The following is a guest article by Rohan Narine, a Hindu storyteller and clean amateur comedian who lives in Queens, New York.
I wanted to see an action movie. So, my wife asked me to go and see Barbie at Atlas Park in Glendale, Queens. Why? Is Tom Cruise not hot enough? Wait, Ryan Gosling is in Barbie? The guy who starred alongside Harrison Ford as the best cyborg assassin robot-killer ever in Blade Runner 2049? Okay, Barbie it is!
After leaving the theater, believe it or not, I’d wish I saw it sooner. It was that good. Let me go into a bit of detail why.
As a Hindu, I’ve seen a lot of Hindu themes in Hollywood movies. Take Black Panther’s constant reference to Lord Hanuman. Or Luke Skywalker’s Astral Projection in The Last Jedi. Or Oppenheimer’s recent controversy about the Bhagavad Gita which we won’t get into. And now here with Barbie, it turns out that she does something that even experienced Hindu yogis have difficulty doing. Barbie not only meditated, but she engaged in what I would opine is akin to transcendental meditation. After experiencing a shift in her normal day-to-day consciousness, she became flat-footed and therefore confused. She began to feel a change in her mind, a thing she called being “afraid of dying.” She then visits a medium who tells her that she needs to find her “alternate self” who is in “another world.” Talk about esoteric and dare I say…Vedic!
However, once Barbie and Ken arrive in the alternate world known as the ‘real world,’ she separates from Ken almost immediately to engage in what can only be best described as extremely powerful yogic meditation. It is so powerful that she says she has “a vision.” And her vision ironically displays a location of exactly where she needs to be to find the owner of the doll version of her on Earth. Somehow Barbie trusts the vision in her meditations, a feat which even the most experienced meditators have a hard time doing. Her visions even lead her to make the best decisions for not just herself but all those around her.
Conversely, it’s this deep introspective thinking that’s lost on Ken for almost the entirety of the film. It’s only when Barbie succeeds in her plan to retake possession of her home from Ken that he realizes patriarchy never led to self-actualization at all. Thinking that horses are extensions of men, drinking a beer with every meal, and keeping your electric vehicle in your room aren’t cool bro. Facing fears, living partly for the betterment of others, believing in higher education, and meditating daily are all traits Barbie grew within herself and as a true Bhakti Yogi transmitted it to Ken without wanting anything in return.
My wife, sister-in-law, and I all left the theater with a good cry. I found the Barbie movie to genuinely address toxic masculinity in a healthy way, contrary to antiquated conservative thinking. Barbie does apologize to Ken for making every night ‘girl night,’ thus creating a catharsis in Ken to no longer make every night ‘boys’ night’ forthwith. With all the superhero movies out there beating you over the head with computer generated robots in forests driving motorcycles firing missiles from airplanes, it was refreshing to see a film that focuses on introspection over consumerism, forgiveness over ghosting, and giving Barbie dolls control over their own bodies.