That Barbie hype was real, and then some.
Greta Gerwig's pink-plastered, star-studded $100 million comedy starring Margot Robbie as the eponymous heroine of her own existential crisis/patriarchy takedown wildly surpassed what were already sky-high expectations its opening weekend. The Warner Bros. and Mattel co-production scored a whopping $162 million in the U.S. and $337 million worldwide.
That marked the biggest opening ever for a film directed by a woman, and instantly put Barbie in the top 10 earners of 2023 after only a few days in theaters. Critics and audiences are both loving the movie, which earned a 90% approval on Rotten Tomatoes and an A on CinemaScore.
Barbie-mania was reflected across social media, as fans shared photos of themselves and others at showings gleefully clad in pink, and pundits marveled at what Gerwig and company "got away with" with the movie's heavy feminist and sociopolitical overtones.
And then, of course, there was the "Barbenheimer" effect, as eclectically minded moviegoers celebrated the simultaneous releases of both Barbie and Christopher Nolan's three-hour atom bomb opus Oppenheimer, with tens of thousands of ticket buyers reportedly making it a double feature. (The critically acclaimed Oppenheimer opened with a not-too-shabby $82 million.)
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions in the wake of Barbie's opening weekend smash.
Is Barbie's audience as female-dominated as it looked on social media?
Not necessarily. Yes, women made up a clear majority, but the film still drove a relatively gender-mixed crowd. According to polling site PostTrak, women made up 65 percent of its opening weekend audiences.
The movie also skewed young, with 40% of ticket buyers for the PG-13-rated movie under the age of 25.
Is the movie appropriate for kids?
While Barbie is based on a decades-long popular doll favorite and has largely been (mis?)marketed as a lighthearted, Elf-like fish-out-of-water romp, it's not a kids' movie, as reflected in its PG-13 rating (for "suggestive references and brief language").
That's not to say kids won't enjoy it. The film's candy-coated production design is a feast for the eyes, and there are plenty of goofy moments that will have little ones laughing. But the film's more heavy-handed, talky third act could bore them, as positive and progressive as its messages are.
Yahoo Life's Meg St-Esprit shared her uncertainty over whether to bring her own kids to the film, discussing some coarse language and references that will go over many kids' heads, but nothing overtly graphic. Ultimately, it's going to be an individual decision that parents will have to make.
Why are conservatives so mad?
Barbie is the latest Hollywood product to stoke the culture war, infuriating conservative talking heads with its so-called woke messages. While jokes about Barbie dolls being bad for body image were widely expected, Gerwig and co-writer (and life partner) Noah Baumbach pulled no punches in crafting a story of female empowerment that loudly rails against the patriarchy. It's present in the battle of the sexes that emerges as the Kens attempt to turn Barbie Land into a giant man cave following Ryan Gosling's awakening to a male-dominated society in the real world, and hits a fever pitch in America Ferrera's searing monologue about the double standards, hypocrisies and impossibilities that only women must face.
Ben Shapiro called it "one of the most woke movies I have ever seen" and a "flaming garbage heap of a film" in teasing his 43-minute review. Jack Posobiec called it a "man-hating Woke propaganda fest" and "possibly the most anti-male film ever made," while Charlie Kirk decried it as "the most disgusting thing I've ever seen." Author Peachy Keenan called it an "insidious packaging of feminist cliché and trans grooming," in reference to the fact that one of the Barbies is played by a transgender woman. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz labeled it "Chinese communist propaganda" for depicting the South China Sea as Chinese territory on a map. (The film has been banned in Vietnam as a result.)
Gerwig and the cast largely downplayed its sociopolitical themes in interviews with Yahoo Entertainment, however, instead extolling the film's message of "being your true self" no matter your gender.
Who is the transgender actress who plays Doctor Barbie?
The film's cast is wildly diverse, with Barbies and Kens of all ethnicities (included in the supporting cast are Issa Rae, Simu Liu, Alexandra Shipp, Ritya Aria, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Ncuti Gatwa) and body types. There's even a pregnant Barbie (played by Promising Young Woman writer-director Emerald Fennell) in an amusing nod to Midge, an actual doll that was considered so "controversial" in the early 2000s that it was discontinued.
But one anthropomorphized doll getting major attention is Doctor Barbie, played by transgender actress Hari Nef. Nef broke out on the Amazon original series Transparent in 2015, and she's since appeared in films like Assassination Nation and Meet Cute and on the series And Just Like That… and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Nef, however, has shot down the idea that she's also playing "Transgender Barbie."
"Barbies are Barbies, they're not human women. They're dolls. They don't have genitalia," she told Out. "As much as there's a celebration of femininity and being a girl in this [movie], I think there's also an encouragement of letting go of the checklist we ascribe to living and living your life and being in your body your way, on your own terms."
What other cameos are in the film?
Everyone knows Will Ferrell, who plays the CEO and president of Mattel's all-male board calling the shots about all things Barbie-related. Same, most likely, for SNL alum Kate McKinnon, who plays Weird Barbie (the doll that's been drawn on and generally mutilated by kids) and John Cena as Kenmaid, a mermaid Ken.
But there may have been some notable cameos you missed. Notice some audience members reacting to the sight of the Duolingo-learning husband to Ferrera's Gloria? That's because he was played by Ferrera's real-life husband, Ryan Piers Williams, an actor, screenwriter and director known for the films The Dry Land (2010) and X/Y (2014). They've been married since 2011.
From Duolingo to Dua Lipa … With her many hit songs, the Albanian-British pop star is becoming more recognizable. The "Levitating" singer plays Mermaid Barbie and contributed the disco-tinged "Dance the Night" on the soundtrack, though one tabloid tallied her screen time as amounting to only 30 seconds.
Recognize the "voice of God" narrator who breaks the fourth wall, so to speak, to point out Robbie's irrational beauty? That would be The Queen Oscar winner, Fast and Furious star and living legend Helen Mirren.
As for who doesn't cameo in the film: Barbara Handler, the daughter of real-life Barbie inventor Ruth Handler (played in the film by Cheers vet Rhea Perlman), whom the doll was named after in the first place. Fans speculated that perhaps that was Handler as the elderly woman on the bench, but that wasn't the case.
It has been killing me who this mystery woman on the bench was in the #Barbie trailer: This is Academy Award winning costume designer Ann Roth, who’s acting in #BarbieTheMovie. She worked on WHITE NOISE with Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. pic.twitter.com/Sya0bNctdN
— Courtney Howard (@Lulamaybelle) July 16, 2023
But about that moment…
Which scene did the studio want cut?
One story floating around social media over the weekend involved Gerwig going to bat for a seemingly uneventful scene that studio executives reportedly wanted her to cut.
It's the moment in the movie when Robbie's Stereotypical Barbie meets an elderly woman on a bench in the real world and tells her she's beautiful.
"I love that scene so much. And the older woman on the bench is the costume designer Ann Roth. She's a legend," Gerwig told Rolling Stone of the 91-year-old, two-time Oscar winner (for The English Patient and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). "It's a cul-de-sac of a moment, in a way — it doesn't lead anywhere. And in early cuts, looking at the movie, it was suggested, 'Well, you could cut it. And actually, the story would move on just the same.' And I said, 'If I cut the scene, I don't know what this movie is about.'"
Where can you get an 'I Am Kenough' hoodie?
About that "I Am Kenough" hoodie, the tie-dyed sweatshirt that Ryan Gosling's self-actualized Ken wears and that draws laughs at the end of the movie: Per Variety, it's available for preorder on Mattel's website for $60.
Also soon to be in stock: A 'Kenough' tie-dyed T-shirt and hat, as well as a mug.
Because you … are Kenough.
Barbie is now playing.