Barbie: Ending Explained (In Detail)

What happens when Barbie and Ken leave Barbieland? Is the patriarchy here to stay?
Barbie: Ending Explained (In Detail)

For a rather long time, people believed in the equation “Barbie = Bad”. The Mattel-produced fashion doll was seen as the sort of object that boxed women into certain roles, promoted unhealthy ideas of the female body, and portrayed them as being incapable of intellectual thought and practical skills, for which Barbie would often rely on her male counterparts. If only Mattel had known that all it took to change that image was a film by the right filmmaker, chances are they’d have made Barbie years ago.

But Barbie could truly only have emerged from the mind of Greta Gerwig, she of Lady Bird and Little Women fame. In her brief directorial career, Gerwig’s work had already made her a force to reckon with, especially in how steadfastly feminist it was without ever compromising her craft.

Only Barbie’s initial idea came not from Gerwig but from Margot Robbie, who shopped the pitch to Warner Bros. Pictures and then brought Gerwig on board. In turn, Gerwig got her partner Noah Baumbach to write the screenplay with her, and a cast including Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, and Robbie herself was assembled.

“Hi, Barbie!”

Barbie is set in Barbieland, a world of obvious artifice populated by a plethora of women, most of whom are named Barbie, with specific tags for each of them: Robbie plays Stereotypical Barbie (also known as just Barbie), there is a President Barbie (Issa Rae), a Mermaid Barbie (Dua Lipa), and a Diplomat Barbie (Nicola Coughlan), among others. And then there are Kens, the principal of whom is Beach Ken (Gosling), with backers in the form of Basketball Ken (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Kenmaid (John Cena, and Stereotypical Ken (Scott Evans). In fact, the sole Barbieland inhabitant of whom there is only one unit is Allan (Michael Cera).

Barbieland is an idyllic matriarchal society that has the Barbies fulfilling all key roles, while the Kens spend their days at the beach. Allan has some level of importance in the general scheme of things, but Barbieland also has a host of discontinued Mattel dolls who are treated as outcasts.

Barbie enjoys time with her fellow Barbies, rebuffing Beach Ken’s many attempts to form a closer relationship with her. Things start to go awry when Barbie begins to think of her impending death, and proceeds to suddenly develop afflictions like bad breath, cellulite, and flat feet, thus disrupting her existence as the perfect Stereotypical Barbie. Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) advises her to seek out the child playing with her doll equivalent in order to cure her illnesses. Barbie sets off for the real world, but unbeknownst to her, she is carrying significant cargo in her convertible: Beach Ken.

Barbie and Ken in the Real World

The duo get off to the worst of starts, with Barbie first being molested and then the two of them winding up in jail because she punches her assaulter. She then sets off in search of Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), the young girl whose actions have messed up her life. 

Meanwhile, the Mattel leadership, having discovered Barbie and Ken’s arrival in town, panic and dispatch crews to take them into custody and send them back home.

Barbie manages to catch up with Sasha and her mother Gloria (Ferrera): the former berates Barbie for encouraging unrealistic beauty standards for women, and the latter admits to being responsible for Barbie’s present state, since it was she who fooled around with Sasha’s old Barbies. Despite their differences, the mother-daughter duo help Barbie when the Mattel crews try to force her back into a box, and then go with her as she makes her way back to Barbieland.

Ken the Patriarch

While Barbie was trying to figure out what caused her problems, Ken discovered patriarchy and realises that in the real world, men make the decisions, unlike Barbieland. He also discovers horses and the concept of being a cowboy, both things that fascinate him to no end.

Ken returns to Barbieland before Barbie and persuades the other Kens to seize power from the Barbies, following which the women are indoctrinated into surrendering their professional roles to Kens and instead assuming submissive responsibilities that are in service of the Kens.

This change shocks Barbie upon her return, and her desperate attempt to get her fellow Barbies to go back to their original independent selves fails miserably. When she appears to be on the verge of giving up, Gloria talks to her about the standards women are expected to live up to in the real world.

A New Beginning

Gloria then deprograms the indoctrinated Barbies, reverting them to their true selves. The Barbies then trigger internal disagreement among the Kens, causing them to fail in their attempt to make patriarchy a part of Barbieland’s constitution. The chaos allows the Barbies to regain power.

Having experienced the oppression of the Kens themselves, the Barbies resolve to not go back to the original ways of Barbieland, and instead seek to create a more equal society, prioritising better treatment of the outcasts and the Kens.

Barbie and Ken also make amends, with the former encouraging the latter to create a more organic identity for himself that is not dependent on being her partner. For her part, after consulting with the spirit of Ruth Handler (Rhea Perlman), the creator of the doll, Barbie decides to leave Barbieland and live life as a human being, thus creating an identity for herself.

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