Greta Gerwig did not expect a right-wing takedown of ‘Barbie’: ‘There’s a lot of passion’

Greta Gerwig and 'Barbie' cast members for a photo in the back of a truck from the movie
“Barbie” director Greta Gerwig says she was surprised by the conservative takedown of her feminist feature, but she hopes everyone who sees it can get some “relief.”
(Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros. Pictures)

Emerging from a pink-hued fever dream and a box-office smash, Greta Gerwig is unpacking the success of “Barbie.” One thing the director did not anticipate having to discuss, though, is how right-wing pundits have bashed her feminist take on Mattel’s iconic doll and burned the toys in protest.

“Certainly, there’s a lot of passion,” the Oscar-nominated director said in a Thursday Q&A with the New York Times. “My hope for the movie is that it’s an invitation for everybody to be part of the party and let go of the things that aren’t necessarily serving us as either women or men.”

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That “passion” the “Little Women” filmmaker is referring to likely includes conservative commentator Ben Shapiro setting Barbies on fire in a stunt accompanying his 43-minute review of the film — a takedown in which he described Gerwig’s work as one of “the most woke movies” he’d ever seen. Similarly, right-wing pundit Jack Posobiec tweeted that Gerwig’s take is “possibly the most anti-male film ever made,” declaring “Barbie” a “man-hating Woke propaganda fest.”


Ginger Gaetz, the wife of Republican Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, tweeted that she felt “let down” by the project and was disappointed that it “neglects to address any notion of faith or family, and tries to normalize the idea that men and women can’t collaborate positively.” And Tesla and X boss Elon Musk quipped that the film’s repeated use of the word “patriarchy” could be turned into a drinking game.

“I hope that in all of that passion, if they see it or engage with it, it can give them some of the relief that it gave other people,” Gerwig said of the backlash.

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The conservative pushback to the film, though, has not stopped “Barbie’s” real-life domination at the box office. The film, starring Margot Robbie as the titular IP and Ryan Gosling as Ken, earned a whopping $162 million in the U.S. and Canada in its opening weekend, a figure that exceeded the studio’s preliminary estimate of $155 million and outpaced “Oppenheimer.” It’s been praised by critics, with many applauding Gerwig’s direct take on Mattel’s oft-problematic doll, the company’s cooperation, as well as its transcendent message for women, mothers and daughters.

Gerwig also revealed that she wasn’t meant to direct the film, but only planned to co-write the script with her partner, Noah Baumbach.

“[T]hen we finished the script and that was the thing that made me want to direct it,” she told the New York Times. “It felt so clear to me: If they didn’t want to make that [version], I didn’t need to make it.

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Gerwig said that Robbie, who is also a producer on the film, was the first person to line up and say that she wanted to do it Gerwig’s way. And as more collaborators and cast signed on, an increasing number of them became “excited to do something that was this, excuse the pun, out of the box.”


“Part of me thinks that because it was all so idiosyncratic and so wild, it was almost like no one really knew where to start taking it apart,” she said. “Like, where are you going to start hacking away at how strange it was?

“Maybe because there was this sense of sheer joy behind it, it was this hard thing to say, ‘Oh no, we don’t want that thing that’s sheer joy.’ People wanted it to exist, in all its weirdness.”

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Even amid the debilitating writers’ and actors’ strikes, talk of a follow-up has been immediate. But the “Lady Bird” filmmaker isn’t ready to take Barbie’s car, rocket, tandem bike or boat back to Barbie Land quite yet.

“At this moment, it’s all I’ve got,” she told the newspaper. “I feel like that at the end of every movie, like I’ll never have another idea and everything I’ve ever wanted to do, I did. I wouldn’t want to squash anybody else’s dream, but for me, at this moment, I’m at totally zero.”

Besides, why take away from the “utterly sincere and silly” way she ended the movie?