April 20, 2024

Chinese fans praise ‘Barbie’ as rare feminism on screen

Hong Kong

In recent years, the Chinese box office has been dominated by homegrown films often with a nationalistic slant, such as patriotic war epics. But this weekend, a different kind of film caught the country’s attention – a film that is decidedly American and bubblegum pink.

“Barbie” has earned close to 86 million yuan (about $11.9 million) in China since its Friday release, according to the Chinese ticket sales platform That’s right – placing it third in all films across the country.

While that figure pales in comparison to the success of “Barbie” in the United States — it grossed $155 million domestically over the weekend — it could still grow as social media buzz about the movie builds momentum. On Saturday, it was the top trending topic on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, garnering more than 630 million views.

Warner Bros., which owns CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, “Barbie”.

On Douban, a popular Chinese film review site, the film is currently scored 8.6 out of 10, with almost half of viewers giving it full marks. The commentary section also praises the themes of women, women and feminism, and how director Greta Gerwig, also known as “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” handled it.

Some critics called the film a breath of fresh air, comparing it to some Chinese films that are still full of outdated gender roles and skewed male gaze.

“You know, Chinese women don’t have many chances to see a quality film directed at women in the cinema,” read one comment with more than 20,000 likes.

Another big comment was that “Barbie” was compared to another recent Chinese release, “Lost in the Stars,” which was previously criticized for its portrayal of gender stereotypes. “Lost in the Stars” showed “fake feminism under the male gaze,” while “Barbie” stands for “feminism from different perspectives of real female directors,” read the commentary, with more than 18,000 likes.

Others reflected on the realities facing Chinese women, with one dryly commenting that unlike the US, China doesn’t even pretend it’s not a patriarchy.

However, some have accused “Barbie” of only surface-level feminism at work, pointing out that the titular character’s doll-perfect figure may further perpetuate existing beauty norms. “There is no new idea about feminism, the film is just a reflection of old ideas,” wrote one person on Douban.

Feminist movements in China have faced many difficulties over the years due to constant censorship and crackdown on activism. But he also remained resilient; Several #MeToo-related controversies and allegations of sexual assault have sparked waves of debate online, with women and supporters criticizing gender inequality and China’s entrenched patriarchal society.

Promotion for

“Barbie,” it seems, has quenched a thirst for better representation of women and gender equality on screen – surprising even Chinese cinemas and organizers.

On Friday, the day of its premiere, only 2.4% of movie productions showed “Barbie”, according to Maoyan, which perhaps shows that it was not expected much in terms of audience desire; in comparison, the Chinese film “Advancing of ZQ” accounted for 36.8% of all performances.

But public interest boomed. The film recorded a 21.6% seat rate on Friday, which means that cinema screenings were 21.6% full – a high figure considering that most films only see a rate of a few percentage points. By Monday, cinemas allocated screenings for “Barbie” had increased to 8.7% of all films, according to Maoyan.

The film’s success is all the more remarkable given the increasing challenges US films face in breaking into China’s film market – the world’s second largest, which has been briefly in the limelight during the Covid pandemic.

The Chinese box office has become more insulated and controlled in recent years. All films screened publicly in China require permission from regulators, with authorities cracking down on what they deem inappropriate.

Although Hollywood has long experimented with Chinese censorship, many film studios have begun to rethink this trade-off, and some are deciding to stay in scenes that could be hidden by censors – which means that many US blockbusters have disappeared from Chinese cinemas.

For example, seven of the recent Marvel movies were not shown in China – meaning that no Marvel movie was released in the country for four years until February of this year, when China allowed the release of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”.

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