Opinion: ‘Barbie’ is back: Greta Gerwig’s example of great feminist filmmaking


The “Barbie” craze isn’t over just yet. After a record-breaking summer release, Warner Bros. announced a limited one-week IMAX theater run for “Barbie,” which opened on Friday, Sept. 22 and features a special greeting from Director Greta Gerwig alongside exclusive post-credit content.

If its ongoing relevance is any indication, “Barbie” is feminist filmmaking done right. While I don’t label just anyone as a feminist filmmaker, Gerwig’s entire filmography—from “Little Women” to “Lady Bird”—serves as an exceptional example of what feminism should look like in films.

Lee Jin-man / AP Photo
Source: Lee Jin-man / AP Photo.

“Barbie” is the highest-grossing film directed by a woman, and it deserves that title. Not only did it break barriers, but it broke the boundaries of storytelling. The film follows “stereotypical” Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, trying to find her place in the world around her after an existential crisis. When the Kens take over Barbieland, Barbie and her friends must save the other Barbies from the brainwashing of the Kens. The film addresses modern-day male manipulation through comedy, while also educating the viewer.

The film brings up the question of what it means to be a human. Barbie learns that there is more to being human than reproductive organs, symbolizing that women are much more than their bodies. “Barbie” addresses issues that women face in the 21st century in an authentic and honest reflection of society.

In 2017’s “Lady Bird,” Gerwig shows us the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl. Rather than focusing on boyfriends, the film follows Christine ‘Lady Bird’s’ strained relationship with her mother and her hometown. It proves that a woman’s story is much more than happily ever after, and in doing so, Gerwig counters the stereotype of teenage coming-of-age films with an authentic look at femininity. 

Greta Gerwig on Oscars Directing Snub for 'Little Women'
Source: Wilson Webb

In 2019, Gerwig released her film adaptation of “Little Women,” written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868 and inspired by Alcott’s life. The novel is a significant feminist work, in its own right, which told women that they could be anything in life at a time when society told them they could only be one thing: a wife.


The film is about a young girl, Jo, played by Saoirse Ronan, and her sisters (Meg, Beth, and Amy) as they navigate through childhood, into adulthood and to pursuing their dreams. Amy, played by Florence Pugh, knew that she wanted to marry rich when she was older; she understood that marriage was an economic proposition in her time. She used this knowledge to aid herself, by searching for a rich man to marry rather than searching for love like her older sister, Meg.

Gerwig’s version of the story sympathizes with the character of Amy. Her character is one that people tend to dislike due to her childish actions. Gerwig properly shows that women should not be detested for making mistakes at a young age, because as they grow physically, they grow mentally.

When we look at the character of Laurie, played by Timothée Chalamet, we see a lonely boy searching for a place to belong. He ends up finding his place with the sisters. Gerwig doesn’t shy away from making Laurie show a lot of emotion, despite what is typical for many male characters, especially in the time period of this film. 

Gerwig brings depth to every character in her films and tells women’s stories with authenticity. In the male-dominated industry of Hollywood, we need more honest and authentic stories for and by women, as Gerwig does with her films.

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Alyssa White
Staff Writer | + posts