera, that actress who you could say played Barbie’s polar opposite in Ugly Betty


Life in plastic, not so fantastic. Image: Warner Bros.

“It is literally impossible to be a woman,” America’s character Gloria said to Margot’s Barbie. “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. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. 

“You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining.

"You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. 

"You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

“I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”


I don’t know if I took a single breath during America’s delivery. With my heart in my throat and fists clenched on my lap, it was like she gave a voice to every single woman on how they constantly feel. And with the collective exhale that reverberated around the theatre, I could tell that I wasn’t alone. 

So by the time the movie reached its peak, with the Barbies taking back Barbie Land and putting the Kens in their rightful place, I was awash with feminine a** kicking energy and belief that women — despite everything that society has against us — can be anything they want. 

Even human. So when Margot’s Stereotypical Barbie opted to give up her Dreamhouse and perfect pink existence for life in the real world, I was ecstatic. I thought yes, this is the culmination of the entire film! The ending we had dreamed of! 

Ryan Gosling's Ken to Margot Robbie's Barbie. Image: Getty.


And then we saw Barbie being dropped off at an office building by America’s Gloria. Without her signature Elle-Woods-approved colour, she had a messy updo and wore a blazer. OMG, I thought, is Barbie off to get a job? Is it an interview? Is it her first day? Where is she working? What is the job title???

All these thoughts swirled around my head with great hope for this new career gal who once believed that she wasn’t “good enough for anything.” 

Then Gloria, her daughter and her husband all wished Barbie good luck before she got out of the car and walked into the building, as I held my breath. 

This is it, I thought, as Barbie reached the front desk and gave her new, human name, Barbara Handler — a heartfelt nod to the creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler, and her daughter who inspired the doll. 


And then Margot uttered the six words that killed the entire one hour and 56 minute film. 

“I’m here to see my gynaecologist.” 

The cinema erupted in laughter as the audience cackled over the one liner and I cringed crimson inside, stamping on the popcorn that had fallen at my feet. After 116 minutes of sheer feminism, of exploring female relationships and being inspired by empowering character development, women had been reduced to this. 

The butt of the joke. The idea that when it came to it — in all the excitement and possibilities of life in the real world — that what we care about the most is sex.

Listen to the hosts of The Spill give a brutally honest review of the Barbie movie. Post continues after podcast.

As the credits rolled, I had a flashback to an earlier scene in the movie where Barbie yelled at pervy male construction workers that she did not in fact have a vagina, while Ken didn’t have a penis. 

Like I thought a million times during the flick, this is not a children’s film. 

But it was my guy friend Ben who hit the nail on the head.

“It was as though she wasn’t a real woman until she had a vagina,” he said to me during a heated debate on Barbie at the pub yesterday afternoon. “Just imagine if that’s the first thing Ken did and that was the end of the movie. There were so many double standards.” 


But out in the Twitterverse not everyone agreed with some calling this final line a “coming of age moment”, “a prudent vision of womanhood” and what brought “the entire story full circle”. 

While in the Mamamia office, reviews were mixed.

“I loved it! I assumed it was a reference to her new sexual and reproductive freedom. It also showed vulnerability - Barbie in Barbieland wouldn’t have had those feelings or ‘female’ issues to deal with. I assumed she was empowered but also ‘human’.” 

“I liked it! It was a funny gag. I thought it was a bit of a low-hanging joke about how now she’s out of Barbieland that having a nub where a vulva should be isn’t quite right and should be seen to.”

"I didn't love that line. It was okay, but it felt kinda empty after the big feminist messaging. It felt like it was saying having a vagina = being a woman, when that's not always the case AND there's so much more to being a woman than our body parts."

Bingo. It is exactly this point that makes me think that Greta Gerwig missed the mark on this ending. Because if 116 minutes of Barbie has taught me anything, it’s that you can be whatever you want to be. 

Image: Warner Bros + Mamamia.

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