The Best of the Barbie Watercooler

This weekend was the biggest of the year for water cooler conversations across the country – and even the world. I saw Barbie on Thursday, the first day it was in theaters in New York City, and I had to get tickets a week in advance. 

Part of me was annoyed to be participating in a Warner Bros multi-million dollar marketing push – from Pinkberry to the Burj Khalifa – but that angst was quickly abetted by the sheer Kenergy (forgive me) in the room. I’ve never seen a movie theater so packed, everyone buzzing, the folks from the 8 pm showing making wide eyes at us 10 pm-ers as if to say, “You’re going to love it.” 

The Best of The BarbieAlmost everyone was wearing pink. It felt something akin to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, the other event of the summer that is galvanizing a certain population of girls and gays to get kitted up and hit the town. 


My takeaway: Participating in a huge cultural moment is undeniably fun. Barbie feels like, as many have pointed out, the return of monoculture. And the fact that monoculture is filled to the brim with commentary about the multi-faceted experience of womanhood and femininity in our contemporary culture … that’s pretty cool!

The film itself?  Entertaining, surprising, and jam-packed. Barbie from its inception has inspired wild online discourse, and now that it’s out in the world, it’s even more potent. So we combed the internet to find the most interesting, funniest, and maybe-you-missed-it angles on Barbie so you can get in on the water cooler action. 


All the niche male stereotypes Barbie pokes fun at…or should have…from The Ringer

The Best of The BarbieLike this one… “The Guy Who Swears You Have to Hear It on Vinyl: If I told you the Barbie movie mentioned Stephen Malkmus, would you believe me? What if I told you that a guy mentioning Stephen Malkmus from Pavement unprompted is a whole kind of guy? Just sit back, relax, and be lulled into a trance by the dulcet tones of … that guy talking over Stephen Malkmus from Pavement to tell you how Stephen Malkmus really channeled Lou Reed on this one. No, shh, you really have to listen.”


The film’s unexpected theme: Death.  From Emily Writes on Substack“I quickly realised the premise of the film is one so many of us have pondered: If we could choose to be human, would we?”


The other surprising theme that did not come across in the hype.  From cultural critic Emily Nussbaum

How women in China got a rare opportunity to see a feminist story on the big screen.
From CNN

“On Douban, a popular Chinese movie review site, the movie is currently scored 8.6 out of 10, with nearly half of all viewers giving it full marks. The comment section, too, includes glowing praise for the movie’s themes of womanhood and feminism, and its deft handling by director Greta Gerwig, also known for Lady Bird and Little Women. Several reviewers called the film a breath of fresh air, comparing it to some Chinese movies still rife with outdated gender roles and the skewed male gaze. ‘You know, Chinese women don’t get many chances to see a high-quality, female-focused movie in the cinema,’ read one comment with more than 20,000 likes.”


For the many semi-reluctant, corporate-wary Barbie-goers, a substack from The Free Press that captures some of the queasiness:

“I’ll admit that even when the actors’ names flashed on the screen, as the audience is introduced to Barbie Land, where we see a Barbie lawyer argue to an all-Barbie Supreme Court that corporations risk turning ‘our democracy into a plutocracy’ (this after the Mattel logo blazes red, before the movie), I winced. But then something happened that I could not control: I started to have fun.”


Director Greta Gerwig going deep on the task of turning the IP of a huge corporation into personal, meaningful artand getting away with something.  From W Magazine:  

“I went to a Catholic high school. There was creativity, but there were also extremely clear boundaries of what we were meant to do. You could choreograph a dance in liturgy, or you could write a sketch comedy for the pep rallies. It wasn’t necessarilyThe Best of The Barbie sanctioned, but you could sneak it in. It made you feel like you were getting away with something, which was also fun. That has always made me feel like there’s not such a strong demarcation about, ‘Here’s real art over here and here’s not real art over here.’ It’s wherever you make it, wherever they’ll let you go, wherever there’s any kind of space or time. I think art can come up in the most unlikely places.”


The significance and overlap of the twin success of Barbie and the Eras Tour from this New York Times op-ed piece.  (Ok so I guess I wasn’t the first person to have that observation) 

An obvious lesson from the gargantuan success of both Barbie and the Eras Tour is that there is a huge, underserved market for entertainment that takes the feelings of girls and women seriously. After years of Covid isolation, reactionary politics and a mental health crisis that has hit girls and young women particularly hard, there’s a palpable longing for both communal delight and catharsis.”

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