This Barbie is Uncertain and Excited!
In this open column submission, Fikri Haikal Panggabean describes how the Barbie movie is one that hits close to home as it helps in recognizing, understanding, and accepting one’s self.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
Watching the Barbie (2023) movie was a nice, stress relieving one. It offers you good laughs, countless references—especially if you grew up collecting Barbie—even dreaming to become Barbie. But this Barbie movie is not just about references and the countless lives she lives. So, what is it about anyway? There might be a simpler way to describe the whole experience, perhaps. But I think overanalyzing it would be way more fun.
[Might contain spoilers.]
For some people, this movie might be a nice nostalgic moment to watch, even for me who grew up watching the many reiterations of Barbie: her dancing, getting cursed into a Swan, forming a band, going through high school, being an equestrian athlete, and more that I definitely forgot. Barbie is everything. To that, some of us might think that it would be inspiring, hailed as what women should aspire. Feminism, probably, one in a simple form so that children can understand. Though it’s really simplifying of what feminism is or what constitutes feminism and all its waves and history…
Anyway, for girls especially, Barbie offers a getaway of a perfect future and unlimited fantasy since the burden of crowding your unwieldy imagination was bestowed upon them since early childhood. But for us grown ups, we realize that Barbie is straight up crap, a fairytale that is impossible to achieve. Some would describe Barbie as a form of thoughts that conceal our insecurities, and some might argue Barbie would rather reveal our wildest dreams—or mildly aspiring, just like how Barbie thought all the humans in the real world should thank them for their contribution.
Eventually everyone would agree that Barbie is everything. But not us. We’re not everything. Not even close. Or at least that’s how I see it. The beauty behind all the comedically unrealistic hand gestures and the perfect plastic that covers Barbieland is that it is perfect for people that never went out of their way to escape their comfort bubble—and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially the ones who benefited from it. To some, or in this case the Kens, a little improvement from living in the shadow (read: Barbie’s supremacy) to now being seen is enough. Although they were still deemed a little unqualified. It is enough. We are comfortable with what we’re used to: Barbie was comfortable with how things work, the politics, the status quo and all, but seeing how real life was a lot different actually did change her. For Barbie that went to the real life wishing she could go back to being “normal”, she left seeing things differently. Life, is always, an unchanging phase of changes, even for Barbie.
Barbieland—briefly Kendom—underwent some changes. Even after Barbie reinstated the constitution, in whatever metaphorical way you want to interpret it, it is still a change from what it was. All the Barbies now see their surroundings in different ways—that’s also a change.
Barbie was also, at some point, sad. Self-effacing, even, knowing that she’s just the stereotypical Barbie with no achievements whatsoever. Barbie is us, deeming ourselves with all those “unworthy thoughts” because of not being able to handle school tasks, money problems, or even the worsening relations with our loved ones. But again, it’s all the basic day-to-day problems that everyone faces every day. But that also doesn’t make it lose its meaning. We relate to that Barbie, through Gloria that channeled all her worries and dark thoughts on the only thing she considers a friend, her Barbie.
As simple as it is, life and the future all bring change, and it’s scary. It brings anxiety and excitement along with it. But whatever the outcome is, however ordinary it might be, the journey that we will have to go through to feel content with it is long and rough. The journey for us to grow, from accepting to finally finding what we’re worthy of, is even longer.
Barbie finally did make a move at the end of the movie, leaving her bubble behind to face the beauty that uncertainty offers. Barbie, through all her doubts, finally came to realize her worth, her potential, embracing the uncertainty that it also brings. Barbie is the embodiment of us, the ones that grew up watching her, now probably just started a new family, some just finished school, some just got laid off. I’m writing this in the fear of my incapability of finding jobs, incapability of making my parents proud, incapability of not losing my friends all over again, incapability of holding myself together. But then, Barbie showed us that all the things around us do not define ourselves. The one that can truly define yourself is just you. You might not know how to feel, but someday you might.
I hope that you, all of us, can survive that journey. This goes to all of you out there seeking for new adventures. Barbie did it herself without having to be “the adventure Barbie”, and I know you can do it, too.