Escape This Week: Barbie & Ken — Oppie & the Atom-Bomb: Part I

by on July 31, 2023 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Colleen O’Connor

While waiting for more Trump indictments to drop, hotter weather to arrive, and a cool Blue Moon to appear on August 1st, might I suggest a getaway to an air-
conditioned theater to indulge in two blockbuster movies.

And I do mean indulge.

“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” One a doll. The other a physicist. Both icons. Both movies historically accurate (mostly). Both also subversive. And both
monstrous money-makers. “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” opening weekends debuted with $162 million and $82.5 million, respectively.

As of July 30th , the Warner Bros. blockbuster has grossed $774M worldwide and shows no signs of slowing down. Still #1 at the box office. Universal’s Oppenheimer, in the #2 slot, earned $400 million.

One hilarious and fun while being cartoonishly clever (Barbie). The other darker, more deadly, but equally as relevant (Oppenheimer). Both popular.

Yet, both characters are tripped up by generational change and confused about their own damaging contributions to humanity. Neither comprehended the extent of that damage until too late. Then both tried to change it.

In a way, Barbie and Oppenheimer are diabolical twins.

One capable of defining women (via a childhood doll) as stereo-typically vacuous, i.e., a “dumb blonde.” The other casting the male as a “genius scientist” who helped develop and deliver an apocalyptical weapon of war.

Best to start with Barbie. Pink defines her. Outside the theaters, one can step into a replica of a Barbie doll box that started it all and take a selfie. In fact, there is usually a line for women of all ages to get their photo shoot. Most dressed in pink. Pink skirts. Pink hats. Pink shoes. Even the theaters festoon pink everywhere.

The stereotypical Barbie is but a celluloid cutout. An idealized woman.

Yet, the reactions to her, her past, in the movie version are palpable. Giggles. Sighs. Silence. Even tears, loud laughter and applause. Oddly enough, not stereotypical.
Right, left, middle, old, and young, all seemed to appreciate the plot, the projection, the sets, and the message. The sets include a fake boat, a fake plane, a fake horse, etc.
In fact, that was the film’ aim–to subvert expectations and give audiences “the thing you didn’t know you wanted” aka “authentic artificiality.”

“You have a painted sky in a soundstage. Which is an illusion, but it’s also really there. The painted backdrop is really there. The tangibility of the artifice is
something that we kept going back to.” Wikipedia.

The film’s director, Gretchen Gerwig, “chose to create a film in which she would be both” doing the thing and subverting the thing, in the sense that she would be celebrating the feminism behind Barbie while also noting the controversial beauty standards associated with it.

Gerwig made the film as an “earnest attempt to make amends to the plastic doll, with the intention of affirming the worth of women and conveying the
impossibility of perfection, which some perceived to be standards associated with Barbie.”

Which might explain the cruelty of the movie’s opening scene. Little girls crushing their play dolls with an unnerving rage. Smashing the icon. Choosing a more
liberated future. A precursor to contemporary #MeToo movement.

Making changes. Just like Mattel’s new doll. The politician. A two-pack available on Amazon. President and Vice-President.

President and Vice-President Barbie Dolls

Part II Oppie and the A-Bomb

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gravitas July 31, 2023 at 1:34 pm

New Barbie dolls come in 2-pack…political candidate dress for President and V.P.


Gravitas August 1, 2023 at 8:14 am

“Saw Barbie already – wow, huge streams of women of all ages wearing pink! The theater was completely packed, which was great to experience after all the pandemic shutdown. Lots of interesting commentary in the movie about the objectification of women, their empowerment, how men are viewed, etc.
Oppenheimer is next, which is getting great reviews.”

From grammar school classmate living in North Cal. A great guy.


Gravitas August 13, 2023 at 1:43 pm

“The second half of the “Barbenheimer” duo, “Oppenheimer,” returned to the No. 2 spot in its own fourth week after a week at No. 3 overall. The Christopher Nolan-directed film from Universal Pictures brought in $18.8 million from 3,761 locations for an overall domestic total of $264.3 million.”
See them both!


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