News Editor Kitty Grant discusses her thoughts on Barbie Vs. Oppenheimer ahead of their same-day release later this summer
Growing up, I loved my Barbies: I brushed their hair; I undressed them everywhere; Imagination, life was my creation. If you ask me if I’m excited about Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie, I’ll show you the memes I’ve shared on my close friends Instagram story about this future Best Picture winner. The unapologetic pinkness, girliness and campiness we’ve seen in the trailers so far call to me and my inner five-year-old.
Yet my pretentious inner 14-year-old is not so happy. ‘Why are women only given surface-level entertainment?’ she asks, ‘Why do we still want to idolise Barbie, just because Mattel, Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. tell us she’s feminist now?’ My inner 14-year-old, well she can’t wait for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which will be released on the same day as Barbie.
The biography of the father of the atomic bomb is much more up my alley. After all, I do log every film I watch on Letterboxd and am a member of multiple film Facebook groups. That’s right, the war drama directed by the man who gave us Inception is more my cup of tea. But wait, I hated Inception. So why do I feel like I should want to watch Oppenheimer more than Barbie? It must be internalised misogyny?
But that’s not really true. I’ve posted about Barbie everywhere, yet I feel so pretentious mentioning the vast majority of films I like. I say my favourite films are Dr Strangelove – a black comedy about impending nuclear apocalypse directed by Stanley Kubrick – and Fantastic Planet – an animated French film from 1973 about an alien who keeps a human as a pet which acts as an allegory for racism – and eyes roll. So instead I say Twilight is my favourite film. I wouldn’t if I were a man.
But despite all of that, Barbie is a story about empowerment and embracing femininity. Plus it’s directed by a woman. And there’s going to be so many cool Barbie-inspired fashion trends. Oh… Maybe a corporate ploy to sell us more products by hiring Oscar nominees to direct their toy commercials is not the height of feminism.
So is Oppenheimer better then? Are Warner Bros doing anything different than Universal, the production company behind Oppenheimer? Are all films that aren’t independent just ploys for money? Is there even any room left for art in the current state of Hollywood?
That’s it then; I’m done with big budget Hollywood movies and I’ll stick to my indies and films from the 60s. If you were reading this to decide whether you should watch Barbie or Oppenheimer, well my answer is The Color of Pomegranates – a Soviet-era Armenia film which uses poetic techniques to depict the life of 18th century bard Sayat-Nova.
I guess this also means no corporate-made TV or music for me then either. If I’m going that far, I’ll also need to stop shopping at chain supermarkets, and eating at chain restaurants. Wait, this was supposed to be an article about whether people should see Barbie or Oppenheimer. How did I end up deciding to give up McPlants and Dua Lipa?
Why do I have to think so deeply about what films I watch? Why does everything I do have to be a feminist statement? Why should I think about anything more than which film I’d enjoy more? Are those my only two options: think about the profound socio-political impact of every little thing I consume or completely ignore anything but my own enjoyment?
Maybe there’s a middle ground. Maybe I can watch Barbie, aware of the issues that arise from worshipping the goddess of corporate feminism, then watch Oppenheimer, understanding it doesn’t make me better than all the women watching Barbie, and then unwind by watching a German arthouse film older than my mum.
Perhaps my inner five-year-old and inner 14-year-old are both wrong. After all, what do they know, they’re both just kids.
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