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Barbie - Between Barbieland and the Real World

Barbie - Between Barbieland and the Real World

The movie Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, is a great public phenomenon, generating passionate opinions on the one hand, and contempt and fierce criticism on the other.

The narration is a spectacle in its own right, acting as the voice of conscience, like Pinocchio's Talking Cricket, while telling us the guidelines of the narrative dominated by the director of the film.

The perfect doll leaves Barbieland, disrupting the real world 1, and soon they want to put her back in her box.

Putting it back in the box, getting it back in the closet, reestablishing things as they were before some uncomfortable change is a normal behavior pattern of a society that avoids change and possible evolution of behavior.

Barbieland is a parallel, imaginary reality, where women can be as they want, live always happy and fulfilled, where Today is the best day ever. Just like yesterday, and tomorrow, and every day from now until forever, a perfect fantasy world where there is no gender equality, but an inversion of patriarchal values, where men are the accessories, and not women, just like in patriarchal society.

In Barbieland, Barbie has a great day every day, but Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him 2, in an explicit reference to the inversion of values that the movie denounces, causing discomfort in some, both men and women.

Women often experience being treated as accessories by men in several layers of our society. Some men introduce their wives or partners as "Mrs. so-and-so," defining their identity through marriage, even if they have much more to offer. They subvert the term trophy woman in the film, and Ken becomes the trophy man, in which it is enough to be handsome and be next to Barbie to exist, because it is her look at him that makes Ken's existence validated.

The Barbies acknowledge Ken's existential crisis after he acknowledged he was just Ken of the beach, but he feels the need for more. Women also strive for more than being an aesthetic accessory to be observed and admired.

The Barbie doll has been both loved and criticized, and it has embodied an ideological rebellion in children's play and imagination, which may not have received sufficient attention.

The first scene of the movie portrays girls playing with babies and role-playing as housewives. This was due to the limited options of toys available at that time which encouraged girls to imagine themselves as dedicated mothers and housewives, conforming to the maternal aspect of the feminine archetype. 3

The appearance of the Barbie doll awakened the possibility of a female identity independent of motherhood. The doll represents an adult, young, beautiful woman not tied to maternal roles.

Barbie is all women, and all women are Barbie.

Nobody looks like Barbie, except Barbie.

Wouldn't those two sentences be a beautiful example of archetype definition? The Barbie archetype is the possibility of symbolic expression of the feminine, but it is not the woman!

For that reason alone, Barbie is revolutionary! The fact that she can be whatever she wants to be, after all, Barbie is a doctor, a lawyer and much more than that... is just an addendum to the fact that Barbie is a woman, and a woman can be anything, including being a mother, if she so chooses. Untangling the female archetype from the Great Mother archetype4 is not an easy task! As much as that of women in relation to motherhood as a way of affirming femininity and their role in the world.

The movie plays with the audience's imagination, alternating playful scenes, in which Barbie is just a doll living in Barbieland, a make-believe life, in which she pretends to bathe, to eat and drink, and that she does not need stairs to go down or up on the different floors of her house, since the dolls are moved by the children who play with them. Barbie exists and acts according to the imagination of those who play with her, and this playing is interfered with by the negative thoughts of those who play with her. There is a connection between the doll and the human who plays with her, and Barbie starts to think about death, breaking the magic of the world of fantasy and perfection in which she lives.

It is as if Barbie represents the loss of childhood innocence and the identity crises characteristic of adolescence, portrayed in the relationship between Gloria and her daughter, whose adolescence has driven them apart.

The Barbies that Gloria, starring America Ferrera, keeps as a reminder of the bond between mother and daughter, refer us to Persephone's 5 departure to the kingdom of Hades. After Persephone's abduction by Hades, Hera wanders the earth, in a state of desolation, waiting for her daughter's return, or as this phrase describes it well

- We mothers stand still so that our daughters can look back and see how far they have come.

After all, Persephone returns from the nether world and establishes a new relationship with her mother Hera, in which the roles of mother and daughter are now transformed. Isn't this what Gloria hopes for when she reconnects with the playful world of play that made her feel close to her daughter?

Adolescence is a plunge into the realm of Hades, the god of the lower realm and the world of the dead, where the loss of childlike naivety can lead to an exacerbation of the confrontation between reality and imagination, contaminating reality with the arrogance of those who have only just begun to become aware of the facts of life, thinking themselves the wisest of the wise.

The estrangement between mothers and daughters in adolescence is part of psychic development, in which the mother, as a model of childhood, comes to be questioned and combated, as part of the psychic differentiation necessary for the development of the adult personality.

This relationship crisis between mother and daughter invades the imaginary world of Barbie, who seeks the help of Strange Barbie, who is nothing more, nothing less, than the Barbie with whom she played so much, who is no longer perfect, because she has gone through several experiences, both positions, haircuts, clumsy attempts at makeup, and, why not, some attacks of anger, Finally, Strange Barbie has the wisdom of knowledge of the real world, advises Stereotypical Barbie to go to the real world, to look for her child, however, her child abandoned her, and who remained linked to her was her mother, at the same time as a memory of the communion between mother and daughter, and an attempt to find the seeds of affection that have dispersed over time.

Barbie goes into the real world, and since Ken only exists because Barbie exists, he follows her, but....

- The real world is not what I thought it would be.

It never is!

Barbie and Ken arrive in the real world, but they are dolls, they dress and behave like dolls, with the same naivety of a child, who wants to go for a fancy walk anytime, anywhere, because he does not yet understand the rules of social adaptation and acceptance.

In the real world, Barbie is harassed, women do not occupy the roles they do in Barbieland, nor do men behave as her accessory, as Ken does.

Barbie discovers that the world is not feminist, but she retains the feminine and feminist attitude she experienced at Barbieland. Meanwhile, Ken discovers that being a man is enough in this world created and dominated by men. In the real world, Ken can be whatever he wants, while Barbie becomes objectified. After all, the real world is made by men, and for men.

While Barbie, when harassed, declares that she has no sexual organs, Ken lies, saying that he has all his organs, denoting that Ken already tries to be part of the male world, which does not understand, but intuits that being a man and having sexual organs is something of extreme value in the real world. The harassment suffered by Barbie, and the naivety with which she responds to the harassment, claiming not to have sexual organs, refers to the harassment suffered by children, whose appearance is childish, sexually immature, but who still attract the sexual interest of individuals who understand that this attraction exerted by prepubescent children is intentional, while they are just playing to show off, in order to be seen and loved, not harassed or abused.

- I am a man without power, does that make me a woman? -Ken

Ken discovers patriarchy, and becomes Stereotyped Ken, repeating caricatured male jargon and behavior, repeated without the slightest awareness of its meaning, after all, Ken wants to be seen and respected, if not by Barbie, let it be by other men! Ken discovers patriarchy in its most toxic way, through power relations, that is, you are only a man if you have power, otherwise it makes you a woman. This male identification with power, naively detected by Ken's childish mind, revolutionizes the way Ken behaves and influences the other Ken's in Barbieland, where power is more important than relationship.

However, in Barbieland there is no balance between the sexes either, for Barbieland is a reactive, fictional creation to patriarchy, a revenge on patriarchy that puts men in the supporting role that patriarchy put women in so many years ago.

Both worlds hold privileges that prevent the recognition of the existence of the other as a complete individual, and not as a mere social or sexual accessory of the other.

Barbieland is where all the problems of feminism and equality can be solved, at least in fantasy, but all transformation begins first in fantasy. Without imagining that something is possible, we have no resources to think about the possibilities of change. All change is rehearsed first by imagination, then by thoughts that become action. Often through trial and error.

Barbieland represents the privilege acquired by women in the fictional world of Barbie, and Ken tries to reproduce the privilege acquired by men in the real world, destabilizing Barbieland.

After all, feminism destabilizes patriarchy, therefore, it bothers.

Everything that tries to transform the world bothers, because equal rights imply equality in general, and those who hold privileges understand that equality is a loss of privilege for themselves, causing combat reactions.

The patriarchal world appears as a real caricature. Mattel's executives look like goofballs following a leader who has no idea what he is doing.

The first and only reaction to the imbalance caused by Barbie invading the real world is to put her back in the box, as if the state of consciousness she acquired could be revoked, but the path of the awareness process cannot be undone, once started, it follows a flow of its own, and Barbie releases her hands from the plastic straps that try to immobilize her back in the box.

Coming out of the box has a similar connotation to coming out of the closet.

Women do not live in boxes, they are not dolls, just as gay men do not go back into the closet and stop being gay, but the fantasy that if gay men did not come out of the closet we would not have to deal with the reality of diversity still persists.

The psychology of the ostrich, who thinks that if he sticks his head in a hole he will be exempt from danger, still persists. The illusion that what I don't see doesn't exist is confronted all the time in the narrative of this movie.

The patriarchal real world exists, but naïve Barbieland feminism has invaded the real world, and Barbie is not going back in the box.

Instead of a revenge, there is an attempt to reconcile the roles of men and women, at least in Barbieland, after all, according to Stereotypical Barbie, not every day needs to be a girls' day, and an attempt to reevaluate the roles of Ken and Barbies, at least in Barbieland, begins.

There is no romantic ending for Barbie and Ken, after all, they are asexual dolls, that is, they are still children, psychologically speaking, staging situations of childhood imagination. Neither of them knows exactly what dating is, or what boyfriends do when they sleep at each other's houses.

The last scene of the film, in which Barbie has an appointment with her gynecologist, received several very sexist and misinterpretations. According to Greta Gerwig, she put this controversial scene in the film because of the need to normalize the experience of a girl going to the gynecologist from the age of 13 to 15, that is, at the entrance of puberty. If Barbie goes to the gynecologist, anyone with reproductive organs can go.

Perhaps, without realizing it, Greta Gerwig has emphasized the fact that now that Barbie is no longer Stereotypical Barbie, but a real woman, she starts to have real sexual organs, like any woman, and women's sexuality and health necessarily involve awareness of the necessary care. Stereotypes are not real, human beings are, and demand a series of special care, especially awareness of their own body.

Much has already been said about Gloria's speech to Barbie in the movie, which I repeated here.

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You're so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough. Like, we're always supposed to be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but you also have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can't ask for money because that's rude. You have to be a boss, but you can't be mean. You have to lead, but you can't crush other people's ideas. You should love being a mom, but don't talk about your kids all the time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be taking care of other people. You have to answer for men's bad behavior, which is crazy, but if you point it out, you are accused of complaining. You must remain beautiful for men, but not so beautiful that you seduce them too much or threaten other women because you should be part of the sisterhood.

Always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to recognize that, but also always be grateful. You should never grow old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never step out of line.

It is so difficult! It's very contradictory and no one gives you a medal or thanks you! And it turns out that, in fact, not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I'm so tired of seeing myself and all the other women tying themselves down so that people like us. And if all this also becomes a truth for a doll that represents only women, then I don't even know anymore.

The film addresses classic issues of misogyny, toxic patriarchy, the relationship between mothers and daughters, the shock of awareness between fantasy and reality, questions, mocks, caricaturizes social roles, questions beauty standards, but also argues that a woman can be anything she wants, and still be beautiful like Margot Robbie. In a subtle way it addresses more than the standardization of beauty, but also the prejudice against extremely beautiful women, who dare to be beyond beautiful, to be intelligent, capable, articulate and talented, breaking the stereotype that intelligence and beauty are incompatible, turning any beautiful woman automatically into dumb, without, however, turning any woman who does not fit the stereotypes of beauty as intelligent.

Moreover, it emphasizes that no one needs to be perfect or complete, after all, just being the Ken of the beach is good enough, no one needs to be more than one is.

I am curious to know what would be the discourse of men about the difficulty of exercising their role, after all, men are also trapped in social stereotypes that cause them to suffer questions rarely declared outside the psychology offices. After all, Ken himself says - I am a liberated man, I know that crying is not weakness. 6

Finally, Barbie represents the female archetype that needs to relate and survive in a patriarchal world, but that needs to free itself from its childish naivety, get off the heels and step firmly on the ground, get in touch with reality, because the world of ideas and imagination needs to enter reality and confront its fantasies, because it is only by living life as it is that we test the validity of our theories of life and relationship.

Barbie ceases to be a representative of the female archetype when she humanizes herself through imaginative capacity - I want to imagine, no longer be the idea - that is, the subject has her own imagination, the objects are imagined, they are someone else's ideas. Barbie ceases to be an object and becomes a subject. After all, this is what women want, to be subjects of their own existence, to imagine their own destinies and choices, and not to be the object of someone else's life.

Life is finite, but the ideas and ideals that guide our lives live forever.

Note of the author: the phrases said by the characters and by the narrator are in bold/italic in the text.


(Schneider, Complexo Individual e Cultural - Entre o fascínio e o perigo na busca pela alteridade nas relaçoes interculturais 2023). In this book I analyze the challenges of the encounter between individuals from culturally different worlds.

2 (Schneider, The Truth in the analytical process 2019)

(Schneider, O Feminino e o Masculino - por meio da cultura, religião, mitologia e contos de fadas 2021)

The importance of being seen and recognized in your existence, both personally and socially, is extensively discussed in my two books.

3 (Schneider, O Feminino e o Masculino - por meio da cultura, religião, mitologia e contos de fadas 2021)

In this book I discuss the archetype of feminine and masculine.

4 (Neumann, The Great Mother 1955)

5 (Brandão 1987)



Brandão, Junito de Souza. Mitologia Grega. Vols. I, II, III. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1987.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Civilization in Transition. second. Edição: William MC Guire. Vol. X. XVIII vols. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1970.

—. The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. Vol. IX/1. XVIII vols. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2000.

—. The Stages of Life. Vol. 8.

Jung, Emma. Anima e Animus.

Neumann, Erich. The Fear of the Feminine - and other essays on feminine psychology. ISBN 0-691-03473-7. Edição: Princeton University Press. New Jersey: Bollingen Series LXI 4, 1994.

—. The Great Mother. New York: Pantheon Books Inc., 1955.

Schneider, Solange Bertolotto. A Verdade no processo analítico. 9788595470828. Edição: Isolda Lins Ribeiro. Belo Horizonte: Initia Via, 2019.

—. Complexo Individual e Cultural - Entre o fascínio e o perigo na busca pela alteridade nas relaçoes interculturais. Curitiba: Appris, 2023.

—. "" Solange Bertolotto Schneider Psicologia Junguiana. 2017. (access on August 1st, 2023).

—. O Feminino e o Masculino - por meio da cultura, religião, mitologia e contos de fadas. Curitiba, PR: Appris, 2021.

Winnicott, Donald W. The Maturation Process and the Facilitating Environemnt. 1977.


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