In a world increasingly conscious of gender dynamics, this new movie has sparked intense debate. While some hail it as a beacon of female empowerment, others accuse it of promoting toxic feminism and misandry. In contemplating these perspectives and their implications, it’s evident that the “Barbie” movie is a perfect example of the primarily capital-serving, public-exploiting nature of popular media, with little or no regard for the facade it presents in its themes and morals. The resulting debate is an analog of how the USA’s two-party system pits working people with different value narratives against each other, and the general duplicity involved in both of these parties engaging in collusion and their constant pulling of the rug out from under us through media and identity politics. We are played against each other to our own detriment, while a few continue to benefit as they feed us reasons to wage war against ourselves. Is Barbie just another “good cop” in this classic “good cop/bad cop” setup?

Divided Barbie dolls, symbolizing the heated debate over the movie
The divided Barbie: A symbol of a societal argument

Glam Girl Feminism: A Tool for Female Empowerment or Societal Division?

The core argument of those critical of the movie hinges on the belief that the depiction of men or ‘Kens,” along with general “girl-power” attitudes encourages women to take on traditionally masculine roles, therefore undermining masculinity, painting men in a general and inescapable negative light, and thus promoting toxic feminism. There are two camps making these criticisms – pro-patriarchy conservatives who want to preserve the misanthropic and puritanical flavor of our patriarchal roots, along with all of the misogyny of old, and those who embrace feminism but see that there is a similarity in the denouncement of men as the “lesser sex,” that is not liberating. Such critics argue that subjecting men to similar dismissal and condemnation as men have historically done to women would not result in a better social situation, as the goal is equal rights and consideration of all people. It’s great to advocate for female empowerment, but it’s legitimate and not necessarily patriarchal to ask if that needs to come at the expense of diminishing men. Challenging stereotypes and redefining masculinity, more reasonably, should aim to create balance, not foster division.

Similarly, in debates concerning race and culture, empowering minorities should not mean denigrating the majority. And it’s clear that such divisive media is being used by political entities to disrupt unity and fuel societal conflict. The unsettling irony is that these divisions serve a dual purpose – keeping the population divided and attracting controversy and attention driving up advertising revenue, and ticket sales.

Artwork representing societal divisions being monetized.
The Monetization of Social Division – Who Profits Most?

Barbie’s Constitution: A Metaphor for Toxicity? Or Girl-Power

The movie’s highlight, according to critics, features Barbies drafting their own constitution while the Kens ignorantly combat each other. This ironic scene underlines the tension, not between our genders, but our social classes, as most of us ignorantly combat each other over this movie, while the masterminds draft new and inventive ways to maintain their stranglehold on our lives and labor. While it’s crucial to highlight the toxicity women have historically faced, it’s plain to see that the answer should not lie in retaliatory toxicity, but perhaps not so plain to see that this record-grossing movie not only extracted unimaginable amounts of money from working-class 80’s and 90’s babies but also stoked fires of gender culture and identity division, with no intention of offering viable middle-ground, in order to give folks another thing to be mad about while they laugh at us all the way to the bank.

The more insightful commenters have pointed out that the Barbie world is simply intended to be a mirror for self-reflection, which was lost on so many enraged conservative men (or perhaps serves as the reason for their upset), showing a glammed-out Amazonian alternate reality where men are treated the same way they have always treated women. Creating discomfort to incite reflection and change is one approach, but a more sustainable solution requires dialogue, mutual understanding, and balance. There’s no suggestion of this way forward in the film. Alienating men or any social group can hinder the path toward genuine social equality, or what civil rights activists referred to as “The Beloved Community.” And while there may be some value in this approach, the proof is in the pudding, here. This film appears to stand for women’s rights and female empowerment, but does it?

Artwork of divided scene from the Barbie movie, representing the gender divide
Barbie’s Constitution vs. Ken’s Conflict – Who Rules?

Reasons to Criticise Barbie: A Different Perspective

It’s important to point out that despite the movie’s purported feminist messaging, the reality of the corporate world behind it tells a different story. All Mattel executives are still males, raising questions about the actual power dynamics behind the scenes. Do they feel strongly about female empowerment and pro-feminism, or is it just messaging to provoke conflict and grab them cash?

In Barbie Land, the dolls continue to exist primarily for consumerist purposes. But with the new narrative, their power seems diminished. Barbie’s evolution throughout the movie is also scrutinized. By conforming to classical feminine beauty standards, the movie indirectly reinforces the very stereotypes it claims to challenge.

Further, the movie’s impact on real-world power structures is negligible. The patriarchal system remains unaffected. And the grand reveal that Barbie is now anatomically correct—she has a vagina—seems more gimmick than ground-breaking.

The liberation of the ‘Kens’ from their submissive roles and the lack of real-world effect highlight the limitations of the film. The movie is likely less about challenging the patriarchal system and more about tweaking the narrative to fit the current zeitgeist, pulling the same trick we see the DNC consistently and expertly get away with, paying lip service to leftist ideals, yet actually serving the purpose of acting as a co-opting blocker, a manipulator and dismantler of any grassroots leftist organization or initiatives from really taking root. This is why the United States does not have a true labor party, and they have helped other regimes to neuter their own pro-labor parties in the name of combating the evils of socialism.

Artwork of a Barbie doll with strings attached, indicating corporate influence
The Strings Attached: A critique of the power dynamics behind Barbie.

While this perspective doesn’t necessarily invalidate the movie’s potential impact on societal conversations about gender, it underscores the importance of looking beyond the surface narrative. The dynamics of power, control, and influence are complex, and sometimes the loudest messages are those left unsaid.

Collective Healing over Division

When addressing gender dynamics, we must remember that men, too, face societal pressures and have been victims of toxicity, especially impoverished, and working-class men. The goal should not be for oppressed groups to rise to oppressor status. This is a narrative we see played out time and time again in our media as if it’s the only option – to be the oppressor or the oppressed. If you’re too morally high-minded to join the oppressors, then the only option to live peacefully is to accept your fate as one of the oppressed. But is this a false dichotomy? Are there other options?

There’s relevance in these dichotomies to GWF Hegel’s Lord and Bondsman dialectic, as one can perceive analogous power dynamics across the various social and economic strata. These struggles—between men and women, the rich and poor, racial minorities and the white majority, the working class versus the elitist ruling class—each depict a mutual interdependence, where one entity seeks to assert dominance over the other. Like Hegel’s concept of self-consciousness which is reliant on the ‘other’ for its definition, all oppressors are inseparable from their oppressed, each shaped and bound by the existence of the other.

The oppressed, i.e. Hegel’s Bondsman, who gains self-awareness through labor, can assert their inherent value to break free from exploitation, as the oppressor does not create, and is not self-aware. Rather, oppressors are locked in their own form of slavery, ever denying their dependency on the “weaker” oppressed. Embracing Martin Buber’s philosophy, the path to liberation is not through assuming the role of the oppressor or evading oppression, but by altogether seeing the non-reality of the narrative itself, resisting the pull towards oversimplification and limitation of human connections to a binary—rational or romantic, Apollonian or Dionysian, I and Thou, Self and Other. We are innately dialogic beings; our interactions are rich, layered, and multifaceted. The nature of reality is as suggested by Zen. Entering into the master-slave dichotomy is a product of a power struggle, in which its most base form is pure survival – life and death. But we can let go of that now. We can mature beyond this by being in real relation to each other and dissolving those fears and struggles within ourselves and each other.

Barbie, while perhaps capturing some intent to hold a mirror up to the face of oppressors, is a “mirror” ironically held by the oppressors themselves, and fails to suggest any of these deeper insights into the nature of conflict and the philosophy of power dynamics. If only the movie had been produced by The Arbinger Institute.

The Rise of the Oppressor Barbies

Our fight is not merely for the freedom of the oppressed but also for the liberation of the oppressor through a recognition of our shared humanity. This triumph over oppression is a “double victory”, achieved by resisting exploitation and compelling oppressors to confront their unjust actions, not in a self-righteous, accusatory, and demeaning way, “othering” the oppressors the same way they have “othered” the oppressed, but rather in a compassionate way that stands for the oppressor to regain and reembrace their own humanity.

We can see others either as people like us, or less than that, as others. We all do this so naturally, even to the people we love the most, at times. Even if we created a utopia and eliminated all basic needs, this would still cause conflict. This is the core human social problem. Our greatest compassionate unifying leaders have understood this and used it to build bridges. Does this movie do this? This is the only way we can lay the groundwork for a society emancipated from such detrimental power dynamics.

It’s not men versus women, but humanity against oppressive systems, and oppressive ways of seeing each other as “us” and “them.” We need collective healing, not further division.

Artwork of diverse hands reaching out for each other, symbolizing collective healing.
The path to collective healing: Unity over division.


While we all debate the Barbie movie, we are distracted from and lose sight of the bigger picture – our planet’s health is at stake, with ocean temperatures having just reached record highs. Poor nutrition still contributes to nearly half of the worldwide deaths in children under 5, translating to about 3 million deaths annually, or over 8,000 per day (and that’s a conservative estimate). Over 600,000 people are reported homeless in the USA, alone, with San Diego adding over 15,000 new reported cases of homelessness in 2022, due to inflation and rising housing costs. And these are only the reported cases.

Media narratives can be potent tools for either unification or division. We need to discern the intent behind these narratives and ensure they align with our collective goal: a balanced, fair, and sustainable society.

Artwork of a Barbie doll kissing a melting globe.
From Barbie to a heated globe: A call for collective action


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Carry the Fire – Light the Way

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