Think pink: Phoebe Maltz Bovy reviews the feature-length toy ad—despite the destructive discouragement of Ben Shapiro

You can spend one-third of the runtime of ‘Barbie’ listening to this man telling you not to see it.

I have done my cultural-critic duty and been to see the Barbie movie. I took my four-year-old, which (as vetted beforehand) was fine in terms of appropriateness (the only concern anyone voiced was that in one instance beers are consumed, which is true but also nothing compared with what one witnesses walking through Toronto), and maybe fun for that age range in terms of costumes and dance numbers.

As for my own enjoyment of it, I wanted to love it. I was prepared for a fuchsia-toned Ladybird. I even brought my pink Rexall umbrella (it was pouring). But the whole movie was a toy ad. A high-production-value toy ad, with a talented cast, but a toy ad all the same. I felt like a bit of a dupe, having shown up and paid money to see what was, in effect, an advertisement for a Barbie doll.

I did not watch Ben Shapiro DESTROY the film for any of the 43 minutes in which he evidently did just that, nor do I have plans to do so. I have however followed discourse around this enough to understand that conservatives are mad at the movie for its (ostensibly, ahem) feminist message.

But by now we all know the drill. If conservatives are mad at something, it must be progressive and wonderful. Thus the drinking of Bud Light to own the cons, and thus, now, the watching of a feature-film-form ad for friggin’ Barbie dolls for that same purpose.

Are Barbies feminist? Is the Barbie movie?

It is, at best, photogenic feminism, the feminism of how hard it is to be young and hot and gender-conforming, things that all can indeed be challenges in a sexist society, but that do not comprise the entirety of the female experience.

There has been a move, in recent years, to reclaim the bimbo. Roughly, to say that hyper-femininity is not inherently less-than. That’s the cultural context where this much-hyped event falls. You can like pink and be a lawyer astronaut! Which, why not.

But at the end of the day, this is a movie where Margot Robbie looks like a human Barbie doll (she is playing “Stereotypical Barbie,” get it, get it, Greta Gerwig knows what she’s doing here), where the camera lingers on this image (which is absurd when Simu Liu as a Ken is right there but I digress), and where feminism appears to be stuck at… I’m not even sure which battles it thinks it’s facing, but it’s arguably reinforcing the thing it pretends to be opposing, a thing that was long since obsolete.

I found myself having to explain to my daughter after we saw the movie that no, contrary to what’s depicted therein, offices in the real world do not only have men working in them. What’s the point of a movie telling little girls that they too can now have office jobs, when this has long since been the case, and when it literally would not have occurred to them otherwise until a big toy-tie-in movie suggested this to them as a possibility?

The CJN’s senior editor Phoebe Maltz Bovy can be reached at [email protected] and on whatever Twitter is calling itself this week @bovymaltz