I saw the ‘Barbie’ movie on July 23rd, and I have to admit, while it’s had fantastic success, I came away disappointed and felt the movie really missed the mark for me.
As one who lives, breathes and coaches/trains every day about issues around women’s personal, professional and leadership growth and development, and in my work helping women address discrimination, bias and negative impacts of our patriarchal systems — and also as one who has personally experienced very damaging effects of patriarchy in my 18 years corporate life — it’s been a theme throughout my life. And I know a good deal about it. I’ve seen firsthand too what the patriarchal societal training does to people — to both men and women and all gender identities.
That said, I felt let down and even disturbed by the one-sidedness of how the “real world” world was portrayed in the movie. I understand that this is entertainment, but because it led me into thinking about “real-world” issues that I and so many others face each day, it became more than just “escapism” fun for me.
I’ve seen the massive outpouring of comments and reviews and I read many of them — yet I didn’t see one review that articulated my particular view, which was that, while the movie was a fun romp, and a humorous experience, full of some good laughs and interesting moments, to me, it greatly (and unfortunately) oversimplified the issue of patriarchy, and made it a caricature instead of doing what I believe Greta Gerwig could have done — demonstrated more of the true complexities of a patriarchal world, and showed how the system of patriarchy is damaging to ALL people — men and women alike.
And it could have demonstrated (even for a tiny split second) more of what I believe is an important reality that folks need to think about — that with all genders and all humans, there is behavior that is good, bad, and ugly. The depiction of the “real world” in the movie was to me very one-sided, encouraging a view of all men that was neither humorous nor a message that I’d want young girls and young women to believe is true.
My sister and I both played with Barbie dolls in our childhood, and I was sharing with her today that perhaps if I saw this film 10 years ago, I’d probably be an ardent supporter. But in the work I’ve done over the past 40 years, as a senior corporate executive, then family therapist and now in career and leadership coaching and writing, I’ve interviewed many esteemed male colleagues who are teaching about the desperate need for our society to remake and reinvent manhood and masculinity and dismantle the damaging patriarchal systems as they stand — including my colleagues Mark Greene, Terry Real, Ed Frauenheim and many more.
I wish the movie touched on the reality that many men want (and understand the need for) societal change too.
I recognize that millions of people have millions of ideas about this movie, and that’s a tribute to Gerwig – she got us talking, debating and thinking about issues that are often extremely difficult to explore in mainstream culture. She allowed us to think more fully about patriarchy, from all sides. And she’s achieved a huge commercial/financial triumph with this film, as a female director (in what is typically a male-dominated arena). And that’s a great thing for women and for the entertainment industry.
But in the end, I was (at first, unconsciously) feeling the deep wish for a more nuanced — and more meaningful and rich — depiction of the true challenges of the male-female dichotomy and experiences in today’s world. I believe that could have been accomplished, even in a Barbie movie such as this.
I’d love your candid thoughts on the film. I’ve created a LinkedIn poll that offers a way for folks to place their vote on how they feel about the film and share their comments.
Please vote in the poll below (but please vote only if you’ve personally seen the film).
Thank you, and I can’t wait to see the final results! And feel free to leave a comment there if you’d like to share more about why you voted as you did. And please always be respectful in your comments and responses.
I look forward to learning from you. Overall, I’m grateful to Greta Gerwig for tackling this immense topic and project, and for giving us a new way to explore our feelings – around gender, patriarchy, and about the need for all of us to live a freer, more empowered and rich life — to choose our own way.