The second  winner of Essay Writing Competition in National English Competition ( 2023), held by English department, Binus University. 

By Fathima Azzahra

This year, the world is being held by one of the most remarkable feminime pop-culture icons which is Barbie. The movie Barbie (2023) directed by Greta Gerwig brings out significant impacts to the people. From cinema, toys, fashion, social media to public places, you can almost see the Barbie advertisement everywhere. The director Greta Gerwig, has already directed three well-known movies before making Barbie. Her movie styles mostly highlighted the topic of growing up, women empowerment, friendship, relationship and love. It is no surprise to people for who is going to direct the first ever live-action Barbie movie since she is no doubt already made some masterpieces. However, Barbie has been known for promoting unrealistic physical ideals for women which is quite destructive so it might be the literal opposite of Gerwig’s moral. This movie turns out to be extremely remarkable and not like what people expected at all. It introduces the basics of equality and tackles the patriarchal cultures by taking advantage of the most popular doll as a cinematic masterpiece.

Barbie as a Cultural Icon

Barbie has typically been a part of someone’s life, especially for young girls. It has already globally recognized for its doll, and later became movie characters and cultural icon. Many generations have played or at least known about these barbie dolls. These dolls and toys manufactured by Mattel Company continued to span their marketing by uniting with the latest Barbie movie. The marketing strategy for this movie is sensational. The Barbie character posters have been used countlessly by people on social media. Not to mention these posters, can be seen almost everywhere in real life, from retail shops, shopping malls, public transports to stations. Pink fashion items and other outfits inspired by Barbie also dominated many fashion brands. The toys promoted by Barbie also collaborated with many retails like fast food chains and other toy brands. The most popular item besides the doll is the DreamHouse, which interiors and decorations full of bright, pink, and playful items. Additionally, this DreamHouse is surprisingly available to be booked in real life as a life-sized Barbie’s vacation home in Malibu, resulted from Barbie’s collaboration with Airbnb.

Collaboration with Famous People

Besides the director and their marketing ventures, Barbie managed to successfully gain its audiences by casting the most popular actors these days in Hollywood. From casting Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the main characters, Barbie and Ken, to other supporting actors like Michael Cera, Dua Lipa, John Cena, Will Ferrel, Simu Liu, Helen Mirren, Emma Mackey and others. Barbie also curated its soundtrack with the hottest stars in pop and hip hop, like Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Sam Smith, Lizzo, Nicki Minaj, and Ice Spice. Therefore, intriguing these artists’ general audiences and listeners to go see this Barbie movie.

Barbie’s Release Date

Another reason for the Barbie movie being a huge cultural phenomenon this year is because it was released the same day as Oppenheimer, a historical movie directed by the famous Christopher Nolan. This also brought out a trend called Barbenheimer which combine together a bright colorful feminist and a dark historical war movie with the best-known directors this century. People made joke and celebrated those contradicted movies by watching both movies at the same day while bringing two different outfits together.

Movie References

The Barbie movie also includes several movie references that attracts plenty of cinema lovers. The most obvious one which is in the trailer and in the first scene of the movie is the 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) reference. The movie by the legendary Stanley Kubrick was the most popular one back in the 60’s and 70’s. Another big movies and shows like the Rocky movie franchise, Grease (1978), Pride and Prejudice (1995) and The Matrix (1999) are mentioned as well. Gerwig also added minor sarcasms towards Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) which most men are currently obsessed with.

How Barbie Presents Feminism

After analyzing the movie, it is clear that Barbie brings out a very sensitive and controversial topics that has been going around for centuries. It is a great start of understanding women struggles, the damages of patriarchy, equality, idealized masculinity and feminity. The topics discussed in the movie are culturally relevant in real life, with all positivity and freedom for women in the Barbie Land which is the reversed version of our society. The intended whole plot is about reversed power dynamics between genders.

The movie contains two different places which are the Barbie Land and the real world. In Barbie Land, the Barbies (the women) are respected and independent. They lead the Barbie Land, win the Nobel Prizes and have their own freedom. This movie does not promote misandry like what a lot of people assumed, but to make people realize misoginy. How it damages both women and also men. In this movie, we witness Barbie learning about patriarchy for the first time. Entering the real world, Barbie understands being objectified, but Ken understands his privilege. The Kens (the men) may not be in positions of power, but they aren’t oppressed or doing domestic labor or serving Barbies in Barbie Land, they just exist and want Barbies’ attention. Ken represents how some women live in real life and the idealized masculinity that traps men.

After learning about patriarchy, Ken goes back to Barbie Land to establish patriarchy. It is natural for Ken wanting to gain power when he has none. Just like most women in real life. Ken’s establishment of patriarchy guides us to discuss another character, Allan. Unlike another male character, his life is not circling around Barbie. He has his own beliefs and is not influenced by the patriarchy that runs in Barbie Land. As the narrator of Barbie, Helen Mirren, says that there are no multiples of Allan. Quiet sarcastic to imply the amount of men who are not influenced by the patriarchy in real life.

In the patriarchal society established by Ken, the Barbies are made to give up their positions in the cabinet. They accept and willingly serve the Kens without prior realization. Their DreamHouses and stuff are now owned by the Kens. The Kens end up dominating the power in Barbie Land by making the Barbies being manipulated and accepted the system. This cases can almost be seen everywhere in real life throughout every generation. It happens often where people glorify and ignore the existence of patriarchy.

The Barbies, humans, and Allan eventually team up to restore the system together. They end up manipulating the Kens by playing them against each other. While doing this, they take back their DreamHouses and their positions in the cabinet. They restore the Barbie Land along with realizing their own worth in life.

At the end, Ken asks Barbie to be his long-term girlfriend. Barbie refuses him and it makes him upset. He does not afraid to cry and show his emotion as a man. As analyzed earlier, before the patriarchy, the Kens just exist in Barbie Land and their lives are about getting Barbies’ attention. Because in the movie and the origin of Barbie made by Mattel, Barbie has always been the primary character while Ken is the secondary character. With this, Ken realizes the importance of setting boundaries by respecting Barbie’s decision. Barbie also has the courage to be true with herself and sets her own boundaries. Barbie encourages Ken to find his own purpose in life. Later, the other Kens realize that patriarchy is useless and joins Ken to seek their own purposes in life. A few of them are interested to have positions in the Barbie Land’s cabinet, but the Kens has no status in Barbie Land, so they need to start over to build their own achievements which they deserved. No women or men should be living in the shadows.

Tossing the Barbie’s Stereotypes

Regarding the toxic depiction of Barbie’s idealized feminity and rampant consumerism, this movie successfully tackled the issue by making awareness of patriarchy, bringing broad representation of people and noticing details about how precious life is. The Barbies and Kens are different and not all of them are like the stereotypical Barbies and Kens we knew. There are Barbies and Kens with different race, body type, weight, height, and there is even a Barbie in a wheelchair in the movie. This representations are crucial to engage more diverse individuals. People would feel more included and related to the story. There are also scenes where they adore the beauty of humans emotions, peoples connections, growing old, nature, and body positivity. As a result, people tend to learn and be more grateful about their lives with this movies.


Barbie articulates the problems people in many generations can relate to. The problems people may have encountered and willing to change for the better. The basics of implementing equality are so well depicted as well. By being culturally relevant, people that already interested in investing equality would eagerly watch the movie. The movie is also covered by satirical humor and sarcasm to get into the audience’s mind. Although wouldn’t be called as a funny movie, Barbie has always seem to have intention behind every aspect shown. Almost every detail in the movie is essential for marketing feminism into the audience. Their huge marketing strategies through brands and stuff have also successfully intrigued people to watch this movie. People from many generations or places have been influenced to watch Barbie. The controversial topic does not discredit the fact that it got a lot of heart from people. It resulted in making people aware of the patriarchal culture. This movie also dives into the complexity of human’s existence. However, many still despise and misunderstand the points of this movie. Leaving the theater, people would either be contemplating the movie with their lives for hours or left confused.


Loughrey, C. (2023, July 23). Barbie review: A near-miraculous achievement from Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie. The Independent.

Morrison, F. (2023, August 21). Barbie Marketing: Innovative tactics behind Barbie’s 2023 film success. NoGoodTM: Growth Marketing Agency.