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We’re All ‘Barbie’ Girls, It’s a ‘Barbie’ World

August 1, 2023
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) ask if you’re ready for the nascent Mattel Cinematic Universe (as chronicled by the New Yorker here) currently being developed by Hollywood. If you enjoyed Barbie, you’re gonna love Uno! Speaking of: did we love Barbie? It’s the hit of the summer—and could wind up being the highest-grossing movie of the year—but is it any good? If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend!
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to across the movie. I’ll present it by Bulwark Plus. I’m your host Sunny Bunch Culture editor of the Bulwark. I’m joined as always by Elizabeth Rosenberg of to post and Peter Suterman of Reason Magazine. Alyssa Peter, how are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:22

    I have not yet melted, so I’m counting that as a plus. It is hot here in DC.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:28

    I am happy to be talking about the second half of Barbenheimer, a great two movies with friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:36

    Alright. So, first up this week, we’re gonna be talking about the oncoming MCU, not the Marvel Cinematic Universe folks. The Mattel cinematic Universe. We got a Barbie movie that’s gonna be maybe the biggest movie of the year. This I don’t know what this movie’s gonna end up at, but, you know, I could see it doing anywhere between seven hundred million domestic.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:54

    One point three, one point five billion dollars worldwide. It’s huge hit. Huge hit. People love Barbie. Which in turn prompted some folks to look back at a a recent New Yorker piece about the Mattel company’s inroads into Hollywood and all the great products they’re working up here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:11

    And I I gotta say, guys, I’m I’m real excited for the future of movies. I don’t know what I’m most excited for. Peter, are you more excited for, Uno, the movie or Hotwheels, the movie?
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:25

    False choice.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:26

    Don’t answer that yet. Don’t answer that yet because we also have, an Magic Eightfall movie possibly coming. And, I don’t a lit a literal toy astronaut guy who I’ve never heard of before that Michael Shabon is is working on. Guys, we are staring down the barrel. Of, an IP onslaught, the likes of which we haven’t seen, I guess, about fifteen years fifteen years.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:49

    Peter, What are your thoughts on the Mattel Cinematic Universe?
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:53

    I love it. This is this is just great. This is what this is like as a kid, This is why I went to the movies. It’s to see the things, the toys that I played with, my imaginary experiences played out on screen. I wanted somebody else to imagine them for me.
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:08

    And that was it. That was all I wanted. And now I’m an adult and that’s still all I wanted. Actually, maybe that’s true. I don’t know.
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:15

    I have I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, like, who who actually is excited for a magic eight ball movie, even if it’s weirdly and our like, a not quite r rated horror film.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:28

    It’s just kind
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:29

    of an interesting concept. Right? Like, it’s hard to imagine anyone actually being excited for that. On the other hand. What it sounds like they’re doing is something that is actually kind of interesting, which is they want to empower like, clever original interesting filmmakers to make movies about their products.
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:49

    And one of the, like, subtexts of the, you know, sort of implied and at one point just actually, stated things about this New Yorker piece was that it seems pretty clear that a bunch of these filmmakers are just trying to figure out how to sneak their pre existing passion projects into the mattel format. Right? Like, somebody wants to make a movie about a crazy fishing competition, and so they pitched a movie about some fishing rod toy. I don’t know. Something like that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:17

    Right? Like But there’s a bunch of that’s just kind of thing happening. There’s also like this, you know, Daniel Kaluya’s, like crazy Spike Jones s Barney movie, right, which is, like, I’m kinda interested in
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:29

    seeing that. Can I interrupt for a second?
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:31

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:31

    This is an important question. Have both of you seen death to Smuji?
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:34

    Yes. Yes. But not for a long time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:36

    Okay. Because I feel like the dark twisted barney movie already exists.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:40

    And
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:41

    therefore, we don’t need another.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:42

    The eight twenty four s. Ready for another one. Here’s my, like, my actual my actual defense of this is they seem to be doing the thing that we have always complained that Marvel didn’t do, which is they seem to actually be bringing in talented filmmakers with visions and asking those filmmakers to apply those visions to their toy brands. That is maybe not exactly the thing that I most want from movies, but it’s so much more interesting then whatever the hell Antman three was.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:14

    Yes. And I mean, to be fair, it took us a while to get to Antman three. Right? It it wasn’t the ant man three was not the ant man and the lost quantum mania was not the beginning point of the MCU. It was the perhaps logical, but, you know, maybe maybe not end point.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:28

    I mean, look, I I do think that my one agreement with you here is that I do think if if Mattel is actually interested in empowering creators to make interesting original projects. And I think we can all agree, even if we don’t all love Barbie, that it is at least interesting looking and, like, idiosyncratic in ways that reflect, Gretigerwig, and also Noah Bombbox personalities. I like the idea that they’re giving creators leeway to play. And they are one thing that Mattel is not hampered by that Marvel is. They are not hampered by enormous complicated backstories that have to hew to the preconceived expectations of built in fan base says.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:08

    Right? Like, you you make a you make a hot wheels movie. That movie can be about anything with cars.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:12

    This is true to some extent, but Have you ever looked at the lower page for masters of the universe? Yeah. But even even Oh my goodness.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:22

    Sure. I mean, I I I could see there are certain things that might wind up, you know, but, like, I feel like that’s another thing that honestly you you could very easily taken any number of directions. I don’t think that, you you’re gonna have that big, huge, built in loyal fan base, yelling at you.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:39

    I wanna make room for Alyssa, but I would say one thing really quickly, which is Mattel might be doing for an for IP, for toy IP, what Tom Cruise has done at his best throughout his career, which is Tom Cruise has always served the interests of Tom Cruise the product, but he’s also sought to do that by making really good, really interesting movies that show off how awesome Tom Cruise the, basically, the action figure is. And we like Tom Cruise because he he is something like a vehicle for good movies, even if in the end, they are always about maintaining the Tom Cruise IP and the Tom Cruise brand. And I think the best case scenario here Maybe I will be very annoyed with Mattel in a decade. But the best case scenario here is that Mattel does something like that, but for a huge range of toy IP.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:26

    Yeah. Alyssa, I feel like we’ve got the rose tinted glasses on here. We’re looking at this new thing. We’re like, yeah, this could be good. But if we’ve learned anything in this life, is that things that could be good usually do not become good.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:38

    You mean you’re not incredibly excited for the Lena Dunham Poly pocket movie, which has a completed script and a star attached. Sure. Like, you don’t wanna see what happens when Poly pocket, like, leaves the world of her clamshell and, like, enters New York and, like, does a lot of drugs and has degrading sex and, like, a magazine internship, and then ultimately finds that the full expression of herself and the way to, like, get away from her self obsession is motherhood.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:08

    You’re not
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:08

    incredibly supportive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:10

    So you’re you’re saying you’re saying Poly pocket girls. I I’m sold. Here’s ten million dollars. Go make it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:15

    I mean, god only knows what happened. And I actually I was surprised by how terrific I Donham’s adaptation of Catherine called Bernie was. And so I am weirdly excited to see the influence that Mattel works on her in a weird way. So I think, like, I have no idea what’s gonna happen here. I am, you know, I’m sort of so crushed by the machine that, like, I will I sort of expect that this will be terrible, but maybe it’ll be just incredibly strange in the way this is that Barbie is just, like, incredibly strange.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:48

    And that would kind of be awesome. I mean, if we get to a place where you can make, you know, if Mattel of all companies ends up being the ones who was like, Marvel, you know what? You can make hundreds of millions of dollars, being just weird as hell and not having Kevin Bieg, like, ring the originality out of your people, like, you know, some sort of horrible monster crushing a human body, like, that would rule. That would really rule. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:13

    Like, I have no expectations. It’s a million degrees. My brain is broken. But Barbie is definitely the weirdest thing I’ve seen come out of corporate IP ever. And, you know, we live in and out of like the Lego movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:27

    So I guess I’m tentatively excited at, like, when it’s a disaster I can’t say that I’ll be disappointed because Marvel took away my capacity to be disappointed.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:38

    I mean, this is the thing is that I’m actually I am always interested in are movies that are either interesting successes or interesting failures. Like bland success is not that interesting. Blanned failure is not that interesting. But an interesting success, tautologically, is interesting. Look, I would prefer that we had twenty movies a year like Oppenheimer.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:02

    Right? Or car or, I mean, you know, everything everywhere all at once. Right? Like, I I want I want the Cohen Brothers making movies. I’m looking forward to drive away dolls.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:12

    Right? I wanna see big, original, quirky stuff in the movie theaters. But also, if we are nearing the end of a generation of franchises. And if you look at this summer at the box office, it really feels like we are, I mean, everything everything is bombing, indie, indie five bombs. The transformer seven bombs, mission impossible seven bombs.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:36

    Like, I, you know, I mean, bomb maybe is too strong a word for that, but not that’s too strong. I mean, it that was not a that was not a successful movie. It did much worse than people expected or hoped for it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:46

    I don’t know. I Is it gonna lose money? It seems like it’s gonna lose money.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:49

    It looked like it was on in the past to break even with because it’s so internationally weighted. Yeah. But so something like a break even if it gets to break
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:57

    even, they’ll they’ll be lucky. If it gets to break even, they’ll be lucky. But I mean, look, the point is, you know, all these these movies coming out. The flash, biggest bomb in Warner Brothers history. Like, I just feel like we are nearing we’re nearing the end of a twenty year period of IP slash franchises slash whatever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:16

    And, you know, there there will have to be something to take its place in that big budget space. And I am if Mattel is able to make stuff that is as interesting as Barbie, again, even though I didn’t really like it, we’ll talk about that more in a second. I am at least interested to see what they do.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:32

    I think you’re totally right. I’ll just really quickly, I I just wanna say, I think you’re totally right. We are seeing the end of all these franchises this summer, but we’re also seeing the beginning. Barbie and Super Mario Brothers very clearly, but we’re gonna get. We are going to get a a universe here of toy movies, of video game movies, and then the other thing that is coming down the line that I think even, like, we on this podcast are not really fully tuned into is we are gonna get a lot of anime movies five to ten years from now.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:57

    That is the that is that is the subculture that the kids are into these days that, like, the olds like us don’t fully understand. And at this and, like, we are we are barreling into a wave of anime adaptations.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:09

    Yeah. I mean, the one thing I was gonna ask you guys is if you think that it’s these franchises specifically that are aging, or is it more broadly that the idea of the superhero is aging? Because, you know, we’re we’re twenty two years out from September eleventh, from this, you know, we’ve just gone through a very different national crisis that has produced a lot of sort of polarization and anger, but also sort of a yearning for to kind of frivolity and play that I think Barbie captured really strongly. Like, do we, you know, is there a cultural demand for a different kind of protagonist as well as a different kind of franchise?
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:46

    That’s a slightly deeper way, frankly, a thing about it than than I’ve been thinking about it. My big take is I really think that people are just tired of all of these things that look exactly the same. I think they are tired of this kind of bland CGI mush action, plasticy, weightless stuff that is kind of embodied in in Flash the flash and, you know, some of the some of the other Marvel stuff we’ve seen recently. I mean, even the stuff that, like, it has kind of interesting designs, like, quantimania, like, it doesn’t it just can’t it can’t get over the hump that that is created by that kind of CGI mushiness. But maybe maybe we’re ready for something beyond the capes and cows.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:25

    I don’t know, Peter.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:27

    I think you’re both right, but I would say it some ways, I think it’s even simpler than that. Every genre that is hugely popular eventually plays itself out because the creators of these things feel like they have to keep delivering the same thing over and over because you don’t wanna depart too far from what works really well. Well, that creates a stagnation. And eventually, that stagnation, the audience responds to it by finding something else that feels fresh and original. And so, you know, I I said that I was excited for Mattel to empower interesting visionaries I am.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:02

    I think that could happen, especially in the early days of a project like that. But I also expect that if it’s successful over the long run, It will tend toward products that are similar to the things that have done the best that they will have a that they will have trouble over ten or twenty years. If that’s how long they can make this last, they will have trouble staying fresh. And that has very much been the case with the Marvel Universe, The DC universe has been a little more fresh in the sense that it has been a little more experimental. It’s just that most of those experiments haven’t really worked with audiences And so that’s its own problem.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:36

    And so this is just true with every genre. We we just see that even something that works really well, that works really well twice or three times or seven times by the thirty eighth. I don’t remember what Marvel movie we’re at now. But it’s it’s into the thirties. By the thirties, something’s time you’re trying to push that button, it is just inherently not going to work as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:59

    So what do we think? Is it a controversy or an controversy that Mattel is trying to replace one MCU with another? Peter?
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:05

    I think it’s an controversy. This is what Hollywood does is they adapt properties they need buy in because even cheap movies, even reasonably priced movies are so expensive to make. Alyssa?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:18

    It’s a controversy. I’m happy to be crushed under Barbie Stoletto.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:22

    It’s a controversy. How dare you pillage my childhood toys like he man masters of the universe, the sanctity of which could not possibly be sullied by the the corporate behemoth that owns it. I’m outraged. Alright. No bonus episode this Friday.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:41

    For reasons beyond our control coal issues and air conditioning issues. No no bonus episode this this week. We’ll be back next week with another one. Okay? You gotta get to our main event.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:51

    On to our main event, Barbie. As Melissa says, this is the weirdest movie that I’ve seen in some some time. Just wanna relay an anecdote from this movie. And it it was at the top of my, review. So if you’ve read that, this is gonna be a little repetitive and I apologize for that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:10

    But let me just, explain what happened. So I’m I’m walking out of the movie theater. Saw it midday. Like, I think it was a Wednesday screening. Eighty percent full theater, you know, audiences pretty into it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:24

    I texted a friend as I was leaving. I was like, Hey, I just got out of Barbie, and it was bad. I didn’t like it. It was it was not my cup of tea. And literally, I’m like hitting send on this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:33

    And behind me, I hear this very excited little girl who says, that was great. I loved all of the pretty dresses. And I sat there thinking to myself, I was like, alright. Look, here the here’s the thing. This movie is not for me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:45

    I accept that this movie is not for me. The forty something conservative male. Of the world. It’s just not not a movie, not a movie designed to appeal to my interests. But I really don’t think it’s a movie for that little girl either.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:57

    I feel like if She if her big takeaway from this movie is look at all the pretty dresses, I do not think that that is what Greta Gerwig and Noah Bambach wanted from this movie. Now let’s set that aside. My issue with this movie is not ideological in any way, really, and it’s not ideological in any way because so incoherent. The the the the I I don’t think you could actually make a coherent ideological or political case for this movie. It boils down to women are people That’s as narrow as it gets frankly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:26

    Women are people. Okay. Great. Wonderful. But the the real problem with this movie is that it just didn’t work on a comedy level.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:33

    This is a comedy. This is a movie that is supposed to be funny. And while there are elements that are amusing to it, the elements that are amusing are driven almost entirely by performers and their faces, not setups and punch lines, not, you know, wacky. But like Ryan Gosling, made me smile a couple times. I’ll I’ll be he was great.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:52

    He’s great in this. He’s the best part. It’s it’s weird that the best part of this movie is the Ken’s. The best part of Barbie is the Kenz. That’s not how it should be in a Barbie movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:01

    He’s wonderful. Will Saletan is very funny doing very kind of stereotypically Will Saletan things. I mean, the one the one other performer I actually did like, the one Barbie I did like a lot was Kate Mckinnon, but again, that’s because Kate Mckinnon has a very funny face. I find her face amusing. And she makes me smile.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:18

    And weird Barbie is kind of an interesting concept. The movie as a whole, I it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. It’s laden with these ridiculous monologues that sound like a mix of, What was the Noah Bombock movie, a marriage story?
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:32

    Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:33

    Yes. A marriage story, or, the cool girl speech from gone girl, you know, at the at the at the end you have this mom talking about, oh, how hard it is to be woman? You have to be just like this and blah blah blah. I’m excited for the Ken sequel about the opioid crisis. That’s what I wanna see.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:48

    The the Ken movie about the crippling crisis of male depression and suicide and friendlessness. That’s that’s what I wanna see because I’m a man. I wanna see movies that reflect me, and we don’t get very many of those these days. Alyssa, you like this movie a lot, I think, or at least we’re, like, intrigued by it. In a way that I simply am not.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:08

    What am I what am I the man? I’m a man. I’ve I will admit it. What have I missed? Bobby.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:14

    It’s not for you. It’s okay. Just, like, run along to your superhero thing. It’s, you know, like, go. You can Sunny, you can go do movie now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:22

    It’s alright. We have the rest of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:24

    My job is movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:25

    Yes. Your job is movie. Look, the this is a movie about the incoherence of contemporary feminism and contemporary womanhood. And I’m sort of I’m sort shocked that you did you not like Margarabi in this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:38

    I she’s fine. I liked her much more in Babylon. I’ll put it that way. I liked her I liked her more in Babylon. I liked her more in I don’t know, Wolf of Wall Street, I guess.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:49

    I’ll to the Tanya Harking movie, I Tanya.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:51

    Like her more when she’s more naked. Is that what this is about?
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:54

    Yes. That actually I’m
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:55

    giving a hard time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:56

    That that if this movie had had more naked margot Robbie, I would have probably liked it more. It was a hard r Barbie movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:04

    So, yeah, I mean, look, I I am not sure this movie is supposed to be coherent. Because I think it is about sort of two things, which are first the sort of experimentality of play. Right? It’s like the internal stories that kids tell themselves, the worlds that they invent, they’re not coherent or consistent. They take weird swerves, but that’s part of what play is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:30

    Right? It is, it is about the process of sort of building a world that makes sense in figuring out how things work. And, you know, it’s one of the reasons that there are there’s this big study of toys and how kids play with them called the Tiffany toy study. That says that overwhelmingly, the toys that are sort of best and most useful for kids development are very open ended toys. And Barbies themselves sort of in a midway point between, like, montessori blocks and, you know, incredibly directed STEM toys that are getting you to do one thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:03

    But what play is supposed to be an opportunity for kids to do is to control their worlds, to try on different things. There actually have been academic who study the tendency of older girls to mutilate their Barbies as sort of a rebellion against the norms that Barbie represents. And so the things that people do sort of with their toys and with their dolls are not sort of purely rational. But then You know, the movie is about that sort of incoherence of of contemporary feminism and of contemporary womanhood. And I think it is not particularly interested in trying to resolve that tension.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:36

    And I think you can argue that that’s a weakness of the movie. I I’m certainly open to that. My, you know, my col my friend and colleague, Christine Nba, has a big essay at the Washington Post about sort of the crisis and contemporary masculinity. And some of my friends who joked like Christine Nba has more to say contemporary masculinity than Barbie does. And, you know, again, I can’t really refute that, but I think it’s sort of it is telling that in the movie itself, having that inconsistency and incoherence and contradictory nature of womanhood articulated to them is sort of what wakes the Barbies up.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:11

    Right? It’s they stop trying to be one thing. They stop trying to expect their live to be one thing. And they just kinda live with the contradiction, and that is what ends up being attractive to Barbie herself about humanity. And so, you know, I I mean, it’s also a movie that is, like, basically, if Gretick or Away had, like, stuck a matrix style Jack, into the back of my brain and just, like, downloaded a bunch of cultural references and jokes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:40

    Like, you guys will never under stand on a deep level, what it is like to see the indigo girls closer to find, be a major musical motif in a blockbuster movie. Like, you just you cannot comprehend what that song means to women my age. Right? Like, it just I’m sorry, guys. I it’s like seeing the godfather for the first or something probably.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:02

    And so It’s no matchbox is funny.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:05

    It’s,
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:06

    you know, I know you wanna push me around, Sunny, but Sorry. Yeah. And so I think this movie is actually a really interesting case for the kind of, kind of moralism and political thinking that movies are uniquely suited to do, which is that they can kind of lean into the coherence. They can kinda say some of what you can’t say in a, you know, sort of more conventional political context. Like, there is an ongoing debate in contemporary feminism about the extent to which consumerism, girly aesthetics, you know, sort of leaning into positions of power, you know, are are those compatible with a sort of more radical feminist critique?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:55

    And I’m actually surprised in some ways that, like, this movie hasn’t gotten more more pushback for the ending. Let me give everyone, like, a couple minutes of, like, spoiler stuff because The way the movie ends is that Barbie essentially, like, has a conversation with the ghost of her creator, Ruth Hamler, who, you know, talks about sort of the importance of motherhood. And, like, one of the things when you do when you have children is, like, you let your kids run ahead so they can look back and see how far they’ve come. And Barbie famously is a doll who’s, like, never had a kid. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:31

    Like, she is not married. She does not have a family. She is sort of unencumbered. And so the movie both ends
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:37

    There’s even a whole bit about the Barbie that was pregnant and it was too weird.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:41

    Yes. Like if
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:41

    we’re not gonna show that bar that Barbie. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:43

    It’s like we’re not doing that. That’s too strange. So the movie, like, interestingly comes back to what is always Gerwig’s theme, which is mothers and daughters, but it also interesting ends on this, like, biological note where Barbie becomes a real girl, and the implication is that she gets, like, actual female genitalia, right, which I am sort of surprised that we haven’t seen a trans critique of this. That’s like
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:08

    I will have there has been I have seen that on — Okay. — on Twitter. You’ve you haven’t been on you’re not online enough. Let’s go to understand.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:15

    Sufficiently online these days. I think it’s, like, it’s kind of fascinatingly it’s fascinating that it kind of ends on a more conservative note.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:25

    Totally.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:26

    But it also has this very sort of intense embrace of, like, girliness in a way that both leans into, like, nineties girlboss feminism and, like, you know, Little Fair and Michigan Women’s Festival. And, you know, I I just find it sort of a fascinating document I enjoyed being in it, and I Will Saletan the at my screening, the twenty something guy who was sitting next to me just cried through the entire montage at the end when Barbie’s, like, sort of, like, getting the mother daughter download experience. Like, like, he cried harder than I did. And so it’s clearly something that is resonating with people beyond people like me for whom this movie was very specifically produced. But it is really enjoyable to just be so thoroughly pander to.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:17

    I have to say, is this what it’s like? Like, I mean, like, am I having the reverse can experience where I’m like, Is this what it’s like all of the time? Is it always this great? Hey.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:25

    What’s the time, Melissa?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:29

    It’s almost four fifteen. You think I’m important.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:34

    Peter. Peter will get to you Peter will get to you in one sec. Actually, maybe I should keep Peter at the whole time? Treat him like a Ken. What do you think, Alyssa is, I can mute him remotely.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:43

    Should I do that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:43

    I mean, his your your jobs are movie.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:46

    So
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:47

    Our jobs are movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:48

    Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:49

    Peter, I’ll come to you in one second. I do want I I wanna I wanna suggest one thing, which is that I, again, I don’t think the movie this movie this movie’s not for me. And this movie is not, I think, for that little girl who I mentioned. Here’s who I do think the movie is for. The movie is for the twenty to fifty something millennials, xenial, kinda, extra, demographic, liberal ish woman, who needs to be reassured that it’s okay to buy Barbies for her kid and let her play with them.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:19

    I’m gonna be very, very cynical here Ron DeSantis suggest that this entire movie is a one hundred fifty million dollar ad campaign to in to ensure that the, generation of moms out there right now feels comfortable giving their kids Barbie to play with. Do you think that that is an unreasonable read?
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:35

    No. Not at all. But I will say one thing that’s really interesting is, before the movie came out, I actually went back and read a bunch of the acronym literature that has been used to sort of form a critique of Barbie over time. And it’s amazing how bad it is. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:49

    Like, people have, you know, people will say that, like, oh, Barbie makes girls less likely to think of themselves in a wide range of careers. You know what? That’s based on a study of thirty seven girls who played with one of two Barbies or a Mrs’s potato head for a few minutes. Right? Like, I don’t know why a sentient married starch would produce a lean in effect where Barbie does not, but like, that is garbage.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:12

    Right? They’re, like, There is actually a literature review where, you know, people went and tried to find studies that actually showed the garb to Barbie’s, make girls feel about their bodies, and those studies don’t exist. Like, there is just not evidence that proves that. So it’s interesting that Barbie actually sort of in, like, overstates the critique of the doll itself within the text of the movie when, you know, like, there again, there is this academic literature about girls at a certain point, like, kind of mutilating and messing with Barbie and, like, doing things to her hair, etcetera. But the idea that Barbie’s had, like, some sort of deleterious experience, you know, effect on girls is just not something that exists in the evidence.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:52

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:53

    Peter, what did you make of Barbie?
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:56

    I appreciated this movie. I found it fascinating and kind of formally impressive. I’m not sure I really liked it. Certainly, I didn’t love it, but it’s conceptually interesting and clever. It’s just kind of daringly weird in a way that is at least very rare for a studio film, visually, you know, which you mentioned in your reviews, Sonny, but also I think just in the way that it conceptualizes the bizarre fantasy world, that Barbie lives in.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:19

    I mean, that sort of world building is not something that you see very often, and and it is sometimes funny. We’ve made a bunch of jokes about how your job is to movie, Sunny, but that’s because they’re this idea of the Ryan Gosling Ken not having a job, just beach is is this great little absurdist conceit that’s like, well, let’s take Beach Ken’s here. What is Beach Ken? He’s not a lifeguard. He’s not a he’s just beach.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:45

    Just beach. Right? And that’s funny. That’s interesting. And, like, that’s a good idea.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:49

    Yeah. Is that the greatest idea I’ve ever seen on film?
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:52

    It’s like
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:52

    a good idea.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:53

    It’s kind of funny the first time, and just as beach off is a very is like kind of funny the first time you hear that joke. And then it it doesn’t even get to the family guy point where it’s like, funny and then not funny and then funny again. It’s just kinda not funny after that. I will say one thing, Peter is, I’ve totally lost my train of thought here. Never mind.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:11

    I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Go on.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:14

    You did mean to interrupt, but
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:15

    I don’t My job is interrupted.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:16

    Yeah. That’s right. Look, I so but I I think I you know, I think this movie has two fundamental issues, two big issues. And the first and they’re related. And the first one is structural.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:27

    On a screenplay level. The movie sets us up for a conflict with Barbara’s corporate masters in the real world. Right? The whole second quarter of the movie that once she gets to the real world is about Mattel and the big bads at Mattel and how they’re they’re gonna, like, try to put her back in the box. And Will Farrell does this whole thing where he talks about there was a previous Barbie who got out.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:48

    And things got very weird. So we need to get this Barbie into a box. And at one point, they just try to get her to walk into a box and she doesn’t. And then wait. That’s not actually what the movie’s about.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:58

    That’s not the fundamental conflict. And it’s just like you’ve set us up for a different villain in a way that I think just doesn’t work from a screen play structure perspective. And then it just drops that conflict. Not totally. It’s not that Will Farrell isn’t in the third but it’s not like fundamentally the movie is then about a different conflict that isn’t really apparent until the the third quarter of the film.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:20

    Alright? We start to see it more right around the when the second hour comes in. And that conflict is in some ways, it’s more interesting. It’s the conflict between the Barbies and the kens. Okay.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:30

    So if you guys know about screenplay rules like the the guideline for who is supposed to be the villain in your movie, The villain is the character who is the opposite, the antithesis, the the negative image of your hero. And of course, Ken is the opposite of Barbie. Right? And this is actually again, this is a good idea, but it’s a good idea that comes far too late and isn’t explored enough. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:55

    We have the these avatars of maleness and femaleness that are like the, you know, creating sort of have that having conflict in society. And every time we get that conflict expressed in an absurdist way where it’s like suddenly everything has to have a horse on it. It’s great. That’s a good gag. Okay.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:13

    Yes. They could have developed it a little bit more. But this is a great just like a funny absurdist exploration of how a dumb Ken would like react to all of the information that you can now get at a library. Right? Like, it’s and also, like, how guys kind of like think about things.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:30

    Right? Like, oh, man. I’m just gonna put Spider Man on all my shirts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:34

    Yeah. Yeah. Can I, like, can I just interrupt here very briefly? Because the one thing that is actual again, the all the best stuff is Ken Ken related in this Barbie movie. And the the the thing that it nails is this moment where Ken says, Ryan Gosling’s Ken says, I’m gonna go in this library and look at some books about truck.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:52

    Because that is, like, he gets that four year old boy energy perfectly. Like, that is literally what my son who is four years old would do. He would just be like, I’m gonna go get some books about And like that is I
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:03

    also would do this. I wanna be clear.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:05

    Yeah. Like, that’s that’s just a thing.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:07

    I loved my giant trucks and my books about giant truck. When I was four years old. And so, like, I right. Every, like, every guy in the audience can relate to Ken wanting to learn more about truck and then build a whole society around horses being awesome and drinking beer. Yes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:24

    The apps that’s that’s it. That’s what society should be. And then my frustration is that that conflict is basically resolved as a political conflict and as a fundamentally political conflict in a way that was a real letdown for me because it’s so much better when it’s an absurdist abstraction of how like boys and girls kind of relate to each other in this weird way and boys are like drugs and girls are like Barbie. Right? Like they’re they’ve they’ve it’s the whole rest like, the whole Barbie ethos is is the expression of that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:54

    And instead, the third act goal is about them getting out the vote, and there’s, like, fights about the Supreme Court. And it just struck me as, like, okay. It’s not that I’m mad that the movie is political because I think a movie like this shouldn’t be political. But that seems like a narrow way to read that conflict in a way that is not that, like, the movie the movie had these inklings of a much weirder more interesting, more funny, and more revealing take on on what a a Barbie versus Ken’s worldview showdown would look like. And instead, there were they they decided to resolve it as a an issue that as a voting issue as a as a political campaign, and that It’s just just not it it wasn’t the it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I didn’t love it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:40

    Yeah. I can totally see that. I mean, there’s A version of this where this movie ends with, like, Kate McKinnon’s, weird Barbie taking over Barbie Land and, like, both Mattel and Barbie Land just having to accept that, like, things are gonna be weird now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:54

    At one point in the movie, I thought that they were going to reveal that the real world was just play world, the way it’s kind of designed in the mattel offices. I mean, frankly, the whole idea of Century City which is a real place. I mean, I like, if folks don’t know Los Angeles Central City is a weird, real place that exists and is, fairly Barbie, Barbie, Charlie Sykes. I don’t know. The again, the the the Ken stuff is very interesting here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:20

    It’s not just that they don’t have jobs other than, like, where they they exist. It’s also that they’re all homeless. Like, I feel like
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:27

    there’s There’s there’s the end of the movie. It’s like, are we gonna let the Ken stay in the houses? No. They’re gonna stay homeless.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:33

    And then
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:33

    and then
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:33

    that’s there’s, like, what, that’s okay. That’s a kind of justice or, like, a weird, like, this is the Barbies won. Right? So the Kens have to stay hold. It’s but it’s a toy world, so it doesn’t matter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:43

    They get a district court seat. They get to wear whoever gets the district court seat gets to wear a robe, Peter. Shouldn’t they be happy with that? I mean, look, This is a movie where, I mean, within the context of Barbie Land, like the men or women, right? Like, they’re, you know, they’re not protagonists.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:59

    They exist to serve, you know, they exist to the
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:02

    extent that they’re useful. Of college entrance there or something now. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:05

    No. No. I’m kidding. They’re not they’re not committing to side at massive rates, compared to compared with a But but
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:10

    part of what’s interesting is so, I mean, I grew up. My mom had the original, like, black and white Barbie. My my grandmother was actually a fairly serious doll collector, and so we, like, my mom had a lot of Barbies growing up. And she still has the original Barbie at home. I have actually, like, collections of the early Barbie, like, teen novellas.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:31

    And part of what is interesting in them is how marginal Ken is in those stories. Right? Like, and how career oriented Barbie is, even in those stories. Right? Like, as a teenager, she is winning fashion design competitions and, like, going to New York to work at the equivalent of, like, teen vogue.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:51

    And Ken is sort of this figure who’s, like, he’s, you know, sort of a hometown, like, you know, sort of hometown popular guy, whose job is basically there to, like, be there to wait for Barbie if she decides to come home. And I do think that is really radical. Eve I mean, even in sort of team literature today. Right? Like, Twilight is one of the biggest smashes of, you know, sort of the generation below us, you know, as sort of a YA thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:20

    And there it’s like, is she is, you know, Bella Swan gonna pick Edward or Jacob. Right? It’s the sort of romantic choice is all it’s just it’s always so important. You know, even in something like fifty shades of gray, like the main character’s kind of professional realizations come in part through this, like, romantic relationship that lets her leapfrog, some of the, you know, sort of you know, dues paying she might have had to do afterwards. And in the Barbie stories, even from the beginning, Ken is an option, but the world is so interesting, and Barbie has so many opportunities.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:56

    And, you know, that is I think playing with that is the consequences of that is really smart, but it is it does necessarily make Ken’s journey sort of more complicated and more interesting
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:09

    Alright. So I my takeaway from this discussion is that we need a Ken c we need the Barbie sequel to actually be about Ken. Ken Justice for Ken.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:17

    What about Alan? About it? It can be an Alan sequel.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:20

    Is Alan coated as gay in this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:22

    Oh, yeah. A hundred percent.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:23

    So he’s okay. I just wanted to make sure that that that was okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:26

    What the whole movie is in credibly queer. Right? And, like, the to and to me, the best possible way, like, all of the sort of, like, Ken homeroeticism, like, It’s I mean, yeah. But I think Alan specifically is, like, coded as gay and sort of on the same, like, on the side of the Barbies. Like, He is the sort of coded gay guy who is exempt from the patriarchy, even as he could benefit from
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:53

    Okay. Alright. So what do we think about Barbie? Peter, thumbs up or thumbs down?
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:57

    Have a hard time answering that. I found that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:00

    Don’t squish out on me. You you join the side of the men, Studerman. Get on the Ken team.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:07

    I can’t. This is gonna be the weakest boss thumbs up because it’s so conceptually interesting that I was, like, I I enjoyed watching it and I was happy to have seen it and I think that rates, something like a a thumbs up, even though I think the movie has real structural issues at a screenplay level. Alyssa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:23

    Thumbs up. I mean, And again, I don’t I don’t think it’s perfect, but I just enjoyed being in it so much that, I was willing to forgive it a lot.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:35

    Unfortunately thumbs down. My job is critic, and I say thumbs down to this. Alright. That is it for this week’s show. Please, if you enjoyed it, tell your friends a strong recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast audiences.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:50

    If you don’t grow, we’ll die. If you did not love today’s episode, probably because you’re some sort of rabid pro Barbie individual and you’re mad that I have said that this movie’s not for me, and I don’t like it. I’m getting a lot of that on Twitter today. Folks getting a lot of that. Complained to me there on Twitter Sadi Bodge.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:09

    But I Will Saletan into that it is in fact the best show in your podcast for you. We’ll see you guys next week.
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