Ok Barbie

During my first trip to Paris, we arrived early at Louvre and were ready to dash to Leo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa before the crowd engulfed her. Once there, this color-by-numbers artist was slightly puzzled and wondered why the Mona Lisa was so famous and beloved.

Well, yesterday, we arrived early to see Barbie. Although I worried that going didn’t align with my support of The Writers Guild, I wanted to see what all the hype was about. This morning, my feelings about Barbie are similar to how I thought about the Mona Lisa; Why is it so popular?

Let’s start here – if you loved it, excellent! I’m not looking to change your mind, and for the record, we were a Barbie-free household as we raised our girls. Yes, I appreciate that a child could dress up Barbie to be any professional, but my challenge was her body could only look one way – to the chagrin of back specialists and podiatrists everywhere.

The film had some beautiful moments, like Gloria’s, played by America Ferrera, monologue, costume design, and soundtrack from Dua to Billie to The Indigo Girls, and loved supporting the first woman director to smash the billion-dollar threshold – all feel-good hippie Barbie vibes.

But I wondered if the film wanted to be self-deprecating or offer thought-provoking social commentary. I felt like it was trying to do too much and didn’t know what it wanted to be, which is fascinating because a theme, underdeveloped as it, was personal identity.

Oh, and there was way too much Ken.

When we walked out of the theatre, I shared with a friend that it felt like cotton candy: It looked pretty and had some sweet parts, but after a few bites, I had enough.

I wish the film did a deeper dive into identity during its two hours because we all wrestle with it as we move from decade to decade. Yes, it’s nice to look back with nostalgia on “simple times” when we played with dolls or matchbox cars, but we see the world differently today and realize that some perspectives don’t age well, like what it means to be beautiful.

A few years ago, I was doing a workshop with a group of leaders, and seventy-five percent of them shared that they identify themselves through their jobs and titles. It felt sad and natural.

Our jobs are important. It allows us to buy dream homes and color-coordinate outfits. Malibu, folks, is a pricey, bougie zipcode. Our jobs also give us a sense of purpose and meaning. Just ask someone in small-town America struggling to find similar employment after some suit moved their job overseas – without it, they can feel lost, angry, and in pain.

Life comes down to how we see ourselves when we strip everything away – including our jobs. Many people will want to put you in a box and have you act a certain way, like stereotypical Barbie, but you can always do things that make you proud, become self-aware, and offer kindness.

People will have their perspectives, but you don’t need to chase after their approval or suffer from FOPO (fear of people’s opinions). You can’t control what they like or don’t like, and the moment you realize this truth, whoever fills your M.U.G. (Mother Earth, The Universe, God), will give you the space to focus on the things that matter most.

So, back to the question of popularity.

The Mona Lisa became a global icon in 1911 thanks to an Ocean’s Twelve-like heist. When she returned to Paris, more than 100,000 people viewed her in the first two days, and today eight million people witness her smile each year.

With Barbie, it cost the studio $145 million to make. They’ve spent more than that on marketing, thus proving that advertising and marketing always stay in style, and probably the people laughing the loudest are Mattel’s executive team as they cruise to the bank in their little pink Corvette.

Art should move us. I hope that Barbie invites us to reflect on who we are and how we can be brave enough to show up in the real world, put down the cotton candy, and change ourselves as we look to change the world and tell the “Kens” to come down from their high horses.

I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve seen the movie.

Until next week, have fun storming the castle! You know it’s pink.