Welcome to our Colossus Movie Guide for Barbie. This guide contains everything you need to understand the film. Dive into our detailed library of content, covering key aspects of the movie. We encourage your comments to help us create the best possible guide. Thank you!
What is Barbie about?
Barbie is a multifaceted film that comments on how society influences individuality and how individuality influences society. The primary vehicle for this is gender power dynamics—the effects of Barbieland’s matriarchy on the Kens juxtaposed against the patriarchy of Kendom and how it affects the Barbies. In the former, Kens are needy, passive, and live a lesser existence than the Barbies. In the latter, the Barbies become servants and airheads. However you slice it, a society that limits individual expression through unbalanced power dynamics and monolithic expectations on behavior is one that robs itself and its citizenry of a capacity for discovery and greatness. Barbie is more capable than matriarchy and patriarchy allowed her to be. Same with Ken.
By contrasting Barbieland to the real world, Greta Gerwig makes a case for the power and potential of our world. It’s certainly not a perfect place. But it’s one that has infinitely more dimensionality and nuance than a land for toys that may look picture perfect but is limited in so many ways. That’s why Barbie is willing to trade in being Stereotypical Barbie. She wants a chance to be something more. It’s a reminder to not take our own lives for granted, to enjoy all the moment to moment beauty as it comes. And the fact that we have genitals. Sometimes an existential crisis is just the thing to help us to a breakthrough.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Barbie – Margot Robbie
- Ken – Ryan Gosling
- Gloria – America Ferrera
- Sasha – Ariana Greenblatt
- Allan – Michael Cera
- CEO of Mattel – Will Ferrell
- Narrator – Helen Mirren
- Ruth Handler – Rhea Perlman
- President Barbie – Issa Rae
- Weird Barbie – Kate McKinnon
- Writer Barbie – Alexandra Shipp
- Mermaid Barbie – Dua Lipa
- Rival Ken – Simu Liu
- Basketball Ken – Kingsley Ben-Adir
- Tourist Ken – Ncuti Gatwa
- Merman Ken – John Cena
- Written by – Greta Gerwig | Noah Baumbach
- Directed by – Greta Gerwig
The ending of Barbie explained
The end of Barbie begins with the aftermath of the Kens having a battle royale that concludes with a dance number and Kenunity. The Barbies have ratified a new constitution that returns Barbieland to Barbieland.
The Kens return to their Mojo Dojo Casa Houses only to find all the Barbies back to normal after the brainwashing of patriarchy. Ken freaks out. Causing Barbie to go comfort him. This is the most honest conversation the two have ever had. Barbie has a new perspective on the world that causes her to have a deeper sense of empathy and compassion, not only for herself but for Ken, too. He misreads this as romantic but Barbie helps him see that he doesn’t have to validate himself through a relationship with her.
Ken: I just don’t know who I am without you.
Barbie: You’re Ken.
K: But it’s Barbie and Ken. There is no just Ken. That’s why I was created. I only exist within the warmth of your gaze. Without it, I’m just another blond guy who can’t do flips.
B: Maybe it’s time to discover who Ken is.
K: Okay, I think I get it, now. [Makes a movie on Barbie]
B: No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t the answer.
K: [Smacks himself] I feel so stupid. I look so stupid. I look so STUPID.
B: Okay, Ken. You have to figure out who you are without me.
B: You’re not your girlfriend. You’re not your house. You’re not your mink.
B: Nope. You’re not even beach. Maybe all the things you thought made you you aren’t really…you. Maybe it’s Barbie…and…it’s Ken.
K: Ken is me?
K: Ken. Is. Me.
B: And I’m Barbie.
The rest of the Kens recognize their own individuality. One states, “We were only fighting because we didn’t know who we are.”
To be human
After this, the Mattel executive board shows up, trying to help, and offers to restore everything to how it was. President Barbie declares that they don’t want to go back to how things were. “No Barbie or Ken should be living in the shadows.” The Kens get a lower circuit court judge, a first step to representation. The narrator comments: “Well, the Kens have to start somewhere. And one day the Kens will have as much power and influence in Barbieland as women have in the real world.”
Gloria pitches the Mattel CEO on Ordinary Barbie and makes the case for a Barbie who isn’t anything special. The CEO is initially against it until told it will make money. Sasha asks what Barbie’s ending is, what does Barbie get? The CEO says Barbie’s in love with Ken. But she’s not.
This begins the final portion of the ending. Barbie is asked what she wants and she isn’t sure. That’s when Ruth Handler shows up, the inventor of Barbie. “I created you so you wouldn’t have an ending.” Barbie says she doesn’t feel like Barbie anymore and Ruth lets her test drive what it’s like to be human.
Ruth: You understand that humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever. Humans not so much. You know that, right?
B: I do.
R: Being a human can be pretty uncomfortable.
B: I know.
R: Humans make things up like patriarchy and Barbie just to deal with how uncomfortable it is.
B: I understand that.
R: And then you die.
B: Yeah. Yeah. I wanna be…part of the people that make meaning. Not the thing that’s made. I want to do the imagining. I don’t want to be the idea. Does that make sense?
R: I always knew that Barbie would surprise me but I never expected this!
B: Do you give me permission to become human?
R: You don’t need my permission.
B: But you’re the creator, don’t you control me?
R: I can’t control you anymore than I can control my own daughter. I named you after her, Barbara. And I always hoped for you like I hoped for you. We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.
B: So being human’s not something I need to ask for or even want…I can just…it’s something I just discover that I am?
Barbie gets to feel the human experience. She’s overwhelmed. The montage goes from childhood through young adulthood through adulthood to old age.
Ruth disappears and Barbie’s left alone. She says yes.
The real world
Back in the plastics and pastelles of Los Angeles, Gloria, Sasha, and the dad drop Barbie off at a gynecologist appointment. She’s wearing Berkenstock shoes. And goes by the name Barbara Handler.
As disparate as the final conversations may seem, they’re all part of Barbie’s awakening to who she wants to be.
In helping Ken understand his own individuality, she understands hers. He was defined by being Beach Ken, she by being Stereotypical Barbie. All the things they thought made them who they were may have been distracting them from discovering who they actually are. That’s why Ken says, “Ken is me.” It may seem like a silly distinction but that statement is fundamentally different from “I am Ken”. The latter is similar to saying “I am a baseball player” or “I am a teacher” or “I am a human”. That phrasing places you in a category that defines you. It’s the difference between being defined versus defining yourself.
When you say “I am Rio” or “I am James” it’s a declaration of your individuality. But not for Barbie and Ken. Because being “Barbie” and being “Ken” is a thing, just like teacher, man, woman, Earthling, chef, etc. etc.
That’s why the phrasing “Ken is me” matters. Because it places the emphasis on Beach Ken’s individuality. He’s not a Ken. Ken is him. Whoever he is. Whatever he wants to be. He doesn’t have to be beach. He can go ride horses. That’s why Basketball Ken’s voice changes. Because he’s no longer trying to be a Ken. He’s being himself.
For Barbie. It’s a similar realization. She’s no longer a Barbie. She’s just Barbie. Barbara. And that understanding sets up the follow-up conversation with Ruth and her wish to no longer be the thing that’s made but the person who does the imagining. And even though becoming real means she’ll face hardships she has never known then eventually die. It also means she’ll be able to experience all the beautiful things being a human has to offer. And that’s worth it to her. Especially because of that moment she had with the woman on the bench earlier in the film. Instead of viewing old age as something to fear, Barbie sees how beautiful that woman is. That old age is just a different kind of experience and beauty. That helped her conquer her irrepressible thoughts of death and fear of cellulite.
Then her appointment with a gynecologist is a callback to when Barbie and Ken first arrived in Los Angeles and she told the construction workers that she didn’t have genitals. It’s a final moment of humor for adults but also gets at one of the other benefits of being a real person. Not only can Barbie now eat real food and drink real drinks, she can also, well, you know.
Why is the movie called Barbie?
As straightforward as this is, there is a slight degree of nuance.
The simple answer is that a movie about one of the most famous toys in the world should probably be named after that toy. You don’t call a Barbie movie Girl Troubles or The Doll. You call it Barbie.
The bit of nuance comes in from Gerwig bringing the story to a point where Barbie forsakes her name and opts instead for Barbara. This dovetails with the idea of Ordinary Barbie that Gloria pitched to her boss. Instead of leaning into the upbeat, can-do spirit of Barbie, Ordinary Barbie is just trying to get through the day. She’s not special. Not a stand out. Just a normal, average person. It’s not said in the movie, but you can easily imagine an ordinary Barbie calling herself Barbara.
By forsaking the name Barbie, Barbara has broken free from her stereotype. It’s an act of individuality. That reinforces one of the movie’s main themes: no one has to be Barbie.
The themes and meaning of Barbie
No one has to be Barbie
Barbie opens with a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001 is a movie that explores humanity’s relationship with technology, starting with primitive humans first discovering the use of tools. It’s that primitive dynamic that Gerwig recalls, positioning young girls playing with baby dolls as the equivalent to prehistoric, ape-like humans who have no tools and struggle because of it.
In 2001, a monolith appears and seeing such a strange object inspires the primitive humans to view the world around them differently. Which leads to using a bone as a weapon. Which leads to a leap up the food chain. Which leads to spaceships millions of years later.
In Barbie, Barbie appears. Seeing a doll that’s a woman that looks like Barbie inspires the young girls to break their baby dolls. They’ve discovered a new way to play and a new way to look not only at the world but at themselves. This leads to the next scene where the narrator explains that “Because Barbie can be anything, women can be anything. And this has been reflected back on the little girls of today, in the real world. Girls can grow into women who can achieve everything and anything they set their mind to. Thanks to Barbie, all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved. At least, that’s what the Barbie’s think.”
We know that’s not true. And that many people have argued that Barbie actually creates unhealthy concepts of what a woman should look like. That’s exactly what Sasha says when she first meets Barbie.
Sasha: Okay, Barbie, let’s do this. You’ve been making women feel bad about themselves since you were invented. You represent everything wrong with our culture: sexualized capitalism, unrealistic physical ideals. Look at yourself. You set the feminist movement back 50 years. You destroy girls’ innate sense of worth. And you are killing the planet with your glorification of rampant consumerism.”
By having the movie reach a point where Stereotypical Barbie no longer feels the need to be Barbie but can be Barbara, Gerwig is telling every girl the world over that they too no longer have to feel beholden to the bubbly, busty, blonde, high-achieving idea of womanhood that Barbie came to represent. The same way that Ken wasn’t his girlfriend or his house or his mink, Barbie isn’t her outfits, her waistline, or her dreamhouse.
Gloria captures all of this in her speech about womanhood:
It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful and so smart and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like…we always have to be extraordinary. But somehow we’re always doing it wrong. Like you have to be thin but not too thin and you can never say you want to be thin…you have to say you want to be healthy but also you have to be thin. You have to have money but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss but you can’t be mean. You have to lead but you can’t squash other peoples’ ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for mens’ bad behavior which is insane but if you point that out you’re accused of complaining! You’re supposed to stay pretty for men but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood but always stand out! And always be grateful! But never forget the system is rigged so find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.
You have to never get old. Never be rude. Never show off. Never be selfish. Never fall down. Never fail. Never show fear. Never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory! And nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong but also everything is your fault. I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing a woman…then I don’t even know.
The Barbie doll represented this actualized woman who was everything she was supposed to be and nothing that she wasn’t. But through this movie, Gerwig breaks that perception. And makes an effort to say, “Hey, this ideal thing wasn’t perfect either. And that’s okay. You’re okay. Please, be you. And know that that is more than enough.”
What was I made for?
The lyrics to Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For” encapsulate Barbie’s journey in this film.
I used to float, now I just fall down
I used to know, but I’m not sure now
What was I made for
What was I made for?
The first two lines capture Barbie’s initial perfection followed by the doubtful self-awareness that caused her to lose her poise.
Takin’ a drive, I was an ideal
Looked so alive, turns out I’m not real
Just somethin’ you paid for
What was I made for?
This stanza reinforces the idea of beauty standards and idealism that Barbie represented but at the cost of not being real. No one can look like that and be that and have it all and do it all. Instead of being her own person, she’s an object for others. Likewise, the people paying are spending money to own something that’s impossible to have themselves. It’s a toxic dynamic that cheapens the thing that’s bought and the person who buys it.
When did it end? All the enjoyment
I’m sad again, don’t tell my boyfriend
It’s not what he’s made for
What was I made for?
Questioning her existence has led to a loss of joy because everything that you had and had been no longer feels right. That extends to the boyfriend, too. He’s not someone she can confide in, who can deal with or even wants to hear about these sad emotions. He liked her as she was. The “it’s not what he’s made for” is a realization that this boyfriend is not a long-term option.
I don’t know how to feel
But I wanna try
I don’t know how to feel
But someday, I might
Someday, I might
This captures the hope of a new beginning. Even though she had been mourning what was lost, there’s potential for something new and better. She doesn’t know how to feel and that’s okay. Just trying is what’s important. Because you never know what you’ll discover as you go.
Think I forgot how to be happy
Somethin’ I’m not, but somethin’ I can be
Something’ I wait for
Something’ I’m made for
Somethin’ I’m made for
The ultimate conclusion is that even if you’re not happy, you can be. She’s made to be happy. You’re made to be happy. We all have that capacity. If you make the effort and give yourself the time, amazing things can happen. Which is exactly what we see with Barbie. Things became bleak. She felt broken. But through her soul searching she discovered her humanity and all the dimensionality that comes with it.
The perfect, ideal person doesn’t have that dimensionality. They’re perfect. All the time. Without imperfection, they can never appreciate what they have. What makes them unique. They never have anything to strive for. Or find beauty in others.
No one was made to be anything other than who they are. Be that.
Adam and Eve and Paradise Lost
Growing up, Greta Gerwig went to Catholic school, something that she captured in her second movie, Lady Bird. That biblical background actually helped shape the story of Barbie. Talking with the Associated Press, Gerwig elaborated:
In the movie, when it starts, she’s in a world where there’s no aging or death or pain or shame or self-consciousness, and then she suddenly becomes self-conscious, which that’s a really old story. We know that story. I always go back to those older story forms because, I don’t know, I went to Catholic school and I resonate with them.
So Barbie is Gerwig’s retelling of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge and God ejecting them from the Garden of Eden. Except instead of the ejection being a punishment, it’s a blessing. Knowledge is not treated as this disdainful thing that humans should never have had. Instead, it’s made beautiful and wonderful. It’s a gift.
Is a paradise where you’re ignorant and limited really a paradise? Just like how Gerwig flips the idea of the Barbie doll being an unrealistic portrayal of women and turns it into a reminder that it’s okay to be whoever you are, she re-imagines what paradise truly means.
Important motifs in Barbie
Ruth Handler’s blue dress
When Ruth helps Barbie become human, she’s in a blue dress. Given the multitude of references to famous works of art, especially movies, this seems like a purposeful nod to the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio, the one who turns Pinocchio into a real boy.
Kens and materialism and the Fight Club reference
Ken discovers patriarchy and brings it back to Barbieland. Patriarchy is more of an idea than a concrete thing you can point to like a tree or a plane. In order to help audiences visualize patriarchy, Gerwig has the Kens give Barbieland a facelift. Part of that includes a lot more stuff. A new giant truck. The overly large Sylvester Stallone-inspired mink coat. Horse iconography. TVs everywhere. Mini fridges, beer, The Godfather.
A lot of this was borrowed from what Ken saw in the real world. He saw men in SUVs and trucks, so he got one. He saw a man in a big mink coat, so he got one. He believed every Ken should have a Barbie, so all the Kens still had their Barbies to serve them brewskies.
At the end, after Ken is done with patriarchy and unsure of who he is and what to do next, Barbie tells him: You’re not your girlfriend. You’re not your house. You’re not your mink.
This echoes the famous words of Tyler Durden in Fight Club: You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f***ing khakis.
Referencing Fight Club has multiple layers to it.
First, Fight Club is a story about the way in which materialism and consumerism rob us of our individuality. Companies spend billions of dollars trying to convince us to look a certain way, live a certain way, to have certain things. And if you’re not that person? Then you’re failing at life. That’s where the main character, the initially unnamed Narrator, starts the movie. Caught up in the cycle of being someone he isn’t. Only to have his apartment blow up and go down a path of rejecting materialism and consumerism in order to rediscover who he is and what he wants.
Eventually, the narrator and Tyler team up to help others break free of that mental condition. The “You are not your job” speech is part of what they’re preaching.
Barbie is pretty similar. It’s a rejection of the influence of materialism and consumerism and the way it shapes our very notions of not only who we are but who we should be. Fight Club is very aggressive in its messaging. Barbie takes a kinder approach in her words to Ken.
That’s the first layer. An alignment between Barbie and Fight Club.
The second layer may have something to do with the fact that over the years much has been made about the way in which Fight Club presents women. There’s one female character. And she’s caught in a toxic relationship with the narrator.
Writing for Feminism In India, Poulomi Deb had this to say:
The film Fight Club can be taken as an example of media which shows how feminist film theory can be more complex and multifaceted, as it exposes the vulnerability of male trauma and at the same time, the female character is more or less dismissed.
It is undeniable that Marla does not have a storyline independent of the male leads in Fight Club. She is also depicted as naked in the film’s sex scenes. However, the angle and momentary nature of the shots restrict her from being over sexualized. The scenes are also central to the narrator’s later realisation that he had been unconsciously engaging in acts as Tyler, which in turn affects the entire narrative of the film.
Nevertheless, Fight Club and its fight clubs are dominated by men, both literally and metaphorically. Tyler particularly suggests that their society represses the masculine aspects of men by forcing them to focus on clothing, shopping, and physical beauty, which are supposedly more ‘feminine‘. One of the members of Fight Club, Robert or ‘Bob’, is constantly referred to and demeaned due to his ‘feminine-looking‘ chest and other body features.
Some critics have maintained that the film seems to agree with the characters’ misogynist attitudes by allowing them to react to consumerism and women in a similar fashion. “Maybe another woman isn’t what I need right now”, says the narrator. The organisation of Fight Club hence emerges as an antithetical response to the reinforcement of femininity upon men; yet it is worthy to note that Tyler’s classification on the basis of gender within the film comes solely from his self-perception…
The narrator’s relationship and reconciliation with Marla also hint at a return to the integration of feminine values with masculine values (such as compassion with strength), and ultimately a rejection of gendered norms altogether. It is Marla who the narrator turns to when he realises he needs to stop Tyler and Project Mayhem. At the same time, Marla as a character is made to instantly forget how she felt at the hands of the conflicting behaviour of Tyler and the narrator when she holds hands with him, which is arguably unrealistic…
Feminism and feminist film theory have been crucial in criticising the male gaze and the treatment of women in cinema. However, films like Fight Club demonstrate the need to politicise notions such as self-identification and masculine narcissism as products of a culture (or alternatively, mental processes) which deserve critical and academic discussion rather than being morally construed as ideal or non-ideal.
In Barbie, Greta Gerwig politicizes notions of self-identification and masculine narcissism as products of a culture. It takes what Fight Club did and re-positions the conversation to include the female perspective in a much more complete and holistic way.
And then there’s a third layer.
When Gloria gives her big speech about how hard it is to be a woman, it breaks Writer Barbie out of her patriarchal brainwashing. Upon waking, Writer Barbie says: “It’s like I’ve been in a dream where I was somehow really invested in the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League.”
That joke is a bit meta-breaking as it opens up a can of worms in terms of Writer Barbie knowing about not only Justice League Snyder Cut but all the drama that led up to the release of the Snyder Cut. Something you wouldn’t expect Barbieland to be privy to, given the divide between it and the real world.
That means that it was a point Gerwig wanted to make through the character. That point being? A bit of the toxicity of what was mostly a male fanbase demanding the release of the Snyder Cut for years and years. It was a very “film bro” thing to do. Fight Club has also become a very “film bro” movie. It went from dismissed upon release to a cult classic to an accepted masterpiece to “bros” misunderstanding its criticisms of society and masculinity and embracing its most toxic aspects to now being dismissed as regressive for how it handles Marla and the perception of its as appealing to toxic male tendencies.
All of that is to say that it feels very pointed that Gerwig has Barbie use a Fight Club reference to inspire Ken to break out of his own toxic, male habits. What’s the next thing Ken does? Throw his coat away. Gerwig manages to pay homage to Fight Club, critique its feminism, and perhaps also call out the men who have, over the years, taken the wrong lessons from it.
Questions & answers about Barbie
Did the music from Cats play?
Yes! It’s a joke about Weird Barbie’s arc being something out of the play Cats. In the stage play, it’s the night of magic where one chosen cat is reborn. So you meet a bunch of cats who all want to be the one. Each of those cats is unique and has pros and cons to their personality and are part of this cat society. Then there’s Grizabella. Grizabella is old and broken down and looks awful and sounds awful and all the other cats look at her with disgust. They actively back away from her. By the end of the play, she sings one of the greatest songs ever written, a true show-stopper, “Memory”, and the other cats are so moved by the song they vote her to have a new Jellicle life.
By having the song from Cats play, Gerwig is making a connection between Weird Barbie and Grizabella. Griz goes from ostracized to re-accepted and the same thing happens for Weird Barbie. It’s just one of the many, many, many references Gerwig makes throughout Barbie.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about Barbie? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!