April 18, 2024

In ‘Barbie’ Ken’s Patriarchy Is Kind Of Terrible, Really

The best part about the new Barbie The movie is, hands down, Ryan Gosling’s Oscar-worthy performance as Ken. In Barbieland, the Kens are second-class citizens who rely entirely on being noticed by Barbie to feel any sense of self-worth.

Barbie doesn’t notice Ken much. She has a girls night every night. He is not allowed to stay over. It is not even clear if the Kens have houses of their own. So it’s no surprise when Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken go to the real world and he starts to notice that men are treated a lot, much different then, he starts to wake up.

He discovers that not everything is run by women in real life. In Barbieland women rule the government, the Supreme Court, and basically the world revolves around them, and the Kens get table scraps. Ken is so obsessed with patriarchy, he brings it back with him from the real world and Barbieland is barely recognizable.

The funny thing about Ken’s patriarchy is that it’s kind of awesome. They have brewski beer. They all live in “mojo dojo casa houses” and ride horses. It is not violent. The Kens just want to play games and Matchbox Twenty songs on their guitars. Most of the Barbies are “brainwashed” into thinking that everything is fine and dandy, but Barbie – having been in the real world – is immune. And she is horrified, albeit a strange horrified one. She lost her house to Ken and the Barbies have lost all control of society. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t spend much time exploring how the matriarchy directly led to the Kendom revolution.

Instead, Barbie and her allies work to seduce the men and deprogram the brainwashed Barbies, and eventually bring back Barbieland and their iron grip on society. There is a bit of soul searching between Ken and Barbie. She apologizes for the way she’s been treated and tells him he needs to work himself out and not rely on her for his feelings of validation, which is great (and leads to the I Am Kenough shirt, which is hilarious) but they don’t give the Kens any place on the Supreme Court and as far as we can tell, they still don’t have houses – let alone a mojo dojo casa.

This is a bit strange. It was a good opportunity for a wider reconciliation, and a moment where the Barbies could realize that treating Kens like second-class citizens has bad consequences for everyone (like treating women like second-class citizens in real life, it makes things worse for everyone).

I mean, in real life we ​​have several women on the Supreme Court, many women in high government positions, as executives at major corporations and so on. It may not be a completely equal world, but it’s a lot fairer than Barbieland! Besides, the Kens and their gentle patriarchy are basically harmless. Their worst sins—strangely, since they are second-class citizens forever in life—are things like murder or be vain and self-centered, which is no different from the Barbies.

I wish the film went with this allegory a little further and really included the Barbies with their matriarchy. As a parallel to our patriarchy, it could be very effective. Instead, the film leaned heavily on a ham-fisted portrayal of how hard it is to be a woman, and pulled out every stereotype in the book to relentlessly drive home the point. I enjoyed it (my review) but I still say it spent far too much time preaching to the choir rather than trying to change anyone’s mind for the better.

I’m off drinking my brewski beers and riding a horse over to my boy’s casa mojo dojo house now. Maybe tune in to some Rob Thomas tunes and we’ll talk about how awesome the patriarchy is while we watch The Father.

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