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Hi, Barbie. An Odyssey about Women, or Humanity.

"Barbie" has been released. Just like the classic sci-fi film "2001: A Space Odyssey" that the movie pays homage to in its opening scene, it truly is a black monolith, except it is wrapped in pink glitter and stands on the Hollywood Plain, emitting soul-stirring sound waves that bring tears to one's eyes and send shivers down the spine.

This film, which has sparked a global pink storm, is expected to make its way into the top ranks of box office history. How exactly did "Barbie" capture our hearts?

01 Mother, the one who disappeared

The first theme of "Barbie" is the "disappeared mother" whose presence is cut from the frames. In commercial blockbusters, it is extremely rare for mothers to become the main characters. They are supporting roles, mothers, wives, often depicted as nagging figures who hinder the protagonist's pursuit of their true selves, and are often diminished to highlight someone else's correct decisions.

"Barbie" turns such a mother into the protagonist who turns everything around and saves the world.

Gloria, played by the "Ugly Betty" actress America Ferrera, only emerges halfway through the film as she enlightens Barbie and becomes the "master" of the iconic Barbie played by Margot Robbie.

Perhaps it is only at this point that we wonder: why has Barbie's mother been completely overlooked in her memories and the visuals?

The other mother is Ruth Handler, Barbie's creator and the co-founder of Mattel. Her identity is also hidden in a small kitchen in the Mattel building, only revealed in the end.

This mother rejects Barbie's appearance anxieties and tells her that she is beautiful just the way she is, and reveals to her: "I named you Barbie after my daughter."

This brings us to the second theme of "Barbie" - true identity and name.

02 Knowing my name: Barbie is a situation

Some say that "Barbie" starts with "2001: A Space Odyssey" and ends with "The Matrix," but its hidden endpoint is another classic science fiction film, "True Identity."

Your name is the most fundamental definition and authority over yourself. Both Eastern and Western mythology and classic fantasy works often depict the concept of "true identity":

A sorcerer cannot reveal their true name, as it would weaken their powers. A book of mythical creatures can be controlled by speaking their true names. In "Spirited Away," Yubaba takes away Chihiro's true name to gain control over her. Neil Gaiman's "True Identity" is also based on this premise.

"Barbie" is also a story about finding a name.

Barbie was created by a mother inspired by her daughter: Ruth Handler saw her son playing with various toys while her daughter only had baby dolls, learning to take care of others through role-playing games.

She wanted girls to have toys that could project dreams, young women with 108 different careers, and thus, the Barbie doll was born.

However, in its 64-year history, Barbie, as the most successful toy IP in history, has become both pioneering and incredibly conservative, serving as the spiritual home and projection of girls worldwide.

Barbie embodies the vision of women pursuing their true selves but has also been criticized for objectifying women. She is depicted as an unmarried young woman with no reproductive organs, having an unrealistic body shape yet capable of reproduction. Wedding Barbies, pregnant Barbies, and mommy Barbies have had varying degrees of success or discontinuation.

She is mature yet innocent, a career woman and a stereotypical dumb blonde. She became an astronaut before women could even apply for personal credit cards...

Mattel also introduced a revolutionary doll, Malibu Barbie.

Starting with this product, Barbie's gaze shifted from a side view to a direct gaze. Mattel's management even compared it to Édouard Manet's famous painting "Olympia"—

"Olympia" was created by the French painter Édouard Manet in 1863 and faced strong opposition upon its exhibition because the provocative gaze of the courtesan directly challenged the viewers, seen as a symbol of liberation and resistance.

In previous paintings of this kind, prostitutes usually averted or looked up with their gaze.

This "challenging gaze" also appears in the "Barbie" movie: in the darkness, Ken closes his eyes to kiss Barbie, but Barbie opens her eyes and rejects Ken, subverting the traditional scene where the girl closes her eyes and passively waits for the boy's kiss.

In this scene, it is self-evident who is the subject.

At the end, Barbie reveals her true identity at the hospital: Barbara Handler. In that moment, Barbie is reborn.

Starting with her gaze, starting with her name, she begins to reclaim authority and break free from the situation represented by Barbie—

The world always holds absurd and contradictory expectations for women.

"Barbie" is not just a merchandise-driven film based on a well-known IP; it is about the situation women face. Whether or not we have played with Barbie or like the color pink, it doesn't affect our empathizing with this situation.

03 Presenting the bloody truth with pink plastic.

I have never seen a movie like "Barbie" so "plastic":

The dialogue is straightforward, delivered through "singing" and "preaching"; the cinematography is explicit, without any voyeuristic implications.

The production design is "toy-like," with the Barbie world devoid of food and liquids, everyone tiptoeing, using exaggeratedly proportioned toothbrushes and combs, driving cars without engines, admiring plastic waves and flowers, and clothes floating in the sky with "outfit displays."

The intermediate area connecting the "Barbie world" and the "human world" is filmed on location, showcasing the oldest special effects techniques used in tokusatsu and theater.

The film, like children playing pretend, uses cardboard cutouts to create a world that goes from the sky to the ground. Every line spoken with a smile is so heart-wrenching; you want to laugh on the surface but cry inside.

Ken, brainwashed by patriarchy, says something absurd and ridiculous in every line, yet the atmosphere, music, and dialogue are positive and inspirational. Every line spoken by Barbie is drenched in candy-colored exaggeration, sweetness, and whimsy, but each line carries immense weight. The pinnacle is Gloria's monologue, the female lead:

Some people dislike this straightforwardness, considering it not profound enough or clichéd. But "Barbie" fully embraces its plasticity; it's clearly a deliberate choice.

Greta Gerwig, a young female director who has been nominated for multiple Oscars and has directed films like "Lady Bird" and "Little Women," could have chosen a more subtle and profound way of storytelling. But she tells everyone: she wants it to be straightforward.

This ultimate contrast between straightforwardness and bloodshed is a more advanced technique—"Riddikulus"

"Riddikulus"—the charm to dispel fear in "Harry Potter." When faced with your greatest fears, just loudly say "Riddikulus" and you can transform ghosts, fuzzy spiders, or your most feared teacher into comical appearances, then burst into laughter with a "ha!" and watch them disappear.

The key to casting the "Riddikulus" spell is: say it loudly, say it directly, and laugh heartily.

It's a power exchange where you become the master, not a slave to fear. Reclaiming authority, facing it head-on, countering it, defining it, and even mocking it.

"Barbie" turns its exploration of patriarchy into a grand-scale, pink whimsicality—it's a beautiful "Riddikulus" What was once suffocating, something we couldn't directly face, Greta Gerwig makes you laugh it off, breaking it down one by one.

Even taking a step back, the awakening of feminism requires various types and stages of products. "Barbie" happens to be a Hollywood A-list film with a female-centric theme. We need more films with female creators and perspectives, even if they are as straightforward and enjoyable as this one, in order to diversify the genre.

04 Also, the hardcore sci-fi

"Barbie" is the most profound reality and the most hardcore sci-fi. It effortlessly incorporates references to various classic works, weaving them into the narrative with intricacy and without any showiness, matching the level of fan-favorite otaku films.

Barbie's awakening is akin to Neo choosing between the red and blue pills, and her conversation with her mother brings to mind the Architect and the created beings in "The Matrix."

"Barbie" is also a fantastic "multiverse" film.

With 108 identities, Barbie could easily split into countless parallel universes like in "Interstellar" or "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." However, here, all the Barbies coexist harmoniously in the same world—presidents, physicists, teachers, prosecutors, doctors—no Barbie's existence threatens another.

"Barbie" also responds to the origins of science fiction.

200 years ago, a young woman named Mary Shelley wrote the world's first science fiction novel, "Frankenstein." Dr. Frankenstein, the protagonist, defied divine authority to create a new human, bringing the deceased back to life through modern science but losing control over it.

"Barbie" offers another answer to the relationship between creator and creation: as creators, mothers can relinquish control.

Ruth Handler hands the choice to her daughter Barbie/Barbara, gently saying, "What kind of life do you want to live? I haven't written the answer for you."

The search for self is also the most important theme in science fiction. This story that began with "Frankenstein" has now taken on a completely new meaning.

In the final scene, Barbie visits a gynecologist at the hospital. She is about to explore her identity as a human woman: her vagina, her uterus.

This is the origin of all life, the bond between humans, the source of desire, joy, and love. It is also reminiscent of the ending of "2001: A Space Odyssey"—the newborn star child gazes at Earth through a pale blue membrane.

The odyssey of women, or of humanity, is not about going home but venturing out to seek the meaning of being human.

In the end, "Barbie" is a film about humanity, directly addressing the ultimate question of where humanity comes from and where it is headed.