Even though I am smack in the middle of, well, middle age, I was excited to go see the Barbie movie when it came out a few days ago. Why? Well, yes, because I did play with Barbies as a child of the 80s, but mostly because my 16-year-old daughter (who incidentally, did not play with Barbies) was excited to go with her friends. And she invited me along.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in parenting teens, it’s to always say yes when they ask you to tag along. Even if they really just need a ride and someone to pay.
The Barbie Movie Surprised Me
I had zero expectations for the Barbie movie, and therefore, my expectations were wildly exceeded. But, they would have been even if I had my hopes up high. The movie is simply fantastic. Enjoyable from start to finish despite a few extraneous scenes with Will Ferrell (I love him, they just weren’t necessary.) But the parts I truly did not see coming that wrenched my heart in two were centered on motherhood, of all things. I had no idea any themes on motherhood would be featured in the movie, and boy were they ever. Specifically, there was a whoooole dynamic with a mom and a grumpy teenage daughter.
Sitting next to my own teen daughter in the theater, it was hard to keep from visibly reacting when the main mom character, Gloria, played brilliantly by America Ferrara, touches her daughter lovingly on the shoulder only to be shrugged off. It was all too real, the scenes between them when her teen daughter Sasha cannot wait to get away from her mom, or rolls her eyes at her, or doesn’t hide her obvious disdain for her ordinary mom-ness.
Things with my daughter aren’t that dramatically bad, but we have our moments. I love her so much and so enormously, and I can no longer express it by showering her with kisses or enveloping her in extra-long hugs. It’s just not appropriate anymore. So I have all this emotion and nothing to really do with it! And sometimes it hurts when I feel that she sees me not as a person, but as a means to an end. Or when she discounts each and every suggestion I make to her as if it is the worst or stupidest idea she’s ever heard. My life experience, the fact that I was once a teenage girl myself, doesn’t carry any weight with her. Not yet. So, some of the scenes between Gloria and Sasha felt achingly familiar.
Without giving away too many spoilers, as the movie progresses, and as the mom and daughter try to help save Barbieland from a Ken-induced patriarchy, the teen daughter begins to see her mom in a new light, especially after Ferrara’s character gives a heartfelt monologue that incudes these words:
“It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong…I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”
There’s a lot more great content in the middle of that speech that I didn’t include there, and I hope you will go see the movie and hear it for yourself! In truth, Ferrera’s character said all the things I want to tell my daughter about being a woman. Things I have said, things we have talked about, things we will talk about in the future. But the fact that they were reinforced to her in this format, in a fantastic movie by one of her favorite directors, well, I did not mind that at all. Thank you, Greta Gerwig!