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Barbie & The Hero's Journey

Updated: Jan 10

Hello Story Lovers!

I've deconstructed the Barbie movie using Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (based on Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey).

So you don't have to!

Understand that this is for my own personal enjoyment. But I also wanted to touch on the accusations levelled at the film. Namely, that it's a "man-hating, woke propaganda fest."

One conservative commentator in the US was so upset that he was forced to burn Barbies to protest a completely fictious world of… dolls and how they live their lives.

I eagerly await the appearance of burnt Barbie in the sequel, when she leads a ragtail yet lethal squad of Barbies back to the real world for vengeance.

Barbie follows successfully in the wake of films like The Lego Movie, which wrote the manual on how to use kiddie IP to poke fun at social constructs while laughing all the way to the bank.

So, I really don't get why these fellas have their Y fronts in a twist.

We could all list a lot of very macho films made in the past, oh, hundred years or so that completely disrespected, victimised or belittled women. I wonder:

Is Barbie a feminist answer to The Godfather?

That should trigger some backlash my way. In the meantime, let's take a look at Barbie's trip through the 12 steps of The Hero's journey.


I've described each step above in the slide show, but here's the abridged version:

Barbie follows a fairly traditional hero’s trajectory in the film. The status quo of her society is disturbed and she must go on a quest to fix things. But, she’s reluctant at first.

Convinced to go by her weird mentor, Barbie endeavours to find a solution in the real world, undergoes tests and trials, and returns to her world to find things changed for the worse. Ken’s in charge. After reaching her lowest point, she picks herself up and the Barbies tackle the Ken problem. Things culminate in a bitter dance-off between the Kens while the Barbies slink off quietly and vote to take back control.

The Kens are not given a say. The moral of the story: the patriarchy made them do it!

1. The Ordinary World

In Barbieland, every day is wonderful. Barbies can do and be whatever they want to be and reach their full potential. The Kens, however, languish in superficial support roles.

2. The Call to Adventure

The status quo is disrupted when Barbie starts to have dark thoughts of death. She must travel to the real world and find the sad girl who is playing with her to try and fix things.

3. Refusal of the Call

Barbie is unwilling to choose this path. She wants to stay where she is and go back to wearing her pretty high heels.

4. Meeting with the Mentor

Wise and weird barbie, the outcast of the barbie world, insists that Barbie must heed the call. Barbieland itself is at risk if she doesn’t.

5. Crossing the Threshold

Barbie embarks on her long journey. But before she crosses from Barbieland to the real world, she realizes Ken has come along for the ride.

6. Tests, Allies & Enemies

In the real world, Barbie realises the truth: Barbies have not paved the way for women! Barbie encounters cat-whistling construction workers, a slap on the bum, arrest, and worse–ridicule from middle-schoolers. She forms an alliance with Gloria (the sad one who played with Barbie) and her daughter Sasha. Ken, his eyes opened to the patriarchy, travels back to Barbieland.

7. The Approach

Barbie must elude the C-suite executives from Mattel who want to put her back in her box. She escapes back to Barbieland with Gloria and Sasha.

8. The Ordeal

Things have changed in Barbieland. Ken, having learned the ways of the patriarchy, has ended female dominance. The Kens are in charge now and the Barbies have abandoned their agency in favour of support roles. The Kens will vote to change the constitution so things can stay like this forever. Barbie has an identity crisis and loses faith in herself.

9. The Reward

After a rousing speech from Gloria confirming how impossible it is to be a woman and feel that we are indeed enough, Barbie wins back her confidence.

10. The Road Back

A plan is formed to de-program the Barbies from pandering to the Kens. As the Barbies remember who they really are, they trick the Kens into going to war with one another which culminates in an elaborate dance-off. With the Kens distracted, the Barbies vote for the constitution to remain the same and retain their power; although it’s agreed that society should be more equitable for the Kens.

11. The Resurrection

The final climax in Barbie’s journey: she is no longer stereotypical Barbie, which was an outdated version of who a girl should aspire to be anyway. Barbie has to decide whether to stay in Barbieland or experience the messy, complicated, real world.

12. Return with the Elixir

Barbie’s final reward is that she becomes an actual woman and is accepted into the real world: she has genitals now!

What's your take on Barbie?

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