Opinion | 'Barbie' Is Bad. There, I Said It. – The New York Times

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Pamela Paul

Opinion Columnist
We can all agree 2023 was a good year for the movies. Critically and commercially, several movies did well, and only one of those successes took place within the Marvel cinematic universe. Even the 10 Oscar nominees for best picture, announced on Tuesday, included nine actually good films.
Is it safe now to call “Barbie” the outlier? Can I say that, despite winsome leads and likable elements, it didn’t cohere or accomplish anything interesting, without being written off as a) mean, b) old, c) hateful or d) humorless?
Every once in a while, a movie is so broadly anticipated, so welcomed, so celebrated that to disparage it feels like a deliberate provocation. After “Barbie” so buoyantly lifted box office figures, any criticism felt like a willful dismissal of the need to make Hollywood solvent after a season of hell. And it felt like a political statement. Disliking “Barbie” meant either dismissing the power of The Patriarchy or dismissing Modern Feminism. You were either anti-feminist or too feminist or just not the right kind.
Few dared rain on Barbie’s hot pink parade.
Those who openly hated it mostly did so for reasons having to do with what it “stood for.” They abhorred its (oddly anachronistic) third-wave feminist politics. They despised its commercialism and dreaded the prospect of future films about Mattel properties like Barney and American Girl dolls. They hated the idea of a movie about a sexualized pinup-shaped doll whose toy laptop or Working Woman (“I really talk!”) packaging couldn’t hide the stereotypes under the outfit.
For those who hailed it, there was a manic quality to the “Barbie” enthusiasm, less an “I enjoyed” and more of an “I endorse.” How fabulous its consumer-friendly politics, its I-can’t-believe-they-let-us-do-this micro-subversions, its prepackaged combo of gentle satire and you-go-girl gumption. They loved it for reclaiming dolls and Bazooka-gum pink, its Rainbow Magic diversity, its smug assurance that everything contained within was legitimately feminist/female/fine. They approved of the fact that Weird Barbie’s quirks could X out Stereotypical Barbie’s perfection on some unspoken political balance sheet. That by being everything to everyone, a plastic doll could validate every child’s own unique and irrepressible individuality. To each her own Barbie!
And now there is a new Barbie cause to rally around: the Great Oscar Snub and what it all means — and why it is wrong. Neither Margot Robbie nor Greta Gerwig was nominated for her most prominent role: best actress or best director, respectively. “How is that even possible?” one TV host exclaimed.
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