Greta Gerwig didn't anticipate the conservative backlash to 'Barbie'

Greta Gerwig
(Image credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Barbie's life in plastic is for everybody, Greta Gerwig says.

In an interview with The New York Times, the "Barbie" director addressed the backlash her film has received from some conservatives for its feminist commentary. Asked if she anticipated the "degree to which right-wing pundits are bashing the movie as being 'woke' and burning their Barbies," Gerwig told the Times, "No, I didn't."

Gerwig's film tackles issues like sexism and the patriarchy, sparking backlash from conservatives like Ben Shapiro. "It was one of the most woke movies I have ever seen," tweeted Shapiro, who opened his review by burning Barbie dolls. The Daily Mail's Sarah Vine also described "Barbie" as a "deeply anti-man movie," which paints "any form of masculinity — other than the most anodyne — as toxic and predatory." Others have pushed back on this, arguing the film gives Ryan Gosling's Ken a compelling arc that should be empowering to men the same way the rest of the film is for women. The Los Angeles Times' Matt Pearce contended that the movie is actually "generous" toward the opposite sex.

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Gerwig told the Times that there is certainly "a lot of passion" about the movie, but her hope was for it to be "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." She added, "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."

In a separate interview with The Atlantic, Gerwig explained the film is commenting that "these systems are terrible for men too," and she noted even the men on set were crying when a monologue about the difficulties of being a woman was shot. "They have their own speech they feel they can't ever give, you know?" Gerwig said. "And they have their twin tightrope, which is also painful."

The conservative backlash has not had a significant impact on ticket sales, though, as "Barbie" scored the best opening weekend of the year and is on track to be the biggest hit film of the summer.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.