How men are watching ‘Barbie’ wrong


Greta Gerwig thought she was making a Barbie movie. But certain men saw an entirely different film, some accusing it of sexism and others heralding it as a pro-patriarchy awakening.

Barbie has dominated at the box office since its release on July 21, and could become the highest earning movie of 2023. Reviews from audiences and critics have been mostly positive.

“My hope for the movie is that it’s an invitation for everybody to be part of the party and let go of the things that aren’t necessarily serving us as either women or men. I hope that in all of that passion, if they see it or engage with it, it can give them some of the relief that it gave other people,” Gerwig recently told the New York Times, responding to some of the reaction, namely that of conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro burning a Barbie doll on his YouTube show after watching the movie.

But apparently everyone does not see the party the same way. Shapiro, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and broadcaster Piers Morgan have spoken out against what they see as the movie’s “woke” agenda, while other vocal social media users have praised the movie’s storyline for reasons Gerwig might not have expected. (Barbie plot spoilers ahead).

Ken actors in Barbie movie
From left, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Ken, Ryan Gosling as Ken and the future “Doctor Who” actor Ncuti Gatwa as Ken. Viewers have had diverse views on what the “Barbie” movie means.
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The Barbie movie sees Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) travel to the real world with Ken (Ryan Gosling), where he discovers that, while in Barbieland he and the other Kens aren’t in control, the real world is run by “the patriarchy.” He returns to Barbieland and takes over, turning Barbie’s Dream House into the “Mojo Dojo Casa House,” filled with horse decor and guitars.

While the Barbies eventually take back power in Barbieland with a group plan to trick the men by using their stereotypical masculine traits against them, the uprising of “men” against “women” in the movie has been seen in some quarters as a victory—or to use the terminology, a liberation from the “Longhouse.”

“The most interesting thing about the Barbie movie is Ken’s bloodless revolt against the Longhouse,” Twitter user @6iege wrote at the start of a thread that went viral, having been viewed over 500,000 times. The user goes on to discuss the parallels between “Ken’s world and ours.”

“Ken is you. He is an exaggerated Western man in the 21st century. Anxious, confused, chasing women who don’t care about him. He exits the Longhouse and discovers his own will-to-power. Like you, he decides to bring this knowledge back to his fellow men.”

There are several threads on social media discussing this topic, many of them talking about Ken’s escape from the Longhouse. The word is used often so it’s worth trying to determine what is meant by the Longhouse.

What Is the Longhouse?

Online writer L0m3z offered a popular explanation on, which has been cited by many articles on the internet. They describe how the Longhouse is a purposefully versatile term that is generally used as a metaphor for the feminine skew the modern world has adopted.

Historically, a longhouse was used as a communal hall and meeting place within communities. “The most important feature of the Longhouse, and why it makes such a resonant (and controversial) symbol of our current circumstances, is the ubiquitous rule of the Den Mother,” L0m3z wrote. “More than anything, the Longhouse refers to the remarkable overcorrection of the last two generations toward social norms centering feminine needs and feminine methods for controlling, directing, and modeling behavior.”

In a tweet posted the day after the Barbie movie came out, L0m3z wrote, “Exit from the Longhouse,” with a picture of Ryan Gosling wearing shades, walking away from a burning longhouse. Newsweek has reached out to L0m3z via email to get further comment.

So when internet users like @6iege discuss being liberated from the Longhouse, it suggests men have left the confines of a place where the “Den Mother” is in charge, and gone back to a world where men rule.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie dance Barbie
Ken (Ryan Gosling) lies on the floor next to Barbie (Margot Robbie) in an opening dance number in the “Barbie” movie. Some critics have said the film promotes toxic feminism.
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

“Let the ruling longhouse tremble at a Kenarchic revolution,” @Caroleanist wrote, using Ryan Gosling’s habit of using Ken as a pun against the movie. “Kens of the world, unite!”

Verified Twitter user Alex Noonan suggested that the Barbie movie was a look at things to come in the modern world. “The Barbie movie showed us the only jobs for men once the Longhouse is complete: Sexless Himbos and Karate Twink.”

Other Twitter users have pushed back against this interpretation of the film, with @expert_oscar penning another viral thread offering a different opinion that has been viewed more than 5 million times.

“The man-hating allegations towards Barbie are false. Gerwig clearly makes the point that the Kens in Barbie World, under the matriarchy, are unable to find forge [sic] identities for themselves and must rely on women for their self worth and that this is bad,” @expert_oscar wrote, before observing that the Barbies are also damaged by the status quo in Barbieland.

“The film views gender as a tool to understand who you are. Seeing male role models and empowered male figures makes [Ken] want better for himself. But the film recognizes that worshipping and enforcing those standards can be harmful, because they’re unrealistic to live up to. The Barbies have their own unrealistic standards of beauty that ostracize people in the community like Weird Barbie,” @expert_oscar continued in the thread. “Just like with the Kens, what empowers Barbies (seeing themselves as powerful and perfect) causes problems in their world. The film clearly argues that any gender holding a disproportionate amount of power is an issue. It has no double-standard about masculinity or femininity.”

To conclude the thread, @expert_oscar wrote, “People who say the film is man-hating are deliberately misinterpreting the movie so they can cry woke or just don’t know how to properly interpret it.”

In response to the thread, Twitter user @JamieB_RC agreed, “It’s so explicitly a film that hates systems and hierarchies as opposed to any one particular gender etc, I really don’t get how people can miss it.”

In another reply, @AilsaLillywhite said, “A lot of people wanted a message of perfect equality, which I get. I don’t think that was ever the point. It’s about finding self identity in an imperfect world. Making it about the creation of a perfect world would be way too aspirational for the nostalgic, melancholic tone.”

‘Toxic Feminism Has Risen to the Top’

In the corner of Morgan and Shapiro, who believe Barbie is sexist, there are also women. Conservative broadcaster Candace Owens said she refuses to see the movie for its anti-man agenda.

“While we are pretending that women are suffering under the foot of the patriarchy, what’s actually happening is that toxic feminism has risen to the top and is actually oppressing men with movements that make entirely no sense,” she said on the Candace Owens Podcast. She continued that within the movie “men are either idiots or bigots or sad, and when they demonstrate any form of masculinity they must be put back into their boxes by women. I’m just not interested.”

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling composite image
Margot Robbie plays Barbie and Ryan Gosling plays Ken in the “Barbie” movie. Some viewers have interpreted the movie as a victory for the patriarchy.
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Meanwhile, Whoopi Goldberg responded to Cruz and Shapiro’s criticism of the film on a recent episode of The View, saying, “It’s a doll movie, guys. I’m shocked that that’s what’s freaking you out these days.”

Goldberg’s The View co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin added, “I aspire to have the time and energy to get worked up over a doll movie,” calling the film “fun” and noting that she hadn’t personally observed it being divisive along political lines. “Every girlfriend of mine, Republican and Democrat, lined up this weekend to see it.”

Barbie currently holds an audience rating of 7.5 out of 10 on IMDb, which is significantly better than average. Of the 124,000 people who have rated it on the website, a seemingly disproportionate amount, around 15,000, appear to have given it a rating of 1, which could be an attempt to review-bomb the film.

Movies and TV shows are often subjected to review-bombing from audiences in an effort to protest against their messages. A number of female-led Marvel projects, like Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk, were subject to 1-star reviews across IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, two of the most popular review sites around.


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