Sarasota women, parents, kids, teens, and girls headed to Cinebistro to see the new movie “Barbie,” which has brought in a total of $459 million in North American ticket sales. The theater-goers were dressed to the nines in their best interpretation of the American icon that made its official debut in toy stores by Mattel in March, 1959.

I was one of the women who went to see the movie, and I was blown away by how much it had to say about womanhood. The movie is not just about a doll, it’s about the trials and tribulations of everyday women, the pressure to conform to exacting beauty and societal standards, and the dangers of rampant patriarchy.

I did not expect to experience the flood of nostalgia, fueled by a sense of overwhelming female empowerment, when I sat down in the theatre seat with a heaping box of popcorn and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I had just turned 5 in 1959 and screamed with delight when I opened the gift from my parents of this “model-like” doll in a black vinyl case with a shocking pink word that said it all: BARBIE DOLL.  Chatty Kathy and Patty Play Pal paled compared to this new superstar.  Years would be spent buying Barbie accessories, organizing Barbie play dates with friends, and fantasizing that I might one day look like her. Well, that never happened. My DNA transformed me into an Annette Funicello look-alike (The Mickey Mouse Club idol), and I was far from perfect in my waist and butt measurements. BUT…..I loved Barbie non the same, and came to accept that “all females are not like Barbie.)  So began my journey into my female self-empowerment experiences, all the while marvelling at how Barbie had survived the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 60’s.

Sarasota Barbie fan since childhood. You GO GIRL!

Sarasota restaurant owner Liana Vittorino enjoys her day off to see Barbie, dressed in the spirit of the fun and lively movie.

Below and article over photo: Sarasota Mother/Daughter Michelle and 6-year old Hadley Parrott head into the theatre to see Barbie

So here we are. And what did I learn? In addition to light-hearted escapism from working remotely, here are the takeaways:

At the beginning of the movie, Barbie and the other Barbies in Barbieland are under the impression that they have solved all problems for women in the Real World by demonstrating that girls can do anything. They are physicists, journalists, doctors, and more. But the movie shows us that doing and being anything can be super draining. Barbie starts to feel exhausted and unfulfilled, and she realizes that she needs to find her own way in the world.

The movie features three generations of women: Barbie, her teenage counterpart Sasha, and Sasha’s mother Gloria. Barbie and Sasha have very different views on what it means to be a woman. Barbie believes that women should be able to do anything they want, while Sasha believes that women are still oppressed by the patriarchy. But through their interactions, they learn to see each other’s points of view and find common ground.

The movie also explores the extremes of masculinity and femininity through the characters of Ken and the Kens. Ken is a perfect example of traditional masculinity: he’s handsome, athletic, and successful. But he’s also shallow and vapid. The Kens, on the other hand, are the opposite of Ken. They’re lazy, incompetent, and completely dependent on the Barbies. The movie shows us that neither extreme is healthy. True happiness lies somewhere in between.

One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Barbie tells Ken that he needs to find himself without her help. This is a message that all women need to hear. We are not responsible for fixing the men in our lives. They need to take responsibility for their own happiness.

The movie shows us that womanhood is a complex and contradictory experience. Women are expected to be strong and independent, but also nurturing and caring. We are supposed to be thin, but not too thin. We are supposed to be ambitious, but not too ambitious. The movie shows us that there is no one right way to be a woman. We all have to find our own balance between the different expectations that are placed on us.

The movie “Barbie” was directed by Greta Gerwig, one of the few female directors in Hollywood. The movie is a powerful example of what can happen when women are given the opportunity to tell their own stories. We need more female directors in Hollywood so that we can see more movies that reflect the experiences of women.

Life lesson: We all have a job to do when it comes to reminding other women just how powerful they are.

And by the way, Sarasota is home to the Women’s International Film Festival that honors female screen writers, directors and producers of independent films from all over the world (in the Spring). I am on the Board of this amazing organization.

In conclusion, I highly recommend seeing the movie “Barbie.” It’s a funny, heartwarming, and thought-provoking movie that will stay with you long after you watch it.f finding a common cause. As Ruth says in the film, “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come.”

Who was Barbie’s Creator?

Barbie’s official birthday is March 9, 1959—the day she was  introduced to the world by Mattel Toy Company – was inspired by the Ruth Handler, the wife of Mattel’s CEO. Barbie was created to be a reflection of the times, with the first doll mimicking the glamour of 1950s stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. In its first year, 300,000 Barbie dolls were sold.

Ruth Handler was the inspiration behind the 1959 launch of Mattel’s first Barbie Doll.

Handler was the daughter of a Jewish Refugee from Poland who envisioned the glamour of a Barbie doll, which is known today as one of the world’s most iconic toys.  The doll was not expected to be a commercial success at all, but that didn’t stop creator Ruth Handler’s determination.

When Ruth had the idea to create a doll with long legs, a tiny waist, ample breasts, full painted lips, made-up eyes, who exuded sex appeal, everyone was in shock. Her husband, the co-owner of Mattel, told it to her straight: “No mother will buy dolls with a bust for her daughter.” Her co-workers were even more skeptical, and called Ruth crazy, and overly risky. Her greatest support came from competing companies, who prophesied the complete collapse of the company after Barbie’s introduction in 1959. A former Mattel worker, who left the company just as Barbie was about to be introduced to consumers, asked: “Can you believe what these madmen at Mattel did? They showed up on television, and thought that mothers would suddenly start buying their children dolls that look like whores.”

But Ruth did not give in to criticism. She believed in herself, her idea and her business intuition. She believed in herself, her idea and her business intuition. As a woman, she believed that this was exactly the type of doll that girls wanted to play with. A doll that looked like what they themselves wanted to look like. She believed that the world needed Barbie. this was exactly the type of doll that girls wanted to play with. A doll that looked like what they themselves wanted to look like.

Have we come a long way since Ruth Handler’s vision? Undoubtedly. Newer versions of Barbie have emerged over the past decades that reflect “Doctor” and ” Astronaut” and “Nurse” Barbies, as well as “curvy, tall and petite” Barbies in seven skin shades. Mattel’s come a long way, Baby!

~Andrea Martone

Barbie fan and Sarasota journalist Andrea Martone.