September 2023 Church & State Magazine - September 2023

Christian Nationalist attacks on ‘Barbie’ backfire as film hits blockbuster status


Christian Nationalists and their allies in the secular right attacked the film “Barbie” in July, but the effort misfired badly, and the film went on to become a blockbuster, making over $1 billion worldwide so far.

Far-right complaints against the film centered on its feminist message and its criticisms of patriarchal views and toxic masculinity. Some opponents on the right also carped because the movie features a transgender actress in a small role.

Photo of Barbie merchandise in the store

Barbie: Focus of Christian Nationalist wrath (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The film, directed by Greta Gerwig, concerns an existential crisis faced by a “stereotypical” Barbie played by Margot Robbie, who must leave her pink-hued Barbieland and travel to our world to seek a solution to her angst. Her pal Ken, portrayed by Ryan Gosling, tags along. Ken faces a crisis of his own as he grapples with the realization that he’s just another accessory in Barbie’s dream world.

The movie raises questions about gender roles, the unrealistic beauty standards women face (with Barbie being responsible for some of those), the relationship between mothers and daughters and how patriarchal attitudes run through our society. 

All this was too much for some Christian Nationalists, who began attacking the film before it was even released, calling it “woke” and “anti-male.” In Tennessee, Christian Nationalist pastor Greg Locke got so worked up over the film that he demolished a Barbie dream house with a Bible affixed to a baseball bat. 

But the attacks fell flat. The film was wildly popular. It received mostly positive reviews, and it became the highest-grossing domestic release of the year. 

Americans United Senior Adviser Rob Boston saw the film while on vacation in late July and, on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, he advised people to make up their own minds about it.

“If you’re curious, I urge you to see ‘Barbie’ and decide on its merits for yourself,” Boston wrote. “Feel free to ignore the cackling collection of clangorous cranks who, even as they strut about pretending to be ‘alpha males’ and ‘warriors for Jesus,’ cower in fear before an 11-inch plastic doll.”


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