How the Barbie Movie Encouraged Me


The Barbie Movie Encouraged Me as a Man

Chris Pennington

8 mins

Leave it to a man to make the Barbie movie about himself, right?

I know, I know - I’m fulfilling all the generalizations. So call me a walking stereotype if you so desire, but I believe these words you read are in good taste (and have nothing to do with campaigning for patriarchy, don’t fret).

The main word? I laughed a lot, grew in sympathy towards the female population, and was deeply encouraged to be a better man.

Which, to be fair, I wasn’t too surprised about - despite having heard all of the polarizing opinions of the film before my viewing. As we all saw, these opinions dominated social media timelines, barbershop conversations, and YouTube comment sections (also known as the cesspool of humanity).

To be safe, I chose to block out all preconceived notions and drown myself with only the movie screen and 1,500+ milligrams of sodium from my large popcorn. And not only did I have a great viewing experience, but I felt there was something God was moving me towards that the movie poked at.

Something about my identity - where it exists, what is holding it afloat, and a reminder of God’s better route.

And though I understand this movie was produced primarily for a woman audience, I’m thankful I could find my own takeaways, which mainly revolved around the character of Ken (who made me wonder if I could also pull off the faux-fur-mink-coat-look).

In the film, Ken, Barbie’s longstanding marketed and spray-tanned boyfriend, wrestles with an existential meltdown for almost two hours. He constantly finds his worth in how many glances Barbie gives in his direction, his love of horses, and a newly inspired feeling that men should have a total reign (no pun intended) on society. In one of the closing scenes, Ken crumbles before Barbie, his identity crisis on full display:

Ken: I just don’t know who I am without you.

Barbie: You’re Ken.

K: But it’s Barbie and Ken. There is no just Ken. That’s why I was created. I only exist within the warmth of your gaze. Without it, I’m just another blonde guy who can’t do flips.

After an awkward moment, Barbie continues:

B: Okay, Ken. You have to figure out who you are without me.

K: Why?

B: You’re not your girlfriend. You’re not your house. You’re not your mink.

K: Beach?

B: Nope. You’re not even beach. Maybe all the things you thought made you, you, aren’t really…you. Maybe it’s Barbie.…and…it’s Ken.

K: Ken is me?

B: Yes!

K: Ken. Is. Me.

B: And I’m Barbie.

I felt struck to put myself in Ken’s shoes. Despite his outrageous outfits, pseudo-boy-band personality and painted-on abs, I felt like, at that moment, I was connecting with his character.

So I asked myself - what do I believe I am nothing without?

It may not be house, mink, or ‘beach,’ but what is it for me? Is it my spouse? My family? My friends? My physique, or lack thereof? My movie or show takes? My sports teams? My wardrobe? My job? My car? (OK, I drive a 2007 Toyota Highlander, but I’ve had emotional attachments to less).

I pondered on all the things that I have thought at different times in my life have made me, me. The things in high school I would have put in my social media bio via bullet point format, the things I try to exaggerate to others at parties or by the water cooler, the things I metaphorically grip very tightly…

The things that if they were all taken away, I’d be…well, having an identity crisis.

But they’ve never been all taken away - at least all at once. And if one of them starts to lose its shine or begins to fade, I can dust one of the other ones off the shelf. For example:

Is my sports team on a losing streak? Time to rewatch the Dark Knight series. Am I feeling like a failure at work? Time to hit up Planet Fitness every day next week. Are my friends acting shallow? Time to force my wife to be my one and only companion!

Over the years, I’ve realized how tiring of a cycle that is. I’ve gone all-in for family or friends and been let down. I’ve invested many hours in work or school and been devastated by failure. I’ve worked out for a month straight just to have a Cane’s Chicken Box Combo set me back a year. I’ve even sold my soul for a sports team just to be crushed by their losing efforts (I was at the Bengals-Steelers playoff game in 2015, so, yeah).

As I sat reflecting on these insights from my new friends in Barbie and Ken, I was hit with a story from the Gospel of John. There is a woman who meets Jesus at a well when drawing water, who has had several husbands and admittedly doesn’t know where to go to find life. To her shock, Jesus submits a bold statement of the kind of life he offers:

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”” (John 4:13-14).

When realizing who Jesus is, the woman leaves her bucket of water and walks away with a new hope for her life - a hope that cannot be taken from her, one that sustains beyond her ‘things.’ Peter, an apostle of Jesus, speaks on this hope in one of his letters in the New Testament:

“…In his [God’s] great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Never perish, spoil, or fade.”…as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think those traits also apply to my sports teams, the people I love, or my 2007 Highlander (believe me, it is perishing by the second). All of my ‘things’ in this life are perishing, spoiling, or fading, one way or another.

Because when I’ve let them become my end-all-be-all, the dictator of my happiness, or the only reason I live, I realize (usually in hindsight) how miserable I feel. In those moments, I drink heavily from temporary water that will perish, spoil, and fade. And I never get to fully enjoy those things when they are my idol or god because I’m constantly trying to protect them from expiring or put them on a pedestal they were never designed to be on.

That scene with Barbie and Ken reminded me of the hope that Jesus provides - a living water - that is eternal. I can experience true, untouchable joy knowing that I will be with God face-to-face one day and that he lives within me now. That water sounds pretty refreshing.

When I find that who I am is in being God’s precious son and creation, I can give healthy value and worth to everything and everyone around me. I can invest in the people I love, work out, watch movies etc., etc., etc., and not feel the added pressure of making these things who I am or wondering whether they will love me back. If they do love me back, then great. If they don’t, that’s not where my hope lives.

As the great Saint Augustine stated, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Here’s to the Barbies, Kens, Chris’, and the rest of us men and women who long for rest in places that will perish, spoil, and fade - with a word of encouragement to find rest in God and let beach be beach.

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

Chris Pennington
Meet the author

Chris Pennington

Hi. I'm Chris. I'd like to think I'm an open book, which usually consists of useless hockey knowledge, Cajun food and a love of cats. Ask me about the time I broke the law to meet LeBron.

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