There are a thousand densely layered visible and verbal jokes in Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s script for Barbie, however one particularly stands out, as a result of it’s a light-weight gag with such large story implications that it appears like an ethos. When Aaron (Connor Swindells), a low-level Mattel worker, finds out “Stereotypical Barbie” (Margot Robbie) has escaped from the fantasy world of Barbieland and entered Actuality, he instantly alerts Mattel’s CEO (Will Ferrell) and the company’s board of administrators. However then Aaron takes a second to ponder the ontology of the world he lives in.
“So… is Barbieland an alternate actuality?” He begins to ask. “Or is it like a spot the place your creativeness—” In absolute unison, the complete board cuts him off with a powerful “YES!”
The message is obvious: Don’t take into consideration the underpinnings of this world. Simply cease asking questions proper now. Additional, due to the best way Aaron will get lower off with a sure earlier than he’s even achieved itemizing the probabilities for what Barbieland is perhaps or may imply, there’s an additional layer to all of it: a suggestion that certain, all theories about Barbieland are equally legitimate, and equally meaningless. And since the complete Mattel board delivers that verdict in emphatic refrain, there’s an additional trace of impatience and authority to all of it, an air that claims We’ve addressed this query a thousand occasions already, we’re bored with it, and we’ve come to a consensus. We simply need you to toe the get together line on this and transfer on.
Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Photos
It’s a humorous second each as a result of it’s so abrupt, and since there’s a lot nuance to the best way Gerwig shoots and presents it. But it surely’s additionally satisfying in a means that’s fairly uncommon for films, as a result of it’s a pleasant, jokey invitation to only settle for the metaphor, and never fear concerning the particulars of Barbie’s cosmic building in any respect.
Quite a lot of us like to consider the small print in films. A few of us can’t assist it. For individuals who’ve made a life out of analyzing and discussing movie, being informed “Simply flip your mind off and luxuriate in it!” or “Don’t you understand how to have enjoyable?” is annoying and pointless. Interested by films is enjoyable! If it wasn’t, why would there be so many on-line fora devoted to discussing and decoding popular culture? Why would wingnut concepts just like the Pixar Universe Idea get a lot viral traction, as followers mess around with ridiculous concepts about their favourite films or exhibits and share them round for an viewers of like-minded armchair analysts?
That stated, typically we are able to all get too obsessive concerning the particulars, in methods that may distract from a narrative. Simply have a look at the rise of the Reddit Detectives, the sort of people that band collectively on Reddit to share microanalysis and mysteries in popular culture, and decide them aside. The Reddit Detective is an idea, not a particular circle of individuals — a means of summing up the kind of on-line sleuths who obsessively pored over the proof within the Serial podcast, minutely decoded the web bread crumbs laid down for followers of Westworld as a part of that present’s viral advertising, or examined each doable trace about who Jon Snow’s mom is perhaps on Recreation of Thrones.
This type of on-line sleuth — a detail-focused, collaborative fan, all the time racing to be the primary to note and submit about some Easter egg or secret connection — has achieved quite a lot of useful work on behalf of the remainder of us, like mapping each story path and doable ending in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, or in a much less pop-culture-focused sphere, monitoring down proof of malicious moderation fraud on Reddit. However the darkish aspect of that analytical urge is the drive to choose the whole lot aside and root each secret out of each story — like, say, determining each large twist in Westworld effectively earlier than it occurred. This type of evaluation additionally takes each plot level to its logical excessive.
Picture: Warner Bros. Photos
Barbie invitations and defangs that impulse by asserting that sure, all doable theories concerning the nature and implications of Barbieland are true, and also you’re allowed to spin out any choices you need. Does the existence of Barbieland counsel that each different common toy or character that figures closely in youngsters’ imaginations has its personal precise, tangible alternate-reality universe? Certain, why not? Is there a Sonicland, a literal Mario World, a Legoland the place the motion of The Lego Film really came about? Yup, that’s tremendous with us. However wait! Gasp! If Barbies can simply stroll out of Barbieland into Actuality, may Pikachu and Mewtwo do this as effectively, resulting in an precise Detective Pikachu scenario? We’ll enable it. May all these IPs collide in a single large real-world crossover? Should you can think about that, go forward! It’s as actual as anything on this film.
Barbie’s “Certain, any idea goes” perspective provides us all permission to dream, whereas absolving itself of any concept we provide you with. However extra importantly, the Mattel board is telling Aaron (and the remainder of us) that determining these particulars isn’t an essential side of this film. Does it make sense that, when Ken claims Barbie’s DreamHouse and turns it into Ken’s Mojo Dojo Casa Home, that home immediately and immediately manifests as a real-world product and begins “flying off the cabinets”? If Barbieland characters are simply reflections of real-world toys presently being performed with, why are there so many discontinued dolls and fashions nonetheless represented in Barbieland? Why is there just one Allan?
Did any of those questions matter within the writing of Barbie? As Roger Rabbit would put it, “Solely when it was humorous.” There isn’t some Temporary Historical past of Time-level guide to the mathematical guidelines of Barbieland on the market someplace, masking all potentialities — you’re allowed to make up your personal guidelines.
Gerwig and Baumbach deal with Barbie’s weirder fantasy parts with precisely as a lot lightness and momentum because the film wants. They don’t waste time on boring disbelief and debate. Will Ferrell because the Mattel CEO factors out that Barbie characters have leaked into Actuality earlier than — so there’s no want to spend so much of power on a bunch of characters questioning how Barbieland could possibly be actual, selecting by way of the metaphysical implications, or slowing the film down by complaining about its basic premise. They will simply transfer previous that, and get on with the humor and the trenchant evaluation of gender relationships.
Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.
And when disaffected teenager Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) and her buddies are confronted with a residing Barbie, they don’t spend a dreary chunk of the film asking how she may probably be actual, or what it implies that she exists — they simply lay into her for all of the negativity she represents. It’s simple sufficient to argue that in that second, they don’t imagine she’s the precise avatar of Barbie the doll, that they simply suppose she’s a perky bimbo styling herself after the toy. However the film doesn’t trouble splitting these hairs. You possibly can learn the scene both means, and it really works tremendous. Are they speaking to the doll, or a human lady who admires the doll? Sure, says the Mattel board, in unison.
This type of breezy hand-waving doesn’t work for each film — in critical horror, science fiction, and fantasy, it’s rather more essential to have some sense of what the foundations are, as a result of there aren’t any clear story stakes in any other case. However for a comedy that’s targeted totally on different particulars — precisely what the accoutrements of a Ken-dom macho man are, or why Barbie floats all over the place in Barbieland — pinning down the scientific particulars of the world simply doesn’t matter.
Barbie takes precisely the appropriate path by way of its fantasy parts by breezing previous the facets of study that might make the film extra actual than it must be, whereas giving viewers enthusiastic consent to fill in the remainder any means they need. Is that this a film for the Neil deGrasse Tyson-style nitpickers of the world? No. Is it a film that asks the viewers to think about who they wish to be and what sort of world they wish to dwell in, whereas finishing the metaphor by leaving the whole lot else within the film as much as their imaginations? A hearty, resounding, choral Sure.