The 'Barbie' Movie Is Ending Relationships Left And Right

"I really didn’t even recognize how he was perceiving it until he asked, ‘Are you crying?’ two or three times throughout."
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Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Barbie.” 

Come on, Barbie, let’s go break up with our boyfriends. 

More than a week after the release of the “Barbie” movie, social media is full of stories of women who say they deeply reconsidered their relationships after seeing the film, which has grossed more than $775 million globally so far.

“AITA for breaking up with my boyfriend over the Barbie movie?” one woman asked on the popular “Am I the Asshole” subreddit, before sharing the story of how her boyfriend complained to her about the movie’s feminist themes after they left the showing.

On TikTok, another woman said the Mattel movie inspired her to break up with her boyfriend after a string of bad behavior on his part: “Thank you, ‘Barbie’ for empowering me, for giving me the confidence, for making me realize I deserve better.” 

Theresa Arzate, 27, of Dallas, shared on Twitter that her ex-boyfriend’s reaction in the theater was just the push she needed to call it quits.

He’s a good guy, she told HuffPost, but they were having issues long before seeing the movie. Their lived experiences are pretty different, and the “Barbie” movie highlighted just how differently they view the world. 

“I was so invested in the movie that I really didn’t even recognize how he was perceiving it until he asked, ‘Are you crying?’ two or three times throughout,” Arzate told HuffPost. 

After the movie, “we amicably came together to recognize that we’re just not on the same wavelength,” she explained. “We could argue till the end of time what gender/sex has a tougher time going through life.” 

“Barbie has helped me graduate out of a cycle of overextending myself into spaces or around people I don’t truly resonate with, to get myself back to discovering what I want out of life,” she said.

Elsewhere on TikTok, women are sharing how they plan to use “what did you think of Barbie?” as a litmus test for dating. (It should be noted, plenty of men passed “the test” easily, dressing up in pink for the movie, or sympathizing with their girlfriends or wives after seeing it.)

“If you go see it with a guy who says, ‘Ken did nothing wrong, patriarchy [is] good,’ then you need to get rid of him,” Megan “The Fangirl” Gotham said on TikTok. “[Director Greta Gerwig is] trying to save us all, through Barbie!” 

Melanie Butler, a 27-year-old from Florida, also posted on TikTok about how she hopes straight women use the movie to get a read on the men they’re seeing. (She recommends “Gone Girl” for this as well.)

“‘Barbie’ teaches us to empathize with other people as well as ourselves; if someone is able to express how the movie made them feel rather than just surface-level themes, it shows they can recognize their own feelings and communicate them,” Butler told HuffPost.

Many women have said how heartening it is to see their experiences reflected on the big screen: They relate to America Ferrera’s impassioned monologue about how impossible it is to be a woman (“you have to be skinny, but you can’t say you’re skinny, you have to say you’re ‘healthy’; you have to strive to be successful, but you can’t be mean”), for instance, or how quick Barbie (as played by Margot Robbie) is to apologize to everyone around her.

Not all are feeling the love, however. “Barbie” has thoroughly entered the culture wars and has its share of male detractors. One critic on Twitter called it a “two-hour woke-a-thon” full of “nuclear-level rage against men.”

Some conservative pundits, Ben Shapiro and Piers Morgan among them, aren’t fond of the movie. Shapiro said the movie, which indeed includes ample commentary on feminism and the patriarchy, divides men and women. Shapiro set fire to some Barbies in reaction to the film which he called “flaming garbage” and “woke.” 

That defensive reaction is what caused Gotham to post about the “litmus test” on TikTok. 

“I think when someone tells you who they are, even if it’s through a movie review, believe them,” Gotham said. “I saw this as someone who was married for 15 years: These kinds of core beliefs don’t change or get better over time, so if you can learn about someone you’re dating from something as trivial as the ‘Barbie’ movie, take the lesson!”

The judgment goes both ways, though. Online, there’s also been stories of single men who consider liking “Barbie” a dealbreaker.

Allison Panetta recently was unmatched on Hinge after she told a guy that “‘Barbie’ is an experience and ‘Oppenheimer’ is just a film.”

“I don’t think every man needs to be as excited or want to see ‘Barbie’ as much as their partners, but I think a guy should be able to set aside two hours to see a movie that’s important or exciting to whoever they’re dating without putting it down or complaining about it,” Panetta told HuffPost.

“I do think if a guy has a strong negative reaction to just the idea of seeing the movie ― or feminine interests ― then that is a red flag,” she said. 

Nicholas Balaisis, a psychotherapist in Ontario, Canada, who wrote about “Barbie’s” nuanced portrayal of masculinity for Psychology Today, wouldn’t necessarily advise singles to use the film for a litmus test, per se. Still, he does think a man’s reaction to Barbie is a good way to engage a guy in a conversation about their discomforts.

“It might be interesting to explore why they are upset, offended,” he told HuffPost. “You can use it as a way into an honest conversation about gender and romantic desires. An outright refusal to engage in this way might indicate a lack of emotional maturity and may be a sign that the person is not yet ready for a real relationship.”

Allie Fridstein, a mental health counselor in Columbus, Ohio, agrees. While nobody needs to enjoy the exact same entertainment as you, it’s reasonable to expect basic respect and decency from a romantic partner in the way they talk about things that emotionally affect you. 

“There is a significant difference between, ‘I didn’t like the movie but I’m glad you enjoyed it’ vs. ‘I hated it because it was woke garbage,’” she said. 

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Maddie Abuyuan / HuffPost; Mattel, Inc.
Other women who saw the movie gave props to director Greta Gerwig for capturing so many “real” experiences of women dating or in relationships.

Fridstein’s boyfriend, for instance, had a lukewarm review of the film, which he saw with her and a bunch of their friends.

“He told me he thought it was hilarious that the Kens didn’t have actual jobs but titles such as ‘beach’ or ‘horse,’” and he even noted how in many movies the protagonist’s wife-girlfriend has zero character development outside what serves the protagonist,” she said.

Ultimately, he didn’t love the movie because some of it was too absurdist for his taste, she said, “but he didn’t have to rave about it in order to show respect and not rain on others’ parade.”

Women are also applauding Gerwig for getting so much right about straight relationship dynamics.

Other women who saw the movie gave props to director Greta Gerwig for capturing so many “real” experiences of women dating or in relationships: having to sit through “The Godfather” trilogy while your new boyfriend offers armchair commentary, for instance, or ending up as someone’s “long-term long-distance low-commitment casual girlfriend,” the romantic proposition Ken makes to Barbie after he brings “patriarchy” to Barbieland. 

Jessica, a 25-year-old from Tennessee who asked to use her first name only for privacy, related to the moment when Barbie wants to apologize to Ken for not reciprocating his feelings ― even after he steals her house and takes away her power.

During her divorce, Jessica said she was overly apologetic for “abandoning” their marriage, even after learning her husband had been cheating on her for the majority of their six-year relationship.

“I even asked him, ‘Are you mad at me?’” Jessica told HuffPost. “It’s astonishing to me how women are so apologetic, empathetic and introspective even after their partner hurt them in the worst ways, and I’m glad they got that in the movie.”

Some men are also thinking critically about their relationships as a result of the movie. 

In “Barbie,” the way Ken navigates his relationship is interrogated even more than how Barbie behaves.

“Barbie has a great day every day. Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him,” Helen Mirren’s narrator says, summing up how Ken has built his whole life and self-identity around his would-be girlfriend. His whole narrative arc is learning that he’s “Kenough,” not just a “plus-one” whose only value lies in his sexual-romantic worth.

In a Reddit thread that went viral, one viewer detailed how the movie led him to break up with his girlfriend, after he realized he needed to be less dependent on his girlfriend for validation, just like Ken.

“Believe it or not, this realization shook me,” he wrote. “I had been clinging to the comfort and support she provided, blind to the mounting issues.”

There’s other takeaways for men in the movie, too. As many critics have noted, “Barbie” is just as concerned with the ways the patriarchy and the toxic masculinity imported into Barbieland harms men as much as it does women. (As Noor Noman noted in an MSNBC column, it’s all very bell hooks-ian.)

Ken has to experience patriarchy before realizing that “strong and silent” isn’t the only emotional note he can play (the guy really earned that cathartic cry at the end). Ultimately, he learns that value isn’t defined by his status or his purchasing power, but by who he is at his core, as a person. 

“I think the film is ultimately very empathetic to men and male challenges rather than a criticism of men,” said Balaisis, the male psychotherapist who wrote about Barbie for Psychology Today.

For instance, at their core, most men want attachment to other humans —love, connection, security, recognition — just like women do.

“What the movie shows is how these human needs get miscommunicated by men often because men haven’t been socialized to identify their own needs, or communicate them honestly with women,” Balaisis said. 

When these efforts aren’t successful, it can lead to shame, anger and “acting out” in ways that Gerwig shows: hyper-masculine aggression, dominance and stereotypical behavior, like retreating to a beer fridge in a man cave. (In Ken’s case, his Mojo Dojo Casa House.)

“I think any man would admit that having a close and romantic relationship is far better than a man cave, but a relationship takes risk, honesty and vulnerability,” Balaisis said.

Arzate, one of the women who split from her boyfriend after “Barbie,” also doesn’t believe the movie is “anti-men,” as some bad-faith reviews have suggested. 

“I think it’s guiding some people out of or away from their romantic interests or relationships, but not out of hatred or spite,” she explained. “It’s helping demonstrate that people can be more than the roles society has forced on them.”

“If you want to be a parent, a spouse, an astronaut, president, or ‘just beach,’ your dreams are waiting for you, so go pursue them, with or without that guy or person you begged to go watch the movie with you,” Arzate said.

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Before You Go

"Barbie" Red Carpet
Margot Robbie(01 of21)
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(credit:Frazer Harrison via Getty Images)
Dua Lipa(02 of21)
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(credit:MICHAEL TRAN via Getty Images)
Shay Mitchell(03 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Issa Rae(04 of21)
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(credit:Rodin Eckenroth via Getty Images)
Kiersey Clemons(05 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Kate McKinnon(06 of21)
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(credit:Matt Winkelmeyer/GA via Getty Images)
Greta Gerwig(07 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Simu Liu(08 of21)
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(credit:Frazer Harrison via Getty Images)
Ariana Greenblatt(09 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Xochitl Gomez(10 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Ashley Graham(11 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
America Ferrera(12 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Hari Nef(13 of21)
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(credit:MICHAEL TRAN via Getty Images)
Gal Gadot(14 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Michael Cera and Kingsley Ben-Adir(15 of21)
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(credit:Frazer Harrison via Getty Images)
Elisabeth Röhm(16 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Ryan Gosling(17 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish(18 of21)
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(credit:Albert L. Ortega via Getty Images)
Karrueche Tran(19 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)
Nicki Minaj(20 of21)
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(credit:Albert L. Ortega via Getty Images)
Mark Ronson and Grace Gummer(21 of21)
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(credit:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)

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