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Molly and Carmen: The Barbie Conversation
in which my daughter and I squee about Greta Gerwig's new masterpiece
Molly: Hey my girl
Carmen: Hey my momma
Molly: It was so much fun to see Barbie with you. I mean, let’s be honest: I could watch The Exorcist with you, and it would be a cozy, jubilant time.
Carmen: That theater was so cool! It was the New Parkway in Oakland – our first time there. They let us pay what we wanted, and I think 20% of proceeds went to this organization doing work for children who have experienced sexual violence.
Molly: We got to do good while doing well–while snacking well. And all those adorable queer twentysomethings who work there seemed like they were just having a ball.
Carmen: Right? The ambience was lovely as a backdrop to the movie, with the rest of the audience all bejeweled and in pink jumpsuits. I think that’s part of what I love most about the movie–how it’s allowing people to be silly and dress up and goof off and reset. 2023: the year of the Barbie!
Molly: If you had told me in 1977 that in 2023 queer people and feminists would be stanning for Barbie and making her movie a literal one billion dollar event, I would’ve asked you what you were smoking. I didn’t even play with Barbies when I was seven years old.
Carmen: Did you say standing or stanning?
Molly: Stanning—is that not how you say it?
Carmen: Oh MOM.
Molly: Let’s get into the yummy moments right from the start. I mean: everyone was so beautiful. I know they’re actors and everything, but Greta Gerwig just makes everyone beautiful.
Carmen: Can you believe people were saying Ryan Gosling was too old to play Ken? He was so adorable. And wow what a triple threat: he can sing, dance, act, ROLLER SKATE.
Molly: And yet there’s a depth to him. You see it. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, even though he’s sexy as hell with his pecs contoured. There is a wink wink nudge nudge to everything he does, and yet he stays perfectly in character. Even though he tried to bring the patriarchy to Barbieland, dethroning the women and undoing all their good work, I still had so much empathy for him–he made me feel for him! Patriarchy is just as bad for men as it is for women and enby people. And I’ve known what unrequited love feels like. It’s awful to pine for someone who doesn’t know you exist, or just sees you as a friend.
Carmen: Except let’s be honest, this is a different relic of patriarchy: Barbie doesn’t love Ken, and she’ll never love him. But he kept pushing her boundaries and not taking no for an answer, which made her visibly uncomfortable. And even toward the end, they all kept forcing that love onto her when that wasn’t even her ending.
Molly: one more reason why I love you! You see things so differently, you push the boundaries of my feminism and take the scales from my eyes! You teach me every day.
Carmen: Ok, favorite moment of the movie?
Molly: We loved America Ferrera’s speech, of course. That was most people’s favorite moment. It was a close second for me. A brilliant anthem, all on its own, but a true stroke of genius to use it as a means of deprogramming all the Barbies, one at a time. Honestly, that’s how deprogramming happens. It happens within interpersonal relationships, painstaking conversations that happen one at a time to help people claim their power and the truth back.
Carmen: And it was so beautiful that she made that speech in front of her daughter, recognizing the effects of the patriarchy, not trying to shelter her from it, just allowing her to understand it and seeing her mother as a whole person.
Molly: …while also not treating her daughter like a child, but recognizing that she’s growing, and deserves to be in the room, even when difficult things are happening. She trusted to her daughters’ own powers of discernment and selfhood.
What was your favorite ROFL moment?
Carmen: It’s gotta be the ending line, which I kept quoting at camp.
Molly: Yeah, because after Barbie’s last line, we finally see that she really does have *ahem* real depth.
Carmen: How about you?
Molly: It had to be the unexpected moment when she was sitting at the bus stop with the old woman. I thought I knew where that scene was going, and that is where it went, but then the older woman surprised me with her response. We expect older women to be mild-mannered, self-effacing, self-abasing, and it’s incredible when women who are middle-aged-on-up know their worth and aren’t afraid to claim it, proudly.
Carmen: Which just proves America’s point even more. So what made you wanna see the movie again? That was your second time.
Molly: Well, I loved the chance to snuggle with you on the sofas at the New Parkway. But also: it’s such an enjoyable confection. That’s why you go to the movies: for beauty, for escapism, for gorgeous storytelling. But it’s also so profound as a film. It starts all pink and frothy, and then it just gets more raw and real and deep as you go. It goes from color to sepia. It’s all there together, just like life. The dream and the reality. The candy and the–kale. Except I love kale!
Hey, I don’t think we did your favorite moment.
Carmen: My fave was the theology–Ruth, the woman who invented Barbie in real life, as the Creator figure. She said something like “I made you, but I don’t control you.” And Barbie answered, “Being human isn’t something I have to ask for or even want–it’s something I just discover I am?” Barbie saw alllll of humanity and understood the bad as well as the good and she still chose it, as uncomfortable as it is to be human.
Molly: When she was suddenly standing there alone in the mist, and said YES to it all. AGGGHHHH tears.
Carmen: Yeah, it was just so real–so true to humanity. That’s true about a lot of Greta Gerwig’s works. We are able to see people being people, which makes them so relatable, even though it was literally about a Barbie doll. I never thought I’d be able to say that I could relate to a Barbie.
Molly: ..and my FAVORITE favorite moment was when Ruth and Barbie are talking in the mist, it has a Harry Potter/Dumbledore in King’s Cross Station feeling to it. (Can we just talk about how many callbacks there were to other epic movie scenes? I’m so glad Greta is young and we get to have so many more movies from her, God willing!). Anyhow: Ruth says, “We mothers stand still, so our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.”
Carmen: Of course, that’s just another emblem of the patriarchy, comparing yourself to other women. I don’t need to compare myself to you to know who I am. I’m so glad that you are continuing to learn and grow ,and that we’re doing it together.
Molly: Me too, darlin. You teach me every day, and you still make me happy every day.