Does the New Barbie Movie Display Hatred Towards Men?

The Barbie movie: explained. Delving into the true message behind this cinema success exposes how it is far from an “assault” on men and instead explores the negative effects of patriarchy on both women and men.
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Created by _liv_p

Published on Aug 15, 2023
screenshot from the Barbie Movie

*May contain spoilers*

This is an assault on not just Ken, but all men.” – (Piers Morgan)

It makes me viscerally angry” – (Ben Shapiro)

An alienating, dangerous and perverse film” – (an insecure man on Letterboxd)

Amidst the huge success of the recent Barbie movie came some men’s fear and disgust of a film unravelling patriarchy and showcasing powerful women in this comedic, politically progressive, entertaining film.  

Barbie, the toy, was initially created by Ruth Handler to show how girls could be more than just mothers (during a time when baby dolls were the popular toy on the market). The Barbie doll represents the range of possibilities for what a girl could be, from a doctor to a chef, having over 200 career choices in a time when these didn’t exist for women. Society took this ideal away from young girls by turning Barbie into an embodiment of unrealistic beauty standards, something largely negative and to be frowned upon if you enjoyed playing with the dolls. 

The Barbie movie is based upon this, with the protagonist Sasha even saying how Barbie “set the feminist movement back 50 years” and “destroyed girls’ innate sense of self-worth”. Whilst this is true, it wasn’t the intention of the Barbie doll, it was society and patriarchy which sexualised and put all focus on her body rather than her agency, which is highlighted within the movie. The journey Barbie makes from Barbieland to the real world, becoming a victim of the male gaze and no longer feeling safe or powerful, and even being assaulted, could be representative of the transition from girlhood to womanhood, naivety to realisation, in a real-life patriarchal society. 

Whilst the film does focus on Barbie’s experience, the Barbie movie is not anti-men; if anything, it paints men in a positive light and exposes how patriarchy affects them too! Barbieland is essentially a fantasy world where women are meant to feel empowered with the possibility to be anything they want to be, stemming from a time where this was far from any reality. 

Ken discovers patriarchy when he travels to the real world and is excited to finally enforce this system back in Barbieland in which men are in charge instead of being secondary to Barbie. Unlike the Barbies, however, the Kens misuse their power and enslave all the women and oblige them to provide constant attention and “brewskis”. In the end, the Barbies regaining control simply depicts a reverse of contemporary patriarchy, whilst being sympathetic to men’s suffering too! The Barbies’ biggest crime is that they ignore the men, instead of forcing the Kens to serve them. If the Barbie movie was truly anti-men, Ken's storyline would've ended there with him looking power-hungry and sexist.

However, this storyline sympathises with men’s experience under patriarchy as Ken’s hyper-masculinity and male dominance only leaves him feeling lonely and alienated, being unable to express emotion or cry. In the end, Barbie helps Ken become an individual “just Ken” and find his self-worth. 

Ultimately, the film illustrates how Barbie does NOT hate men, it is simply portraying an anti-patriarchy message, showcasing how it affects both women and men negatively. 

Content Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VoiceBox, affiliates, and our partners. We are a nonpartisan platform amplifying youth voices on the topics they are passionate about.



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