Barbie Spirituality

Outside the movie theater, two young girls are pointing at all the people wearing pink. A group of women observe, “You are wearing pink, too.” The young fans cheer. They’re excited to share their enthusiasm for Barbie with grown ups.

Beloved by many (and scorned by some), Barbie has long been at the center of debates over gender stereotypes, gender equality, and how girls should think about vocation. Use one or more of the following activities to explore these spiritual themes in the Barbie movie. 

Ordinary Barbie. The Barbies in Barbieland hold all the jobs: sanitation worker, president, scientist, journalist, even mermaid. Gloria recommends that the Matel executives create an ordinary Barbie who just goes about her daily life. Imagine with children different kinds of ordinary things that Barbie could do to show kindness or make a difference every day. Draw and share pictures of your imaginary Barbies and their activities.

The Patriarchy. When Ken travels to the RealWorld, he learns about patriarchy. He brings the idea of men’s power over women back to Barbieland. Encourage children to research the history and effects of patriarchy. (See Related Resources for places to start.) Discuss some of the negative ways women, in particular, are affected by patriarchy. Invite kids to create a reel or TikTok video highlighting what they have learned. 

Barbie Constitution. After the Kens take over Barbieland, they try to rewrite the Constitution to give themselves sole power. The Barbies vote down the changes, but amend the Constitution so that the Kens have more leadership opportunities. Explain to children that a constitution sets the basic rules that people in a particular country have to follow. Ask: If you were writing rules for our family or community, what would you want to include? Why would you include these rules? Who would benefit most from these rules? Who might be hurt or marginalized?  

Uncomfortable Emotions. Barbie and Ken experience many uncomfortable emotions during the movie: sadness, insecurity, overwhelmedness, intimidation, frustration. Barbie explains to Ken that sometimes crying helps people deal with such emotions. Invite children to share some of the uncomfortable emotions they experience and how they manage them. Make a list of their ideas and post it for future reference.

Meaning-Making. Barbie explains to her creator, Ruth, that she wants to make her own meaning rather than have other people decide who she is and what she can do. Ruth explains that making-meaning is essential to being human. Invite children to close their eyes and imagine their ideal self. Ask: What kind of person do you want to be? What good qualities do you want to have? What kind of activities do you see yourself doing? How do you imagine yourself interacting with other people? What do you see as your purpose in life?

Complicated History. Barbie’s creators say she was designed to inspire women to imagine what they can do, but she also represents some traditional societal norms about femininity. Invite women from two different generations (perhaps a grandparent and parent) to talk about their experiences with Barbie. Afterward, ask children: What are your thoughts about Barbie? How do you think she has helped girls? How do you think she has hindered girls?



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