Sizzle This: Feminism Should Stop Reclaiming Things Now
In ‘Sizzle This,’ The Swaddle team adds to the noise around the pop culture moment of the week.
A week into the ‘Barbie’ phenomenon, we’re still grappling with the implications of what just happened: a giant toy company wanted to revive a historically problematic doll and we thought it would be different. While some of us are struggling with the incongruity between feminist favorite Greta Gerwig and the fact that she signed on to this, others are willing to forgive her for trying to subvert the system from within. But the fact remains: we’ve arrived at a moment in time when feminism has become all about reclaiming things we used to find flawed — and have lost sight of what made them flawed in the first place. From beauty to make up to Barbies, the ghosts of our past continue to haunt us, disguised as empowerment. Everyone has (a lot) of hot takes on Barbie’s feminist politics. Here are ours:
SM: It’s 2023 and Barbieland is being presented to us as a feminist Utopia…no wonder I’m a depressed Barbie now.
DD: I really don’t think the film did anything significant by reclaiming Barbie. In fact I think the only thing it was successful in was alienating those who still looked at Barbie as a role model because they felt tricked into watching the film. At some point we need to be okay with saying “yeah sorry. We messed up.” and move on with our lives. I think we try to play too hard into the idea of nostalgia and fix things out of guilt — so much so that we miss out on all the things in the present and future that we can actually change.
BG: I think we should just leave our childhood as is and move on. Don’t try to go back.
AP: Did I feel personally and deeply betrayed by Greta and Noah not wrecking my soul like they’ve done earlier? Yes. Their switch from the deeply personal to the barely sociological has NOT been fun. (I’ll still watch everything they touch though. If Marvel fanboys get to do it, so do I.)
DR: Is it really feminism reclaiming things, or is it capitalism disguised as feminism — à la wolf in sheepskin — that is tricking us?
NT: My expectations of a Barbie movie were more like the ones that we used to watch as kids, like Barbie of Swan Lake and the other 43 movies that had simple plots. The twist in this movie was more like a Bollywood movie, where again the women are battling with the rules of the men in both worlds. There were simply too many themes covered and it got overwhelming. It felt like I was attending a college lecture again, 100 years of history topics were just just covered in 2 hours.
SA: If boys can have numerous superhero movies that celebrate masculinity and sell us the same old good wins over evil tale why can’t I have a multiverse of girly cinema that’s hyperfeminine and excludes the male perspective entirely? I don’t need it to be deep. I can read a book on feminist politics. I’ll take my movies fun & feminine please.
Mattel can make their money if they keep putting it behind female film-makers and female led stories. Make it rain, Mattel.
AS: Was Barbie about feminism reclaiming things, or a capitalist agenda dictating what should be reclaimed while offering an illusion of choice?