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Barbie or not the Barbie

Photo by Sandra Gabriel on Unsplash

When my friend asked if I wanted to go see the new Barbie movie with her, my gut reaction was slightly harsher than “NO”.  Growing up in a blue-collar neighborhood, Barbie represented everything we could not afford. The thought of going to see the movie did not appeal to me.  But my friend was persistent and said it would be fun hanging out with a group of girls and having dinner afterward at an awesome restaurant by “The Point” movie theatre in Wilmington. When I heard “dinner” I relented.  However, I almost backed out when she told me to wear pink.  “Really”, I thought, “what’s the big deal about this movie?”

We went in three cars, there were 12 of us, all in pink, all over 50. We settled into our movie seats, some of us with popcorn. A quarter way through the movie I was already saying to myself repeatedly “I really cannot believe I am watching a Barbie Movie, this is silly”. Until the monologue of the character Gloria, the mom, played by America Ferrera. This drew me into the movie.  Spooler alert here is what (Villarreal, 2023) she said,

“It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.

“You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.

“But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

“I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.” And of course, she is right.

When Greta Gerwig wrote this, she really hit on how many of us women currently feel or have felt this way as a mom.  It’s tough and tiring living up to societal expectations of being a “Mom”.  It is no wonder many of us want to check out of the rat race. I remember when I was in my thirties having a career, commuting, being a continuous learner, raising three young children (thank God not completely on my own, cause that is even harder), and maintaining a clean house, thinking “I’m a tired supermom with no relief in sight.”  BURNOUT!!!  But I did pull my big girl pants up and decided I would become a modern-day Renaissance woman. This is also no short feat.

Defined, a modern-day Renaissance woman is a continuous learner, critical thinker, problem solver, creator, and innovator, and has multifaceted interests. She is also a leader, empowers others, has an entrepreneurial spirit, and is environmentally and culturally aware.  She understands personal finance and strives to be healthy, adaptable, and resilient. Oh, and she is technically savvy and the list goes on.  Of course, this is a life-long journey, maybe a goal I will never reach, but it’s a worthy one to try, I think.

So, is Barbie a modern-day Renaissance woman?  Not sure on that point.  But it does make me think about what others thought of the movie.  I put feelers out on “Facebook” and “Next-door” apps, plus chatted with a few friends in the neighborhood, and it appears many women have similar feelings about Ferrera’s dialogue.  Venyse Hicklin commented that “women at any age or stage of life can relate to this dialogue”. Susan DeGraauw Bistransin said she finally felt “seen”. Ann Carbone said “I bow to Greta.  She did a fabulous job. America Ferrera had me in tears.  I am not sure if the movie primarily speaks to women in my age group [50 and older] or others.”  Lucy Belcher (early ’20s) agreed that addressing this issue which is “so ingrained in society…[which was] addressed in the media” was refreshing”.  She also thought “The ending of the movie was sensational [with the] focus being on …the bond between mother and daughter [making] the movie heartwarming.”  Many of my friends said they just loved the ending because it was “unexpected and funny.”  Overall, the consensus was the movie had many layers to unpack and think about.  So, kudos to Greta Gerwig and all the other writers and producers of the Barbie movie for touching so many women’s hearts.



Villarreal, Y. (2023, July 23). Read the stirring monologue about womanhood America Ferrera delivers in ‘Barbie’. L.A. Times.


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About the Contributor
Maddy Halbach
Maddy Halbach, Contributing Writer
Maddy Halbach is a contributing writer for Cape Fear Voices. She resides in Brunswick Forest, Leland, NC.

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    Charles BinsSep 28, 2023 at 6:38 pm

    Enjoyed reading your take on the film, Maddy. Now I understand why it was so popular. As for me, I think I’ll wait for the “Ken” sequel. 😉