Friday, January 5, 2024

Barbie: A Thousand Excellent Questions

I was able to watch the Barbie Movie with my wife this week and I must say I was deeply impressed. It isn't too many movies that ask so many good questions.

Being a student of anthropology and phenomenology I found the movie fascinating. It poses so many excellent questions about what it means to be human in such rapid succession that I would have to watch the movie in slow motion to catch them all. One of the lead characters (a mom who had played with Barbie dolls as a child) posed several pointed and excellent questions out loud, while most of the questions (equally valid) were masked under sarcastic and often dark humor.

This movie kicked my inner Mr. Curious into gear and below are a few of the questions it triggered me to ask:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • What does it mean to be treated like an object?
  • Who am I?
  • What do genitals mean?
  • What happens when genitals are not present or distinct?
  • What is the patriarchy?
  • What is masculinity?
  • What is matriarchy?
  • What is femininity?
  • What does it mean to be a mother?
  • Why is fatherhood absent or a joke?
  • How do stereotypes harm us?
  • What is the difference between a stereotype and an archetype?
  • What do we do with the wounds of being objectified and/or oppressed?
  • Why did pregnant Barbie get discontinued?
  • Why is it not OK to want to be a mom?
  • What happens when you realize you actually have distinct genitalia?
  • Why didn't Barbie completely destroy the need for playing with baby dolls (despite the haunting implications of the opening scene)?
  • What happens when the function of genitalia is removed from society completely (Barbie Land)?
  • Why on earth would any human wear high heals?
  • Is girl's night or boy's night helpful? What does it mean or point to?
  • What are tears? Why do we have them?
  • Is all pain bad? What is its function?
  • What is the function of bad breath and other bad smells?
  • What does it mean to have a real body?
  • Just how important is embodiment?
  • Does my body even matter?
  • Is matriarchy better than patriarchy?
  • Why is the definition of feminine beauty so convoluted?
  • What is the true source of beauty?
  • Is there a way for man and women to live in complementarity rather than struggling to dominate one another?
The truly profound thing about this movie is I didn't sense it trying to force any easy answers to any of these questions. That is a rare gift in our world today in my humble opinion.

The very next night Margie and I watched Oppenheimer, the story of how the power of splitting the atom was harnessed for the mass destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. It was a tedious and heart breaking movie to say the least. But it did add a couple more questions to the thousand excellent questions thrown at me the night before:
  • What is worse: twisting the function of nuclear energy into a weapon or weaponizing human sexuality into a game of thrones and domination?
  • What is the more powerful force: human sexual interaction or nuclear fission/fusion?