The film Barbie is a worldwide success, and as with any success, there is criticism. According to several conservative Americans, the film is full of misandry and should be banned in the United States. Media scientist dr. Simone Driessen explains on EenVandaag how this criticism reveals a tension in views on gender.
"It's like the roles are basically reversed in the film," Simone explains. Ken goes through the transition of emancipation in the film, so to speak. This is essentially the transition that women themselves have gone through. However, Simone also stresses that Barbie is an entertaining fantasy, "it's not meant to be a very wise life lesson, but of course you can see something in it. And I think precisely the social commentary that is in the film doesn’t go down well with some conservative people."
Without spoiling too much of the plot, Barbie goes from the 'Barbie world' to the 'real' world in the film. So, she goes from a world where women can be whatever they want to a world where, on the contrary, she only sees men in important positions. And the fictional doll character thinks something of that. Conservative critics argue that this portrays men as subordinate and stupid in the film.
Simone thinks women are quite often forgotten when making films. "We know the action films that - if you think in gender terms - are quite focused on men. While the group that has positive childhood memories of Barbie is actually very large. And that group is now being targeted with such a product. We underestimated the power of Barbie for a very long time. The love for Barbie runs very deep. For many young children, Barbie comes early in their lives and now they can go back to that feeling in the form of a film."
Lesson for society
Simone also shows how Barbie can actually be a good lesson for today's society: "Barbie is actually very neutral, even though we assign women and men to it. It's a doll, a fantasy world. You can make anything you want out of it and you can also do anything with it." Simone thinks it's a kind of game that we as a society should consider more, "we have the freedom to deal with dynamics differently. So maybe with gender, but maybe also just with the idea of: what happens in that film and what can we learn from it as a current society?"