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The relatability of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Lady Bird



Ageing sucks; however, as we do, the nostalgic aspect of our upbringing becomes alarmingly more real. Words don’t come close to expressing the memories that both follow us and those that fade over time, but the art of growing up is hard to ignore. In a simpler form of exploration: when young, we were carefree with a primary interest in what toy we wanted next. Our teenage selves weren’t pretty but hormonal and tedious. Then the early adult stage, well damn, this is when things get confusing – emotionally, mentally and physically.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is the hot ticket of the summer; in fact, it feels like we’ve been forever in anticipation. Her directing catalogue is small but mighty. From the coming-of-age drama Lady Bird to directing an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, Gerwig’s work feels like home for many reasons. Perhaps you can feel her love for cinema, or it’s her storytelling that hits our hearts intensely to a point we’re in floods of tears.

The trailer to Barbie alludes that this film has comedy at its core – a wild, insanely funny, outrageously pink and plastic-clad tale of a doll that was a big part of our upbringing. It was teased, with some disregarding it from the offset. However, it is much more than some doll your parents bought you in Toys R US. It’s a warm reality of what every individual goes through during their early adolescence – the tragedy of not having a step-by-step guide to figuring out life’s obstacles.

Gerwig’s style of filmmaking is simple and made with audiences at the heart of the narrative. She is the queen of reliability in her exploration of upbringing, young love and the struggle of finding ourselves as individuals in an ever-changing society. Coming out of my first watch of Barbie, I was not only star-struck by how stunning and thought-provoking it is but how much the character reminded me of the representation of Lady Bird (played by Saoirse Ronan). Both characters are on their own unique yet contrasting journey to find out more about themselves and who they want to be in a world that’s at times mostly unfair and complicated.

They want to explore life outside of their comfort zones.

Stereotypical Barbie (portrayed by Margot Robbie) arguably would have been the popular girl in school, one of whom we would try to befriend to be in the ‘it crowd’. In contrast, Lady Bird attempts this but soon realises her place isn’t within the popularity hierarchy. Both characters are the total contrasts of one another, but regardless share the same sentiments about needing more from life. “I wish I could live through something.” Lady Bird proclaims. Sacramento, to her, is like our own feelings towards our hometowns; somewhere, perhaps, in our early youth, is a place where we felt trapped. At this point, Lady Bird is like every young adult keen to explore new surroundings with new people and challenges. Arguably, Barbie is in a similar position following a rude awakening going into the real world for the first time. Barbieland is a place of dreams, a bubble-gum paradise where dying isn’t discussed, and a party every night is a necessity. The scene alongside Anne Roth on the bench ultimately allowed Barbie to widen her beliefs about perfection. “I want to be part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that’s made. I want to do the imagining; I don’t wanna be the idea,” Barbie says. This quote is something from the film that sticks that becomes relatable to us all. Both characters are beginning to understand that life has more to offer beyond the wildest dreams, but without understanding and experiencing it, you won’t be able to find yourself.

They don’t need to depend on romantic relationships

The concept is love is something we will never escape from. Sadly, for Barbie and Lady Bird, men just don’t fit into their upcoming thriving eras. Barbie in pop culture is known to be with Ken. It’s always Barbie and Ken. But following a taste of self-discovering, she’s not afraid to admit ‘maybe it’s Barbie. And it’s Ken’. The gender norm has always put together two people as one entity romantically. He moves, you move. A significant other who apparently you can’t live without. Technically, there is no correct answer – you can be both blissfully happy with your better half and content living life solo. Lady Bird represents a different struggle in romance – her first boyfriend comes out as gay (and a beautiful and accepting friendship blossoms), and Kyle, on the other hand, is just a famous guy who wants to add to his body count. It takes being frustrated at the latter for taking her virginity for her to realise that a relationship won’t define her. We love girls figuring out their worth.

This is just a whistle-stop tour of just a couple of similarities these characters share, though from watching both, you can feel the connection in more than just words. Greta Gerwig understands the struggles and the need for honest narratives about the human experience. On a personal level, it’s heartwarming to see genuine realities shared on the big screen – ones that perhaps generate some anxieties, perhaps a lot of hurt, but additionally serve as a reflection of how far we’ve come.

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