Review of Barbie the movie (2023): Margot Robbie and the cross of Christ

  • Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,
    “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
    and take up their cross and follow me.” “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34-5).

So, we are to follow Jesus so that we give up our lives willingly to the religious and political authorities of our day, who will then put us to death by execution. Not literally of course, but to turn the other cheek and bless our persecutors as more important than ourselves so they might be transfigured as the forgiveness of Jesus transfigures the soldier at the cross in Luke. Let’s consider this:

I took my mom to see Barbie (2023) today and really enjoyed it. The director said she intended it, in part, to be a commentary on the creation story in Genesis, but I’d like to point out another biblical theme. At one point, the characters who are mesmerized in a patriarchal society “wake up” when the absurd feminine standards are pointed out to them in all their contrariety. In the movie, there is a key monologue:

Here is Gloria’s monologue in its entirety:

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”

In the movie, it was ideas such as these that woke the female characters up from the misogynist spell they were under, especially that the women themselves had been approving of the misogynist roles they were playing.

The narrator made the point that it was ironic to see Margot Robbie’s character come to see herself as ugly when Robbie herself in real life is Beauty incarnate.

This whole theme of awakening to one’s hidden vileness has other biblical overtones too, like the way in response to God’s specially favored and chosen one Jesus, his disciples denied (Peter), betrayed (Judas), failed (getting violent at the arrest), and abandoned (they fled at the arrest) him, while Pilate denied him justice, the Jewish supreme council conspired against him, and the crowd turned on him. When the soldier at the cross in Luke saw the forgiveness of Jesus, he said “Truly this was an innocent man.” In this we see the theme of the just man put to death by a corrupt society, like with Socrates, that makes evil conspicuous and hence acts as a catalyst for change.

My own project in biblical studies has been to see this revelatory cross of Christ in Luke and see how we can find it in the rest of the New Testament against the penal substitution interpretation.

It was a really cool movie, I give it a 9 (but 9/X ?)

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