Authors Note: If you have been a long time reader of The Spectrum you are probably familiar with my “bi-weekly” column called christian concerns. As this column approaches its 2nd birthday, I want to thank all the readers who have supported this column, emailed me about it, disagreed with me, thank you. I want to thank Chi Alpha, for all the small leaders and campus staff that have ministered to me. I wouldn’t be able to do something like this without you. To all the girls who have ever been in a small group with me, you have taught me more then you will ever know. This column exists because of my small group.
My intent with this column has always been to talk about issues that concern christians. Sometimes that means I tackle serious issues that affect christians like pornography, sometimes I talk about christian habits like fasting, and sometimes I write light hearted articles like this to show how even in popular culture, you can find Jesus.
Thank you for reading, and for your continued support of the spectrum.
When the Barbie movie came out in July, it was nothing short of a life changing film for me. I have been obsessed with all things Barbie for a long time and this film has only revived my love for barbie. I think it is by far the best movie of the year and a cultural milestone. I have seen the film three times, including the day it was released, and have worn hot pink for each showing, I even own the soundtrack on Vinyl (more on that in a later article). So it’s safe to say that I have given Barbie a 10/10.
I have had a lot of time to think about it since it came out and have also seen a lot of discourse about the movie since it came out. Some of the reactions are saying it’s to feminist and a man hating movie. Some reactions saying the movie wasn’t feminist enough. Neither of which are opinions I agree with. I think that if you see this film and it hates men, you need to do some reflection. If this movie isn’t feminist enough for you, I think that could be fair criticism but there is only so much content you can fit in a movie about a doll.
However what stood out to me about the Barbie movie was probably not what Greta Gerwig intended my takeaway to be. In this film I saw not only the flawed ways that western society treats women, I laughed and I cried, and absolutely oozed with jealousy that Barbie’s taste in clothes.
I sawthat to be human is to struggle, and that part of your journey is to define your purpose. Furthermore, I think Barbie shows us how badly that world and modern culture is searching for the answers that bible freely provides those who are seeking them.
- There is no such thing as a perfect life
I believe the narrator says at the beginning of the movie to fun 80’s electronic music “In Barbie land every day is a perfect day”. If only that were true of real life. I don’t think I am the only one who can’t say they have ever had a perfect day. I am sure I have come damn close. I have had a great life with some pretty awesome days. However, I don’t feel like I am the only person who feels like perfection is always just out of reach.
Barbie is in many ways the opposite of the real world. Where America is a democratic patriarchal society, Barbie land is a utopian matriarchal society. Where in the real world there is conflict between women, all the barbies in barbie land seemingly get along. Where the real world has very few perfect days if any, barbie land has nothing but perfect days.
A bitter reality of this life is that we will suffer. People we trust will betray us, people will disappoint us. People of integrity will break their word. People in positions of power will not use that power for good, but for selfish gain.
However, I can say for certain that joy feels sweeter when you know a life without happiness. Peace is precious having experienced fear and anxiety. We savor the good times because they are temporary and we value life because it is short.
At the end of Barbie Ruth Handler played by Rhea Pearlmen tells Stereotypical Barbie, played by Margot Robie ideas live forever but people die. Barbie becomes human, but not before Ruth shows her what it’s like to be human.
Instead of seeing wars, natural disasters, election years, and poverty. Instead Barbie sees young girls growing up, learning to wear make-up, sitting with their mom, at a pool party with friends and family, growing old, growing into your confidence in a series of homevideos.
These homevideos show us what history can not. That what gives life its meaning is the little moments. The joy of living is growing, and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone.
The verse that comes to mind is James 1: 2-4 “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The bible is honest in its belief that life is not easy, and that same principle is alive and well in the barbie movie.
- We desire to do right by one another and to pursue kindness We desire human connection
2. We search for purpose, and it cant come from other people
As mentioned earlier, I have the barbie album on vinyl, mostly because it’s fantastic and I am far from the only person that thinks “I am just Ken” is a comedic masterpiece and also a huge bop. However, Ken has a problem that is staring him in the face for the entire movie, purpose.
The narrator says during the beach scene that “Ken only has a good day if Barbie looks at him.” When we derive our worth as human being from other people we are often if not always disappointed.
Now obviously I get that the joke is that Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, is an accessory to Barbie and he only exists to be Barbie’s boyfriend which reflects his real life creation. However, his character arc throughout the movie is him learning to grow and be his own person outside of being Barbie’s accessory.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you only take one thing from this article here me when I say God did not design you to be someone else’s decoration. Psalm 33:11 says “but the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
God’s plans are so much bigger than you and I, and the story of the bible is God’s plan to redeem humanity from sin. That doesn’t mean that God forgets about us as people though.
Ken isn’t the only one who is asking tough questions and trying to find their purpose in the movie. Barbie is also on her own journey to figure out what she is made for, which is coincidentally a song on the album “What was I made for” by Billie Eilesh. If you listen closely during the movie, you may notice that the opening notes for the song play multiple times during the movie.
I noticed it at the end of the movie, when Ruth shows Barbie what it means to be human, but it also plays when Barbie sees the old woman sitting at the bus stop. Hinting that Barbie is meant to become a real person and grow old.
I could wax poetic about all the symbolism in just that moment alone, but I will get straight to the point. I think the fact that there is a song in the world about a girl questioning her purpose points to the fact that as human being we desire to find true meaning in this world and the reason none of us can find it is that purpose doesn’t come from the world.
It is the opinion of this writer that purpose can only be from Jesus. Some people have calling on their lives and know exactly what they are supposed to do and what career they are to have, and it’s good for them. However I think christians way over complicate what purpose is in a biblical context.
Jesus said in Mattew 22 “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
I don’t know about you all, but that seems pretty clear to me. If your prioritizing loving the Lord well, and loving his people well it’s pretty hard for me to think of a context in which your doing both of those things and somehow still in the wrong.
When Ken found his purpose in Barbie, he was disappointed and unsatisfied. When Barbie drew her purpose from being an idea, or from striving for perfection and ease, she was also unsatisfied. Ultimately, I don’t think we are made for either of those things.
When silly little movies come out like this one, I think it can be really easy for christians to write it off as another product of hedonistic American culture. However, I want to challenge that belief. Not only do I see christian principles in Barbie, but I think we can find God in so many more places then what we consider typical.
When I look out into nature, and see trees, mountains, valleys and Rivers I see God at work there, I see his intentional design. When I look at the face of my friends and family I see beautiful God given gifts of people he put in my faith to pray for me, encourage me and push me to better things. I see God’s plan in motion. and When we watch movies and look for God at work, I think we can see some of his character and love reflected back at us,
In a movie about what it means to be human, I don’t know how you could miss that even in a secular and falled world, people are still looking for explanations as to why humans are the way they are. Ya, maybe it is a comedy about a Doll. or maybe it;s God asking you to seek truth and to find him.