Releasing on 21 July, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie promises to be an astute parody of societal perceptions of the iconic Barbie doll, delving into profound themes like existentialism and gender roles. It aims to challenge preconceived notions of femininity while exploring the complexities of identity and individuality.
However, instead of celebrating this creative endeavour, several people have resorted to mocking the film and the filmmaker. Even before its release, Indian men, in particular, have unleashed a tirade of hate towards Gerwig and her project, using social media as a platform to spread their vitriol.
This derogatory dismissal reeks of blatant sexism, reflecting deeply ingrained societal prejudices that categorize anything female-centric as unserious or lacking depth.
The disparagement of girls who once played with Barbie dolls is a telling example of how deeply entrenched gender bias is in our society.
Young girls playing with dolls are often mocked and ridiculed for doing so. This form of cultural conditioning serves to enforce the harmful notion that femininity is synonymous with weakness, frivolity and a lack of substance. Now, history seems to be repeating itself, with the Barbie movie falling prey to similar prejudice.
At the core of this backlash lies a dangerous cocktail of misogyny and toxic masculinity.
Looking for evidence? Here are a few comments under a viral tweet that merely stated that Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer – another cinematic magnum opus releasing on 21 July – has surpassed Barbie in Indian ticket sales.
Misogyny perpetuates the notion that anything created by and for women is inherently inferior or unworthy of attention. The film industry has historically been dominated by male-centric narratives, often sidelining the stories and perspectives of women, queer folks and other marginalized communities.
When a female-centric project like Barbie emerges, it should be seen as a refreshing opportunity to redress this imbalance. Instead, it becomes a lightning rod for deep-seated gender biases and a harsh reminder of the uphill battle women face in seeking equal representation and recognition.
This prejudice is further reinforced when men wearing pink, playing with dolls, or appreciating things beyond traditional gender norms, are subjected to sexist, and often homophobic ridicule.
It is disheartening to witness the depths of misogyny pervading the conversations around the film. The discourse surrounding Gerwig's Barbie is not just about one film but represents a wider struggle against gender biases and the persistence of toxic masculinity.
Like Gerwig's previous directorials that were as nuanced as they were unabashedly feminist (Lady Bird and Little Women), Barbie represents a unique opportunity to explore complex themes and perspectives; But the pre-release hate it has garnered exposes the barriers women face in patriarchal frameworks.
It also highlights the urgency of confronting our own prejudices and embracing a more inclusive and empathetic future. Only then can we hope to break free from the shackles of patriarchal oppression, and embrace the true richness of the human experience.