On opening weekend, “Barbie” brought in a staggering $162 million at the box office, making it the biggest movie of the year (and that’s not even counting international ticket sales). There’s a lot to love about the film, from its quirky script to its incredibly pink set, to its A-list actors and the obvious nostalgia factor.
But it wasn’t those things that stuck with me after I left the theater and walked to my car. What really resonated was that the film portrays Barbie as an independent badass who doesn’t need Ken to be happy. What a plot twist.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised, bearing in mind Barbie and Ken were married about a dozen times in my 1990s childhood bedroom, with the cast of “Full House” watching from a poster on my wall. Occasionally, a Cabbage Patch Kid would attend. Each ceremony ended with a kiss and a happy walk down the aisle, and there was never any question in my mind that the two love birds would stay together until the end of time.
…But as it turns out, Barbie didn’t want to marry Ken at all. She didn’t even want to be his girlfriend.
The turn of events was a powerful move by director Greta Gerwig, who cast Barbie in the most pro-feminist light we’ve ever seen. You could say that the world’s most recognizable doll didn’t just bring self-confidence and cute outfits to the screen – she also brought some pretty great life lessons.
So without further ado, and at the risk of spoiling the movie for those of you who haven’t yet seen it, I will now share some of the wisdom that Barbie was kind enough to impart on me.
You can CHOOSE to be single
As a society, we tend to view singledom as a circumstance, rather than a choice. We set up our single friends and give them pep talks about how they’ll find the right person one day. But why can’t a person just (gasp) choose to be single?
That’s exactly what our girl Barbie did when she opted to pursue her own goals and dreams instead of being tied down to Ken in Barbieland.
One of the most powerful moments of the movie is when she says, “Maybe it’s Barbie, and it’s Ken,” putting an end to the notion that it has to be Barbie AND Ken.
You can be single AND happy
Barbie quashes the perception that single = sad. Just a few minutes into the film, it’s pretty clear that Ken’s entire world revolves around Barbie. But his adoration doesn’t make her happy. She ultimately states that she doesn’t love Ken and instead decides to go out on her own, becoming a human in the real world.
Her happiness at the end of the film doesn’t come from Ken or any other man – it comes from prioritizing herself, as she stands in the waiting room waiting to see her gynecologist (we can only assume that her human form has a vagina, something she lacked as a doll).
I doesn’t matter what others think about your love life
Some of the greatest moments in the film involve “Weird Barbie,” played by “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Kate McKinnon. When she makes reference to Ken being a great catch and a sexy hunk, Barbie is pretty ambivalent. It goes to show that you have to follow your own heart – not the unsolicited advice of those who think you should be with a certain person. Even a person who looks great on paper may not be a good fit for you.
Don’t let other people’s assumptions limit you
At the end of the film, Mattel’s CEO (Will Ferrell) says Barbie’s “ending” is that she loves Ken, as if to imply that a woman’s story is finished once she meets her match. If Barbie would have accepted that fate, she would have stayed in Barbieland with a man she didn’t love, and abandoned her dream of becoming a human – and what a bummer that would have been. The moral of the story? Make your life what you want it to be and ignore those who try to write your script for you.
You don’t ever have to have an ending
When Barbie responds to the ending that the Mattel CEO wants her to have, she says: “I don’t think I have an ending.” Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie (or rather her ghost, as portrayed by Rhea Perlman) says that’s exactly how Barbie was designed.
“That was always the point, I created you so you wouldn’t have an ending,” she tells Barbie.
…And you don’t have to have an ending either. At least, not until you’ve taken your last breath. Keep adding chapters to your book and don’t worry about how others respond to your plot twists. It’s your story to write, and yours only. So be confident in your choices, and forgive yourself for any mistakes you make along the way. And if you ever doubt yourself, just channel your inner Barbie.