‘Barbie’ Ending, Explained: Does Barbie Turn Human?


Barbie was everything it should have been: easy on the eyes, a few good jokes, and an absolutely nonsensical storyline (don’t tell us you expected anything different). It was your everyday cookie-cutter feminism served on a sparkling pink platter and did not take a single step outside of what we expected from it. None of these is to say that it wasn’t great fun, but the real hero of the film is its marketing (the Google page turned pink when we searched for Barbie), and the villain is not patriarchy, but Gloria, who convinced Barbie to leave behind a perfectly good world for the real one, to experience “humanity,” the exact things that most humans are tired of in this capitalistic world of which, ironically, Barbie is one of the representations. If this is the state of feminist movies right now, we don’t think we will ever succeed in this fight against sexism. But again, Barbie is a fun watch if you know what to expect, and we will never deny that. So here is a recap of this long-anticipated movie, whose marketing has taken the world by storm ever since it was announced.

Spoilers Alert

Why Does Barbie Go Into The Real World?

It is not just Barbie Land that is the fantasy world; it has a real-time effect on the actual Earth as well. We never got a proper explanation as to how or why versions of Barbie existed in a different realm, and it may be explored in the sequel, or it might be intended for us to assume that this is all part of a play. Margot Robbie plays the Stereotypical Barbie, and as per her name, she is the “stereotypical girly girl” who throws parties, loves pink, and sleeps in a perfect position.

Ken is the guy who lives for her attention and rarely ever gets it because it is a Barbie world, and unlimited girls’ nights are perfectly normal. But one day, things start going wrong for Barbie, as her feet, which are designed for heels, suddenly become human. Things are not fluffy and rosy anymore, and it is worrisome. The other Barbies advise her to visit Weird Barbie, who is “ugly and unattractive” because someone played too hard with her in the real world, and now no one likes her because of how she looks. See the emphasis on looks, and try telling us that Barbie was not made for the male gaze.

When Barbie visits Weird Barbie, she is told that the human playing with her must be going through something that is affecting her. Therefore, if she wants to correct her feet to get back into heels, she needs to find her girl and fix her troubles. That is exactly what Barbie sets off to do, with Ken tagging along. Ken is adorable, and he is sufficiently objectified for the female gaze, but it is impossible to believe that Ryan Gosling is a “himbo.” He was good as Ken, yet it is true that his 42 years were too old next to Margot’s 33 years. Maybe someone like Noah Centineo would have been more appropriate, not just because of the age but because of the boyish charm we usually associate with himbos that Ryan Gosling was not able to bring despite nailing other facets of his character.

Moving on, once Barbie is in the real world, she gains some real-world senses, enough to recognize that beauty goes beyond pink and perfect. As for Ken, he discovers patriarchy and is stunned by the possibility of a life where he is the main character and not just the guy who waited for Barbie. Barbie tries to think of where she should go, and she is led to Sasha, a 14-year-old girl who hates Barbies and what their nonsensical ideals of beauty and perfection have done for the world. Barbie is disappointed because she used to believe that Barbies were loved across the world. As she is having a near breakdown, Mattel (the company that produces Barbies) comes to take her away after being informed by the FBI about a Barbie on the loose.

It is in Mattel’s board room that Barbie finds that men run the show at the company and that they probably don’t have her best interests at heart. She escapes from there and is rescued by Gloria, who is Sasha’s mother and whose drawings were what were affecting Barbie’s life. Her daughter had started getting more distant from her, and she was stuck in a dead-end job, so she had let her imagination run wild with one of Sasha’s old Barbies, which had resulted in all this chaos. To solve that problem, Barbie takes Sasha and Gloria to Barbie Land, only to find that nothing is as it seems. Ken has brought patriarchy to this fantasy realm, and all the Barbies are brainwashed to be the sidekicks now. While this has increased sales of Ken dolls and their houses in the real world, Barbieland has turned into a mess, and Ken reminds Babrie of the way she used to treat him before.

Barbie absolutely gives up on the situation and is having an existential crisis while Gloria and Sasha decide to go back home since Barbie Land is no longer different from the real world. But they have a change of heart midway through when Sasha decides to fight for what her mother loves so much: Barbie. They make their way to Weird Barbie’s house, where a feminist pep talk by Gloria to cheer up Stereotypical Barbie ends up erasing the brainwashing of Writer Barbie. This is the key to setting things right in Barbie Land: the metaphorical feminist awakening of the Barbies.

‘Barbie’ Ending Explained: Does Barbie Turn Human?

The Barbies’ plan is basically to awaken the rest of the Barbies from their sexist slumber with some feminism from Gloria. They use the Kens’ ego against them as a distraction while they knock some sense into the Barbies. Once all the Barbies were awakened, it should technically have been game over, but the Kens were voting to change the Constitution, so they had to take care of that. Once again, it was a matter of pretending to give the Kens what they wanted while the Barbies went on their mission.

It is a play on the power of acting submissive, and it is what we hate the most after people’s lack of understanding of the nuances of “choice feminism.” But it works for the Barbies, and while the Kens battle it out amongst themselves in a dance-off, the Barbies vote to keep Barbie Land in favor of the Barbies. When the Kens get back to see what has happened, Ken has a breakdown because he has lost his chance to be more than a Ken to a Barbie. Barbie is still not in love with him, but she encourages him to find out who he is without her. Even President Barbie decides to let the Kens have a nominal role in the administration to keep them occupied. This is kind of the same treatment women get in the real world when they say that they want to work for themselves.

At the end of the movie, Gloria pitches an idea for “Ordinary Barbie” to the executives of Mattel, and they agree since it will make them money. As for Stereotypical Barbie, she meets Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, and she tells her that she would be human if she wanted to be. She wants to show Barbie what the human experience is like, but all she sees are the happy things in the history of womanhood. Ruth really gave Barbie a bad deal, and during Barbie‘s ending, Stereotypical Barbie decides to live as a real woman and starts going by the name Barbara Handler, which was Ruth’s daughter’s name. The first thing she does as a human is so inherent to being a modern woman that it really makes up for the vague writing of the previous scene: she wears Birkenstocks and visits a gynecologist.

Final Thoughts

Something the movie so spectacularly fails to address is that Barbie is made for an inherently male gaze, and the one-dimensional nature of the doll is proof of that. Sure, the first Barbie was made by a mother for her daughter, but what was the idea behind the design of the doll? What was the role it was intended to play? Years later, we have Barbies from any and every profession, carrying the message that they “can be anything they want.” But the problem is that women have always known this, and if they don’t, isn’t it the world of men that tells them that they can’t do something? In such a case, who should the messaging be directed at: men or women? But the world will never progress beyond Feminism 101 because even that seems to need men’s approval, and for this precise reason, we will never call Barbie a “female-centric film.” It says and does absolutely nothing new, and we don’t care, except for the fun factor along with Margot Robbie’s dedication and Ryan Gosling’s effortless and endearing portrayal of a useless Ken trying to find himself.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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