MELANIE COGDILL | GUEST
Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for the film Barbie.
The film Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, is a juggernaut having earned more than 1 billion dollars at the worldwide box office. In a pivotal scene near the end of the movie, over a montage of everyday women and their mothers, the character of Ruth Handler, the creator of the Barbie doll (played by Rhea Pearlman) delivers a speech and says, “We mothers stand still, so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come.” As she speaks, the haunting melody of the film’s main song is playing as Billie Eilish sings, “What was I made for? Think I forgot how to be happy. Somethin’ I’m not, but somethin’ I can be. Somethin’ I wait for. Somethin’ I’m made for.” As this scene played in the theater, the grandmother sitting next to me with her daughter and granddaughters openly sobbed.
A Message to Women
Much has been written in the media about this film. Is it a film about feminism? Is it a film satirizing the “patriarchy”? “Is it a film that references a secular worldview regarding what the world considers women’s “reproductive rights?” Yes to all of that and yet in this “you do you boo” ethos of the film brought about by Barbie’s existential crisis of the purpose for her life and her sudden anxiety about death, this film puts into words what almost all women are wondering (if you read the comment sections of film reviews and YouTube videos of Billie Eilish’s song)—what does it mean to be a woman? Why do we exist? What happens when we die? Who does the culture say women are? This film is less an agenda piece and more of a cultural artifact that asks deep questions of the audience. And this makes it the ideal springboard to have a conversation with both Christian and non-Christian women about the gospel.
Our post-truth culture encourages us to believe that a woman’s highest and best goal is personal fulfillment in the pursuit of what might bring about her happiness—a career, education, financial success, motherhood, or doing “the work” for self-acceptance. We need to admit as Christian women we have fallen for those same lies the culture whispers to us. We compare ourselves to other women and think—I’m not thin. I’m not a social media influencer. I don’t run my own company. I don’t have a PhD. The film posits that women are expected to be fit and thin, beautiful, have a successful career, and be a mother—to be extraordinary. The film recognizes it is not possible for women to have it all. And should we? What is wrong with being an ordinary woman the film asks? And the answer is found in the message of the gospel—there is beauty in the ordinary. There is purpose in serving and knowing the God of the Bible who made us and loves us (Ps. 139:13-16).
The sole pursuit of making ourselves extraordinary by being a famous writer or a social media influencer or a mommy blogger or the owner of a multi-million dollar company that we started, will not make us happy; rather, knowing the God who redeems women from their brokenness and sin and is our blessed hope is what will shape us and give us joy in the dailyness of an ordinary life (Titus 2:11-13; Titus 3:4-7). A life full of grocery shopping, laundry, meetings, endless admin. at your office job, doing dishes, cleaning floors, errands, going to bed and getting up and doing it all over again takes on new significance as we do those things not for ourselves or others in the pursuit of an orderly life, but looking at the same daily tasks as an opportunity to glorify God in them.
What Were We Made For
Psalm 86:9 says, “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” The familiar answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that we were created to worship, glorify, and enjoy God. Reformed Christians can easily recite the answer that the main end of our lives is to glorify God and yet we so easily forget that there is great meaning in everything that we do for God’s glory. Most women have the same thoughts as Barbie does, “I’m not fabulous or extraordinary.” The Bible teaches us that God takes the ordinary woman, He calls her to Himself, and uses her to extend His kingdom through her life as she serves Christ by serving others (Phil 2:1-11). That something we were made for can only be found in knowing Christ who is our life—who does in fact make us happy and gives us purpose in knowing we do not end when we die but we are united to Him in eternity (Col 3:1-3).
 “Post-truth: relating to a situation in which people are more likely to accept an argument based on their emotions and beliefs, rather than one based on facts.” Retrieved Aug. 11, 2023, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/post-truth.
Photo by Bethany Beck on Unsplash