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SEL Movie Spotlight: Barbie

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

By Sidra Miller and Joslyn Stamp

Barbie is a live-action comedy filmed by director Greta Gerwig. The main character, Barbie, is modeled after a famous plastic toy doll invented in the 1950s. The audience members watch Barbie (Margot Robbie) go on a journey to find character development after Barbie has a self crisis. This movie is recommended for ages 12+. Despite the recommendation, this movie can be enjoyed for people of all ages. While many children can see their favorite fashionable toy displayed on screen, adults can see a movie with a deep plot with nudging to many philosophical questions in life. This movie is also great for women because there is much diversity of jobs in the women actors on screen.

One significant social-emotional learning (SEL) aspect of Barbie is its emphasis on friendship and empathy. Throughout the Barbie movie, the characters navigate complex relationships, resolve conflicts, and demonstrate the importance of understanding and supporting one another. The movie encourage young viewers to develop emotional intelligence by showcasing the value of empathy, kindness, and teamwork. Barbie's ability to forge strong bonds with her friends, whether they are the president of Barbie Land, an astronaut, or a mermaid, serves as a valuable example of how positive relationships can contribute to personal growth and happiness, teaching children important lessons about compassion and the importance of nurturing meaningful connections with others. An example of this is Sandra and her mother, Gloria. In the beginning, they had a typical mother-daughter relationship. But because of Barbie’s help, it caused them to have to work together and by the end of the movie, they had a much better relationship.

One of the most empowering moments in the Barbie movie is when Barbie and her friends stand up to the bullying and overtaking they experience from the Ken characters. After Barbie and Ken visit Los Angeles, Ken gets a distorted view of how the world should run— a patriarchal society where men dominate everything. He convinced the other Kens that women should always be at the mercy of men, simply because they’re men. At first Barbie was very upset and wanted to quit, but with her wit and help of other barbies, and humans Sandra and Gloria, they were able to trick the Kens into fighting each other and were able to overthrow them, taking back their position of power. They did this by voting to not change the constitution, which would keep Barbie Land run by women, which is how it’s meant to be. This shows that with collaboration and communication, it’s possible to overcome obstacles if people worked together. The challenge has a significant impact because the Barbies were able to overthrow a dictatorship, and for viewers, if the barbies can do it, then humans have the ability to do anything.

In conclusion, Greta Gerwig's live-action comedy, Barbie, offers a delightful and thought-provoking cinematic experience for audiences of all ages. The movie highlights essential social-emotional learning (SEL) lessons, emphasizing the significance of friendship, empathy, and teamwork. Through complex relationships and conflict resolution, Barbie and her friends demonstrate the value of understanding and supporting one another. These stories encourage emotional intelligence and impart crucial lessons about compassion and nurturing meaningful connections, as exemplified by the transformation of Sandra and Gloria's mother-daughter relationship. Barbie delivers entertainment with substance, reminding us that meaningful connections and collective action can drive positive change.

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