Archive for August, 2023

The Pink Billion

Sunday, August 20th, 2023

Okay, so there’s just no getting around it at this point. I’m going to have to blog the Barbie movie.

People are asking for it on multiple fronts, in the e-mail and on the Hello Kitty of Blogging too…which I find to be flattering and a little weird. Here was me thinking, well you know…nobody reads this blog. And many more talented people than me, have commented on Barbie already. But the demand for Barbie commentary seems to outstrip the supply, which I suppose is understandable in a way. “Barbie Fever” is everywhere and it’s affecting everything.

Which is not a good thing.

This is a bit like the bridge crew of the Titanic wanting to know a little bit more about where the icebergs are. It’s not for entertainment value. We’re in a situation here, and it isn’t good. Responsible and knowledgeable people want to know more, not because it titillates them, but because they know we’re heading into hazardous waters.

The movie has widespread and strong appeal, and the appeal is particularly strong when it’s felt by angry people. One wonders if any non-angry people like the movie. It’s supposed to be a nostalgia trip for people who played with Barbie dolls, so I’m sure there are some. But most-to-all of the positive feedback I’ve heard, comes from non-positive, angry people like Mark Maron. Who’s that? I don’t know. He talks like he’s just naturally vile and nasty, when extolling the virtues of something he likes. I can only imagine how he sounds if asked to comment on something he doesn’t like.Barbie

So perhaps non-angry people like the movie, but it doesn’t matter. This is an angry movie. It’s fueled by resentment, and if you don’t share the resentment you can still like it, but you’d be missing out on a big part of the experience. The core audience is people who are resentful, upset, and cruising for some chance to get even with someone about something.

There’s a lot of buzz about this Rachel Zeglar interview, which is only loosely connected to Barbie in that she’s so clearly sharing in this resentment. It’s looking like this is the summer of resentful, woke women venting all their frustrations with men for…I dunno. Being. The interview has a lot of people talking because whether Zeglar has made a winning move promoting her Snow White movie or not — and it’s looking like not — she’s providing definition for this new fad of “strong” women and princesses. And she’s accurate about it, the way people always are accurate when they’re sharing in an emotion-driven fad. These new, trendy, strong women are not quite so much strong, as woke. And this is an important aspect of woke, which I neglected to cover when I did my best to come up with a definition for the word: Women are not supposed to love or be loved. They are to be estranged, and to do the estranging, particularly when it comes to males. Male-and-female romance, if it’s not dead already, is to be murdered. And it doesn’t have to look like an accident.

Also, girls and women are to be leaders. Resentful both before and after. Resentful leaders.

This has been going on for a bit. It predates “woke.” When I emerged into adulthood, something that happened quite awhile ago by now, I quickly learned that pairing yourself up with a female wasn’t at all like casual dating in high school. It was a rite of passage back in these olden days. Wounded, incomplete, damaged and/or spoiled and anti-social females would sprout and then grow their trails of wreckage of failed & dysfunctional relationships with both men and women, romantic & otherwise, with this leitmotif of “I don’t take any crap and they can’t handle a strong woman.”

A particularly keen and disciplined observer might have noticed that whether these women thought of themselves as leaders or not, they weren’t running very much of anything, and were leading no one. Truth was, they just never learned to share an endeavor, or life itself, with another person. Or share nothing and just enjoy spending time with another. They were too broken and too damaged.

We quickly learned to run in the opposite direction when we heard the words “strong woman,” or “men are intimidated by me.” It’s a little disconcerting to see the negative energy from all those years ago, radiated yet again by someone who was so far away from even being conceived. It means something is sustaining this rot, keeping it infected and putrid. Something that packs a lot of influence.

That Barbie — this latest instrument for channeling this resentment — has managed to achieve billion-dollar status, and so quickly, just reinforces this.

Treacherous waters. Iceberg, right ahead.

Shoe0nHead, one of my favorite YouTube subscriptions, hit the nail on the head when she called the movie a Rorschach Test — after launching into this weird thesis about how it’s “actually pro-man” or something. I think that part was parody. Not sure. But it’s true there are some five or ten different ways of looking at it, and what we have here with all this buzz is lots of people each coming away with their own interpretation. I’m adding to that, of course. In fact I find it interesting that as people come away with their own Rorschach interpretations, each one of those interpretations, in & of itself, becomes another Rorschach test.

My favorite is the idea that it’s pro-man, because it takes pity on the men. Poor, poor men. Poor Ken. Let’s all feel sorry for Ken.

In this particular place, if in none other, Barbie functions effectively as a commentary on what we’re going through in real life. Feminism and pop-psych, for years now, have been peddling this idea that the social reforms they have in mind are actually pro-men, a soothing medicinal balm to be applied against the wounding done to our psyches by centuries of patriarchy. We’ve been victimized by our emotionally distant fathers who yelled at us too much when we were playing baseball. The chain of toxic masculinity has to be broken so we can get in touch with our feelings and enjoy Cats, something like that.

According to this, merely going about our business, acting like the men we are, is an act of self-injury. I’ve seen that in this article exploring male suicides. The male suicides are certainly there, but to me this looks like encouraging more of what made them happen, as opposed to curing the problem.

Or, maybe the movie isn’t commenting on that fad. Maybe it’s just participating in it. Again: Rorschach test. No right or wrong answers. You be the judge.

But as far as that fad itself, it’s clear a lot of militant feminists believe in it, either straight-up or they have faith in it as a recruiting tool, to bring some self-pitying males onto their movement. Is anybody going to explain to them what should be obvious? Here I go again…bravely, I step into the breach.

This “Actually the patriarchy hurts men too” buzz isn’t pro-man and it doesn’t make you look like you’re pro-man. If you hide behind that, you reveal that you don’t live in the world of men, and you don’t live in the world of grown-ups, either.

If you are “pro” someone, that would mean you know what they’re trying to do and you’re helping them get it done. It doesn’t mean to feel sorry for them or to start whining to others about their feelings in addition to yours. It’s a big world out there and there are lots of things for people to do besides whine about their feelings.

Men don’t cry as easily as women do. You know what? That’s just fine. Some men don’t talk about their feelings as much. That’s fine too. It doesn’t mean anybody is adhering to excess to some “social construct.” It’s just how some people tick. You’ve heard of “Ain’t got time to bleed”? Some people don’t have time to whine. They’re too busy doing things. Like…growing the corn that will be popped so you have something to snack on in the theater while you’re watching Barbie. Or, driving the trucks filled with groceries, including the box-wine you’ll be drinking with your girlfriends while you talk about Barbie. We don’t need a world in which everyone obsesses over their feelings and whines about how they’re treated, all of the time. You wouldn’t be able to survive in such a world. You’d run out of cat food.

Real men don’t want to be victims. Neither do real women.

Also, if your sympathy toward us has been exhausted or never existed, because we dared to have a different opinion about your doll movie or some other thing, it doesn’t bring us around to your side when you challenge or ridicule this male toughness. It’s not just plumage; it’s something that’s real, that we use to do the things we do, that you don’t do. So billboards like this aren’t likely to have the desired effect, because you know…we’re not in middle school anymore.


But I know, I know. If anybody needs to have this explained to them, they’re never gonna get it anyway.

This applies in a lot of situations, to a lot of people. The effort is out there to shame men into liking this movie that, one might reasonably infer, was never made for them in the first place. And that’s quite the silly thing; trying to shame someone who can’t be shamed, into liking something that doesn’t like them back, to bring happiness to yet other people like Mr. Maron, who’ve resolved to remain everlastingly unhappy. What sort of people engage in such silly things?

Do they find it as challenging to find the time to do so, as I find it to write up the more scrutinizing and loquacious blog posts, like this one? It would not seem so. Is anyone counting on them to do anything that really makes a difference in some way? It all reinforces this idea that none of this is really very deep at all, and it doesn’t rely too much on deep thinking or any thinking, that it’s all driven by emotion. Barbie has made a billion dollars triggering people, piquing their emotions, and starting a lot of talk about the deep thoughts that actually don’t exist. Which in turn persuades people to see the movie yet again and fork over some more money.

I tried, like an iced coffee customer struggling to access the last few ounces of liquid by probing the ice cube remnants with his paper straw, to glom onto and glean these deep thoughts. I really tried. There are a couple of monologues toward the end, one by America Ferrera and one by Ruth Handler herself, the inventor of Barbie, that are supposed to be deep. Maybe they went over my head. I was left sucking air. Something about…it’s tough being a woman because you’re subjected to criticism all the time?

As a man, my reaction was stifled laughter. Stifled, because other people were clearly getting more out of the movie than I was, and I didn’t want to disturb them. But if I didn’t stifle it would’ve been a horse laugh, a true guffaw. Tough being a woman because you’re criticized no matter what you do. Gee! I wonder what that’s like!

Handler’s speech was even more vapid. It didn’t miss the mark, because from what I could tell, she didn’t say anything. Just something about: Here, hold my hands. Now, feel. Barbie starts crying. Uh, hate to spoil the party but that’s not deep. Queen Victoria speaks for me: “That’s what I call twaddle.”

My sympathy is just not there. These are girls who played with dolls, in the comfort of their pinkified bedrooms. While, at the same age, I was out doing nonsense-chores, sanding down fascia boards and painting them, not quite so much because they needed painting but because Dad wanted to instill a work ethic. Now they’re grown up, watching Barbie, whining about how tough they have it. My heart bleeds.

This is the ugly side of Barbie. There are few things in human affairs more off-putting, than someone who’s been aided comforted and sheltered by some exclusive set of privileges denied to others — and then feeling sorry for themselves. It’s ugly when the reasons for their self-pity are well defined. And here, although I realize this may come as a shock to the movie’s makers and viewers, those reasons are not very well defined at all.

Nevertheless, some measure of respect is owed. The movie did make a billion dollars. Ben Shapiro, in his now-famous forty-three minutes of savagery, predicted the opposite. I might have made a similar error if I were called upon to do so, just because the public seems to be tiring of summer blockbuster movies. We really haven’t had one, post-pandemic, until now. I would not have expected this.

Why does it resonate?

There are those who credit the marketing, in several ways. The marketing was thorough. The marketing was brilliant. The marketing was…deceitful and sneaky. Those all contributed to the success, and they’re all true. This is a Trojan Horse of movies. It looks like a harmless nostalgia trip, a pleasant joy ride you can take your six-year-old daughter to go enjoy, while leaving Dad to…whatever. Girls Afternoon Out or something. But it’s loaded with a political agenda, and also, it’s PG-13 for a reason. Dissenters shout in unison: Please don’t take your six-to-ten-year-old to see this movie! And they’re right. It looks like it would be appropriate. It’s not.

I tend to gravitate toward the simpler explanations. I think of movie-watching as something that can be deep, but by default, is not. The most successful movies are the ones that brought the honest and effective effort, where things are shallow. Sound effects. Music. Visuals. Oh, the visuals in Barbie; even the trailer is a visual treat for the eyes.

Margot Robbie has a rockin’ bod and a pretty face.

The women are all gorgeous. And they smile.

Here I am writing about what the Barbie movie did well…and by the standards imposed by our present times, I’m full-blown sexist.

Tatiana Maslany is a good looking woman too, but in She-Hulk she didn’t smile that much. She frowned. She whined and carped and complained and scolded and whined some more.

Ladies, you have to have a nice body and mix in some smiles with your whining. Even better, maybe think about skipping the whining because compared to men, women actually have it pretty good. But be pretty and do more smiling.

It’s timeless wisdom. It works.

My favorite part of the movie: When the Barbie dolls, conspiring to retake Barbieland after the Kens have taken it over and made it into Ken-land, knock the Ken dolls off their game by pretending to be interested in Ken things. “Explain Godfather to me,” one of them says, setting off an avalanche of male wisdom about the complexities in the film classic. That was hilarious. Made me wonder about the beautiful, intelligent women who have said exactly the same thing to me, in exactly the same words, initiating the same avalanche. Hmmmm…

My least favorite part of the movie was right after that one. The mature, capable Barbie dolls who are now bringing beer and chicken wings to the Ken dolls and saying nice things to them, who have obviously learned how to coexist with them, get abducted by the wounded, incomplete Barbie dolls who never learned how to do this. And then the wounded, incomplete, immature Barbies brainwash the mature, capable, complete Barbies who know how to share their lives with men. Inside a truck! They interrogate them and browbeat them into not getting along with men. Yes this really happens. It’s the exact opposite of the way things should work. We don’t want wounded incomplete people to have an influence on mature, whole, capable people. We want it to go the other way.

I’ve long said this is the true division between conservatives and liberals. So if you really want to think of this movie as deep, maybe you could come away thinking it’s saying what I’ve been saying. But it seems to be advocating for things to go in the wrong direction, with the blind leading the not-blind.

This is not an isolated occurrence. Now that “superhero movies” have morphed into just a billions-of-dollars way of growing whole crops of these B.I.T.s (Bitches In Training) among the very-young female set…I am not optimistic about the near future. Looks to me like doubling and tripling down on what didn’t work before back in my day. Identifying the pollution and manufacturing a whole lot more of it.

How bad is it getting? Feminists fear and loathe their own sons.

So [HuffPost writer/contributor Wendy Besel] Hahn was “thrilled” that the smash summer movie Barbie, which has drawn widespread criticism among many conservatives for its heavy-handed feminist messaging, gave her the opportunity to educate her son about “the patriarchal American society we live in today.” As a former English teacher, she wishes “all teachers would assign their students to watch ‘Barbie’ in place of summer reading selections like ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’” She need not worry about that –there are plenty of activist educators who would eagerly swap out great literature from our cultural heritage for feminist propaganda. Hahn unwittingly makes a great case for homeschooling.

Of all the pieces you can take away from the movie, the most important one, in my mind, is the one it seems no one is discussing: The primary arc of drama. Barbie-Land versus out here, the “real world.” Frankly, I found the “real world” in this movie, to be less representative of the real world I know, than Barbie-Land was. “Men run things” in this “real world.” You can tell because when Ken is in the real world, he sees a lobby conversation among men, and when this lady-intern barges in with her prattling nonsense expecting to interrupt them, the one speaking offers her a polite reprimand because there’s a conversation already taking place and she needs to wait her turn. That’s “patriarchy” and, supposedly, our “real world” is filled with it.

Not from what I’ve seen. Like many polite men, I’ve become accustomed to letting women talk whenever they want. Chicks like to talk. They get to interrupt. Guys interrupting girls, something I’m told is happening all the time, is generally regarded in polite circles about on par with guys hitting girls in the face. You get to do that to another guy. You’re not supposed to do that with females.

But in the real-world-within-the-movie, chicks need to wait their turn like everybody else who has something of a non-emergency nature to say. That’s “patriarchy.”

What confounds me, almost to the point of agitation, is this drama about “running things.” The movie is halfway over and at a low point, when men “run things” in Barbie-land. It has a happy ending when the women are restored to “running things.” More Rorschach test outcomes here. It seems fairly straightforward, to some, that this makes it an anti-man movie; things are bad when men “run things” and things are good when women “run things.” Solid case, right?

Here’s what I notice.

In my world, running things is not about status. It is not uplifting. It is a burden. When you run things, you depend on a sort of a dashboard of living, changing factors, and on a premise that your dashboard includes everything you need to know to make good decisions. That premise is wrong a whole lot more often than it’s right. In my world, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Running things comes with something we call responsibility, and it’s not pink or plastic or fun.

It is, at times, a raging pain in the ass.

If you really do want to take an eight-year-old in to see a movie about “running things,” of either gender, it would be good to get that across to them. It wouldn’t necessarily discourage them from seeking out responsibility in their later years, in fact it might clue them in on the fact that we’re suffering a shortage of people who really know what they’re doing. It would also offer them a reason to show better and greater respect to the authority figures in their lives right now.

And that’s the biggest bee in my bonnet about Barbie. You bring up “running things,” I immediately think about accountability. In my “real world” that’s what makes everything go, how it all works. In this movie that’s so obsessed with who’s “running things,” accountability is like the water coming out of Barbie’s shower head; it’s not there, and you’re not supposed to expect it to be there, because it’s a doll’s world that has no running water and no accountability. That’s a punchline.

The jokes are intended for, or are more appropriate for, adults. The life-lessons aren’t really good for anybody. They’re aimed at mental children. Female Peter Pans, trapped in virtual childhood, who aren’t interested in growing up, now or at any later time. They’re still stuck, for whatever reason, in that innocent and halcyon phase of a lost childhood, back when “being the boss” was pure prestige, and had yet to carry any potential for failure or any real responsibility. Yeah, Age Eight is about right for that, if not right for the homoerotic jokes.

So…they’re dumping their boyfriends over this? Good on you, lads. That’s a bullet you dodged.