Column: Is ‘Barbie’ the most overanalyzed movie in cinema history? Kenough, already, pundits!

A woman stands between two men on a pink movie set
Margot Robbie as Barbie stand between two Kens in Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.”
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
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If you thought the smash movie “Barbie” was merely a film about a plastic doll who comes to life, boy have you not been paying attention.

“Barbie” is so much more than the year’s blockbuster movie.

It is a Rorschach blot tickling the psyches of viewers, an onion whose multiple layers offer any number of conflicting interpretations, a “Rashomon”-like experience where every viewer comes away with a different idea of what they have just seen.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

In addition to blowing past the billion-dollar mark in ticket sales, director Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” has spawned a mini-industry of punditry, analysis and controversy, offering grist to almost every mainstream and specialty publication for endless takes on every possible angle.


I daresay that in its very brief life, “Barbie” has not just revitalized the color pink, it has already become the most overanalyzed movie in cinema history. “Citizen Kane” has nothing on this flick.

“Barbie,” inevitably, has sparked discussions about sex, gender and gender roles, relationships, aging, feminism and patriarchy.

Barbiephobes might say I became a feminist despite Mattel’s sexist grooming. They probably never played with Barbie.

July 18, 2023

The Washington Post explored Barbie’s “pornographic origin story.” The New Yorker proposed “Decoding Barbie’s Radical Pose” and also explained “Why Barbie Must Be Punished.”

In the Atlantic, a child psychiatrist opined on “What ‘Barbie’ Understands About Mother-Daughter Relationships.”

Famous feminists have weighed in.

Susan Faludi, author of 1991’s “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” saw the film with Jessica Bennett of the New York Times and declared “Barbie” to be a movie about abortion, sort of. (Don’t forget, Barbie is an unmarried career woman with no children.)

The film is a rare product of mainstream culture that invites men to reimagine masculinity for their own sake.

Aug. 4, 2023

“I mean, it begins with little girls playing with dolls learning the origin story of Barbie — and the rejection of the idea that women can just be mothers,” Faludi told Bennett. “It ends with her going to the gynecologist.”


Author Mary Pipher, whose 1994 classic “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” helped inspire Gerwig, changed her mind about the negative messages little girls get from Barbie dolls after watching the movie with a Daily Beast reporter.

“When I wrote ‘Reviving Ophelia,’ the Barbie doll personified everything I didn’t like about the idea of a woman,” Pipher said. But, she added, “Barbie has changed. If children like to play with Barbie dolls, that’s just fine with me, especially now that there’s a diverse group.”

One sub-genre of “Barbie” analysis plumbs the complexities of Ryan Gosling’s very tortured Ken, who, before Gerwig got her hands on him, was always just Barbie’s handsome bland boyfriend. (Movie tagline: “She’s everything. He’s just Ken.”)

From Megyn Kelly to Alexi Lalas, stunned, angry, even celebratory reactions to Sunday’s loss to Sweden show that the pressure described in ‘Barbie’ is all too real.

Aug. 8, 2023

Time magazine declares that “ ‘Barbie’ is a movie about male fragility.”

The Wall Street Journal says, “It’s a Weird Time to Be Named Ken.” (If you ask me, it’s a pretty weird time to be named Barbie too.) I have seen enough puns on his name — “Kenaissance,” “Kenpathy,” “My Kendom for a horse” to want to scream “Kenough!”

Not everyone appreciates the attention lavished on Ken. “Enough About Ken,” writes Xochitl Gonzalez in the Atlantic. “Men are not, in fact, always the center of women’s thoughts.”


Given its various themes, “Barbie,” predictably, has become part of the culture wars.

Bill Maher criticized the movie for being “preachy” and “man-hating.” Elon Musk took issue with the number of times the word “patriarchy” was uttered. Ben Shapiro set Barbie dolls on fire and tossed them into a trash can.

With help from Kate McKinnon, Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie’ pays homage to the doll we all played with too hard. So why not pay homage to my own?

Aug. 8, 2023

A spate of stories has tried to decipher the meaning of the Allan doll, a buddy of Ken’s played by Michael Cera, who is maybe gay, maybe binary or maybe the unsung or surprise hero of the movie.

And who knew the busty, long-legged blond would find herself embroiled in geopolitical drama?

Republicans — well, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz anyway — have claimed Barbie is pushing a Chinese communist agenda because a world map shown in the trailer includes what is known as the “nine-dash line,” which is used on Chinese maps to depict its territory in the South China Sea. Vietnam, which disputes China’s claims, has banned the movie entirely.

While some conservatives have complained that “Barbie” is unforgivably silent on the issues of faith and family, Christianity Today, in a piece called “Barbie and Ken Go East of Eden,” sees an opportunity to “reckon with the ‘fortunate fall.’’’ That happens when the pair leave plastic fantastic Barbie Land and end up at gritty Venice Beach, where they suddenly realize, as Eve/Barbie puts it, “I do not have a vagina and he does not have a penis. We have no genitals.”

All this, I suppose, is a way of saying that “Barbie” has something for everyone. As the movie’s logline so aptly puts it: “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.”


Rather than read about it, you should probably just go see it.

Or, hell, go see it again.