Cover image via Warner Brothers. 

Children act out or repeat what they’re exposed to. Recently, while attending a bridal shower a woman said to another woman, “That’s gorgeous.” And, the 23 month old walking by looked at the women and repeated back, “That’s gorgeous” even though she didn’t have any idea what the women were commenting on or what the word even meant. Similarly, when someone tells this toddler that something is scary, even if it has never been scary to her before, she suddenly worries and retracts from the item. Children learn by example and by the messaging that they’re exposed to.

When parents don’t realize how the many words and experiences around children are scripting their thoughts, feelings, and actions they could mislead or even harm their children without even knowing it. Probably the most common way that parents unintentionally mislead their children is by not talking about an issue that needs to be discussed. This is called silent endorsement.

We’ve all been there. Something inappropriate is seen or heard by a child and as the parents, we hope that our young child didn’t really understand what they just experienced, so we say nothing about it, hoping that the child is too innocent or naive and that the moment will pass. But, could there be a problem that we don’t see? There is always what is seen (the words or actions of the child) and what is not seen (the inner processing and attempts to make sense of the experience). Could it be that recognizing that a child might not understand something that they’ve been exposed to is actually a sign that a discussion needs to be had, instead of the reverse?

When a parent watches, listens to or reads something in front of a child without discussing it, then the child assumes that content the parent consumed in their presence was approved. Since parents, as natural protectors of children, give “no” answers to children and establish boundaries, then children feel that the actions of a parent are naturally safe and can be duplicated.

The New Barbie Movie

In light of all the social buzz about the recent Barbie movie, I feel that some parents might appreciate deeper analysis of common themes found in the Barbie movie that can negatively script today’s children so that this film isn’t silently endorsed. And, using this discussion about the Barbie movie, it is my hope that other movies and experiences in the future will be discussed too.

Many parents worry about what their little girls think of themselves. They see the mixed messages targeted at girls and women which are confusing, disempowering and alarming at best. These ideas are most accurately described as toxic. To say nothing about the messaging that is targeting the identity of men and boys. The consensus of activists seems to be that the threat to global happiness is “toxic masculinity” and “patriarchy,” both ideas promoted in the new Barbie movie. Where does this messaging leave the future of men and women? Is it even possible to raise children who honor women and men in a world that has adopted stereotypical views of men and women?

Ironically, the new Barbie movie put out by Mattel, a toy company, seems to be trying to address stereotypes because the main character of the movie is named Stereotypical Barbie. Unfortunately, Mattel completely missed the mark. If they were attempting to unify society by exposing stereotypes – they failed. If anything, they seem to have created a deeper stereotype divide that will inevitably create more social division and disharmony amongst the sexes as our children grow into adulthood.

Even though the Barbie movie was entertaining, funny, and creative in some places due to some slapstick toy humor, it was ultimately an ideological and confusing production, targeted at youth whose brains are not fully developed and lack enough life experience to discern the confusing messages. The Barbie movie promotes: many forms of entitlement, self-absorbed men and women, disunity, sexual manipulation, objectification of men and women, a disregard for character development, contention along with passivity (ironically), parental immaturity, disrespect for a creator or plan from a creator, manipulation, despising maternity and babies, rejection of men and marriage, scurrilous depictions of manhood highlighted by buffoonery, and, finally, Marxism.

In a recent discussion with a colleague of mine, he said that the Barbie movie “might be, if you think about it, exposing how absurd modern feminism is.” I saw his point of view but concluded, that most audiences, especially juvenile audiences, who don’t scrutinize messaging when looking for entertainment and lack life experience, would never look that deeply into the production to see it as a backward view into why modern feminism is so toxic. On the contrary, most people are heralding the Barbie movie as a great step toward putting men in their place and strengthening women. Clearly, the movie gives the message that women must be aggressive, dominant and manipulative to find happiness. The climax of the movie shows the Barbies romantically manipulating the Kens to gain control of the society.

Spoiler About What Spoils the Barbie Movie

Here is a list of themes the Barbie movie teaches so that intentional parents can have discussions with their children who have seen the movie, so that the movie isn’t silently endorsed or misunderstood. When I went to see the movie, I saw young children in the theatre holding Barbie dolls. The children need to be talked with if they are going to be exposed to this type of movie.

Happiness is redefined. In the Barbie movie happiness is portrayed in a materialistic, Epicurean way by partaking in the following pleasures: “every night is a girls’ night”, disconnection between men and women, expensive clothes, looking good, doing what you want to do, living in a dream house, driving a dream car, wallowing in your emotions or projecting them on others, controlling and manipulating others to get your way, winning social battles and activism, and apparently, going to the gynecologist.

All the men and women in the Barbie movie are stereotyped, no matter if they are from Barbieland or the real world. Women are smart and deserve respect, power, position and possessions and men are buffoons who don’t deserve to be valued as contributors to society.

There is a message that manipulation solves problems instead of principle or character development solving problems. The characters have an absence of character and are advocating for ideological/activistic agendas. In order to accomplish their desired society, they manipulate and control each other, which gives the viewer the message that war and control are the solutions to social problems.

The scene that unfolded on the screen for the children in the movie theatre after I saw their sweet faces anticipating an exciting movie was graphic and not appropriate for children.

The opening scene shows girls playing with baby dolls and pretending to be mothers and looking bored. Then they see a larger-than-life sex symbol, Barbie, and they smash their dolls’ heads in and kick them and strip their own clothes off. It was disturbing. Children and those seeking entertainment could interpret this scene as promoting the idea that motherhood and babies are bad and that sex symbols are good.

While we are on babies, there was a pregnant Barbie that was shunned by the community and always referred to as “gross” or “disturbing.” Also, the mother heroine in the story from the real world seemed to feel like motherhood and womanhood was a burden and led to “darkness.” What kind of a selfish message is this?

Mature families know that family sacrifice leads to our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. Giving ourselves to family takes work and subordination of self but is ultimately our source of purpose and true happiness. The only thing this woman/mother gave to anyone was rhetoric about all the hard things about being a woman.

Her activist speech which was portrayed as the hero moment of the movie, about how awful womanhood is, was meant to sound like all of this happened to her because of men. The thoughts she shared weren’t thoughts that a man would generally give, they weren’t even real human dialog. I work with lots of families. I’ve noticed that most women put expectations on themselves because of perfectionism or because they are comparing themselves to other women. More times than not, it’s the men who are telling their wives to “relax and not put so much on themselves.” The whole premise of the inner dialog was false, and saying such a negative dialog would only promote entitlement, drama, and contention, not healing.

This woman was celebrated for her “darkness” thoughts, specifically, thoughts of dying. Instead of healing through hope, the movie showed her healing through anger and entitlement. That isn’t how a soul heals. Why would we want to promote indulging in “darkness” or anger? That doesn’t sound like it leads to purpose at all, but to the disempowerment of women.

Sure, we all have hard times and can get caught up in our own heads sometimes. But, those are moments to recognize our ability to identify thought problems and patterns and choose to adjust our thinking or seek help. This woman just gave her poison away. She didn’t adjust herself at all. This is personally and socially problematic. This immature mother character was morally bent. Her character could lead mothers to be selfish, which leads children to feel detachment from mothers in order for mother to pursue her self-interest, or worse that children had to save mother from her problems. Additionally, she would teach men that a woman’s emotions are sovereign. This thinking is dysfunctional.

Objectification and vanity are a big part of the Barbie movie. Barbie has to go on her expedition in order to make her feet and thighs look better. She is very afraid of cellulite and flat feet. The cost and coordination of outfits is an important humor piece that promotes materialism and vanity.

Women, in the real world and in Barbie world are portrayed as objects. They are what they do. They don’t have any value outside of what they do for an occupation. Motherhood is noticeably not an option for Barbie to be a powerful woman. They have to look good and be perfect. To liberate themselves they have to focus on what they do and what they want, and then they change their looks. Additionally, the Barbies feign attraction to the Kens to trick them and control through sexual manipulation.

The men are also objectified. There isn’t one man that is shown as intelligent. They seem to be there to hang around Barbie so that she looks like she has it all. Of course, when Ken turns to patriarchy, the objectification swaps for a minute, but it’s all just an objectification battle in the end, that no one can win because they are all being objectified and exploited.

Emotions are shown in a confusing light. When Barbie is happy it is shown as false and bad and when she cries or gets angry, then she is seen as good or normal. This makes good seem bad and bad seem good. This would be very confusing to immature, emotional, young girls who have a hard time sorting through their emotional ups and downs. It’s a negative, emotionally weak and entitled message. This isn’t to say that sadness or anger are bad. But, promoting them leads people to seek unhappiness in order to see themselves as normal. This is false messaging and goes against inner recognition of our capacity to handle problems or to choose optimism.

Several characters in the movie make references to their genitals and masturbation. For example, Barbie doesn’t feel complete without a vagina. So, at the end, after a slightly blasphemous, confusing, and misleading conversation with her “creator” she happily goes to the gynecologist.

There is a disturbing moment when a middle school aged girl tells Barbie that she doesn’t have anything to worry about at the gynecologist. Why would a middle school aged girl know this or say this? What are we promoting here? Sexually active teens? And, why is Barbie going to the gynecologist if she has no interest in Ken or men? Is it because she intends to be sexually active? Is this the happy ending that Mattel is offering to young girls?

Love is not portrayed as important. It used to be that Ken and Barbie were a couple. They went on dates and got married. I had a wedding dress for my Barbie and Ken had a suit. My Barbies always got married. But, in this movie Ken loves Barbie, but she doesn’t want him. Does Barbie want another guy? Nope, she is all for herself. The movie promotes solo living and pushing away attached relationships. In fact, it makes it look like attached relationships are patriarchal and oppressive to women. When the Barbies start acting like girlfriends to the Ken, they are shown in bondage.

Yes, the men in the Barbie movie behave badly. The depiction of men is definitely exaggerated at best, but mostly stereotypical and falsified for effect. They aren’t behaving as good men. A good man is respectful to women and children. They provide for, protect, and preside over their home and family with gentleness and kindness. The bad behavior of these men seems to justify Barbie’s retaliation. However, Barbie was conceited toward Ken first. Even though in her conceit she seemed pleasant, where Ken was gruff in his retaliation. Barbie didn’t value Ken as a person. She was selfish and exploited him, just like he exploited her. No amount of manipulation will solve the exploitation of men and women in our culture. Only love can heal that problem.

Finally, the housing situation is concerning in Barbieland. I know they were being literal about the Barbie toy line. I guess Ken didn’t really have a toy house released for him. Probably because it was assumed that they’d live together. So, all the Kens in Barbieland are homeless. They really want a home, but the Barbies all have their own mansions and don’t want Kens in them. “Every night is a girls’ night” they say. When the Kens do their patriarchal takeover, they take over the houses. This is significant since they are homeless. It’s interesting to note that neither the Kens nor the Barbies really seem genuinely happy living alone. They do stuff each day, but it is obviously empty living.

There is a presence in a real home where people have sacrificed for each other that can’t be felt elsewhere; it’s a feeling of security and safety. Our children need to know that homes are better when we share them. The selfish messages in Barbie will lead to homelessness, even if people live in their own mansions.

Discuss More

The sad news about the Barbie movie is that more and more people are embracing Mattel’s version of happiness; selfish loneliness focused on pleasure seeking. We simply cannot silently accept these messages that can distort understanding and destroy the future happiness of our children.

What can we do? Focus on building strong family bonds at your house. Disengage from the battle of the sexes. Celebrate the magnificent order that the ideals of marriage and family bring to the world even if you are a single parent or have been wronged by the opposite sex. Give the rising generation a counter message to what Hollywood is peddling. Our children’s hearts and identities are under attack. We must discuss more with our children and proactively prepare them for the cultural ideological grooming that they are and will continue to encounter throughout their lives. Have discussions when your child is exposed to any new idea. Don’t lecture, but talk about what they saw and what they thought of it. Then ask good questions to help them see the truth for themselves. Use questions like, Do you think that Ken’s way of handling his homelessness problem was the best way? Why? What do you think he could have done instead? Do you think a person can learn to love themselves with a defect, like flat feet?

When the Barbie movie ended in my town, I noticed that there wasn’t applause or even smiles. There was just silence in the theatre. I saw children holding Barbie dolls and parents silently stand up and walked out. The feeling was thick and awkward. It was as if I could hear parents thinking, “What do I do with this experience? Will they forget it? Will they even see what I saw? Was it so bad? Should I just focus on the funny stuff? Are men really that bad? Is that the way women should handle men who act that way? Why is this happening? Why is this the message given to our children?”

I felt bad for those parents. I don’t usually write such long articles, but this time I felt like I wanted to help those parents who left with their heads down and in silence. It’s okay that you felt awkward. It’s probably a sign that what you saw wasn’t true or shouldn’t be true. It’s okay to tell the real truth to your children. Please do. Please talk about it. Ask questions like the ones above to them and discuss the themes.

The Bible says that there is always what is seen and what is not seen, “for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” [2 Corinthians 4:18 KJV] I believe this verse applies to movies too. Look deeper and talk about what is seen and what is not seen with your children. Discussing deeper is good parenting. These discussions with your children could potentially be liberating too. If we don’t discuss what they see with them, then they may assume approval and end up confused or disconnected from family values. Silent endorsement is a powerful teacher. We simply can’t leave children, who naturally mimic what they’re exposed to, alone to process the complexities of our world.

I know it takes more time and may even seem like a burden to have more discussions, but whether we want to discuss or not the children are learning. Do we really want to leave those lessons to the media?

Improve conversation with your children by having regular mentor sessions.