Greta Gerwig's '113-Minute Love Letter to Barbie'

Willa Paskin takes a deep dive into the director's complicated tribute to the iconic Mattel doll
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2023 8:55 AM CDT
Greta Gerwig's '113-Minute Love Letter to Barbie'
Director Greta Gerwig poses prior to a news conference for the movie "Barbie" in Seoul, South Korea, on July 3.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Greta Gerwig has wondered more than once why Mattel, Warner Bros., and the producers of her upcoming Barbie movie gave her free rein to put her unusual live-action spin on the iconic doll. In her piece on the 39-year-old director for the New York Times, Willa Paskin notes that "the answer seems so obvious now": to wit, "they wanted Gerwig, with her indie bona fides, feminist credentials, and multiple Oscar nominations, to use her credibility to make this multibillion-dollar platinum-blond IP newly relevant, delivering a very, very, very pink summer blockbuster that acknowledges Barbie's baggage, unpacks that baggage and, also, sells that baggage." Perhaps more interesting, however, is why Gerwig, who's been "thinking about Barbie, nonstop, for years," became so obsessed at making a movie about the toy—a "potent, complicated, contradictory symbol that stands near the center of a decadeslong and still-running argument about how to be a woman," per Paskin.

One thing Gerwig, who played with dolls until she was 14, was determined not to do was to make the movie a "propaganda" vehicle for Mattel, instead opting for a film that played to the dichotomy that is Barbie. In other words, she wanted something "both artificial and emotional at the same time," and a film that didn't ignore the struggle of living up to seemingly impossible standards. "I really thought of it like a spiritual journey," Gerwig says, noting that the Barbies in the film live in a comfortable world where no one dies or gets old—until "cellulite slithers into paradise." What Gerwig ends up delivering: a Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, "struggling to be as resilient as us ... no longer an avatar of women's insufficiency, a projection of all we're not." "Instead," Paskin writes, Barbie "becomes a reflection of how hard—but worth it—it is to be all that we are." Read the article on Gerwig and her "113-minute love letter to Barbie" in its entirety here. (More Longform stories.)

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