I am incredibly excited to rewatch Barbie now that it’s available to stream. I thoroughly enjoyed it in theaters, and I can’t wait to catch what I missed the first time I saw it.
The Barbie movie was a bright, vibrant, delightful jab at the patriarchy (Who doesn’t enjoy that?) that leaves all viewers with important lessons to take. While some proponents of marriage complementarity argue that this film is “anti-man,” I found it to be exactly the opposite. Just because something is anti-patriarchy doesn’t mean it’s anti-man.
What those male critics forget is that the patriarchy hurts them, too. The patriarchy requires them to be dishonest with themselves about their emotions, their likes and dislikes, and requires them to measure their worth by how women respond to their advances. The patriarchy may give them more wealth and power, but the cost of that privilege is their humanity.
Ken grapples with the question “Am I man-enough?” throughout the movie. When he discovers what the patriarchy is and attempts to use it to overtake Barbie Land, he does things outside of his natural character in order to be “man enough” to run the world– and finally get Barbie to be his girlfriend (For what’s a manly-man without his arm candy?).
When Ken realizes that he’s not Barbie’s accessory but actually his own person, he is liberated from the heavy shackles of the patriarchy. “Just Ken” is enough– or as the film writers punnily state, he’s “Kenough.”
That’s a great lesson for our young boys to learn… if they’re cishet boys.
There’s one doll in this movie who didn’t get closure and inclusion: Allan, Ken’s best friend. In a binary-based world where everyone’s either a gorgeous Barbie or a handsome Ken, where does Allan belong?
Allan’s estrangement represents how many of us in the queer community feel just living our daily lives. Where does a nonbinary person fit in the binary of men’s and women’s restrooms? Of the men’s and the women’s fitting room? What section of the clothing store do we shop in?
Don’t get me wrong: Barbie does have some good queer representation. Hari Nef— an actor and model who is a trans woman— played Doctor Barbie, and her story wasn’t focused on her transness or queer trauma. This is an amazing step forward in queer representation in entertainment.
But she was stunning according to traditionally feminine beauty standards. Where does that leave queer folks who are gender nonconforming?
At the end of the film, the Barbies vote to reinstate their constitution (to avoid the Kens taking over to create “Kendom Land”), but they know they shouldn’t make things like they were before. They commit to making sure that there’s a place not just for every Barbie, but for every Ken as well.
But when Allan speaks up to ask if there will be a place for him, no one responds. Whenever we evaluate inclusion based on binaries, people will always fall through the cracks.
Perhaps what we need is not a Barbie Land or Kendom Land, but a true Kin-dom.
In queer Christian circles, many of us refer to the Kingdom of God as the Kin-dom of God. We do this for a couple of reasons, first because it’s a way to de-emphasize monarchal language that would place men above women. We are all beloved children of God and God—who represents people of all genders— is the only one worthy to sit on the throne.
But there’s another reason that the queer Christian community has latched onto this term that speaks more deeply to me. It emphasizes that we are the family of God (kin to one another), all equally loved by God.
It highlights that God has no favorites among us, but also highlights the importance of our relationships to one another as citizens of this divine community. It’s not just about how we individually relate to God, but about how we communally relate to one another.
The Kin-dom of God on earth as it is in heaven sounds like the church in Acts. At the end of Acts chapter 2, the writer describes to us what life in that community was like.
They broke bread together, sold things so they could distribute the wealth amongst those with the most need. They shared with one another with glad and generous hearts. They committed to doing life together as a family of God’s children.
If just one Barbie or Ken took the time to break bread with Allan and ask him what he needs, how might his needs have been better met? Would he have been forced to sit with either the Barbies or the Kens, or would he have had his own place at the table?
Perhaps the Kin-dom of God is Kin-nough, if only we’re willing to seek it.
A bivocational pastor, writer and spiritual director based in Atlanta, Georgia, she currently works as a Spiritual Director at Reclamation Theology. Cawthon-Freels is the author of Reclamation: A Queer Pastor’s Guide to Finding Spiritual Growth in the Passages Used to Harm Us (Nurturing Faith Books), and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.