"Barbie" is strong on entertainment value, soft on social change, says Virginia Tech expert
The “Barbie” buzz continues, even months after the blockbuster movie’s release.
The box office record-breaking film now is available to rent or buy through various video on demand platforms, including Prime Video and Apple TV. It isn’t yet available for streaming.
Bonnie Zare, who is director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Virginia Tech, encourages people to see “Barbie” for its sheer entertainment value. But don’t expect the flick to push boundaries when it comes to social change, she said.
Even in Barbie Wonderland where women have full power, the feminist message falls short of being reformist.
“Gerwig has perfected a glossy aesthetic, however, Barbie’s constant idealism and forthright feminism jockey for space uncomfortably,” wrote Zare, in a column for the University of Hyderabad in India. “Once the exuberant colors and sheer entertainment value of Barbie is accounted for, what remains?”
The movie strikes a clever juxtaposition between celebrating Barbie and mocking the doll’s ideal, while also helping to continue conversations about feminism, said Zare, who has led recent discussions about the movie and its messages with Virginia Tech students.
In the end, it is an intriguing question of how the audience is meant to feel about the male characters and their rebellion, she said.
Bonnie Zare is a professor in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program. Her research interests include issues of women in India, women writers in India, girls’ empowerment, and the intersectional analysis of age, class, caste, and gender.
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