Barbie: Themes from a Therapist’s Perspective

Barbie: Themes from a Therapist’s Perspective

It was the movie of the summer. Everyone was talking about it. From the costumes, music and
all-star cast, there’s a lot to be drawn to. And despite being a film about “Stereotypical Barbie”,
it was far from surface level. The film commented on perfectionistic ideals, the value of
emotional expression, gender norms, embracing change, personal growth, and self-acceptance,
just to name a few. As a therapist, I see many of these themes arise in session daily.

In the movie, Barbie is happily living her perfect, predictable life, when she is suddenly
confronted with feelings of dread. As the plot progresses, she even starts to let out the
occasional tear, something she has never experienced before. When you live a perfect life,
there’s nothing to cry about, right? What Barbie comes to realize (*spoiler alert*) is that having
more complex emotions makes her life more fulfilling and that maybe she’s more like a human
than she realized! This theme parallels the struggle of emotional expression that we humans
often experience. Many people come into therapy hoping to “stop feeling their negative
emotions” or to “feel happier”. What they learn, however, is that having a broad spectrum of
emotions is what makes us human. We must learn to accept the uncomfortable emotions and
tolerate them instead of trying to push them away. Only then can we learn to manage them in
healthier ways.

The film also comments on societal pressures of being a woman. It references the idea that
women must be the perfect combination of many personality traits to be accepted, loved, or
valued. I have seen many clients (of all genders) who have internalized the idea that they must
fit a certain mold to be liked, successful, or even to be happy. What I often see however, is that
the pursuit of this perfectionistic standard leads to burnout, depression and/or anxiety. Instead
of striving toward this arbitrary ideal, I encourage my clients to recognize what makes them
amazing as they are.

If this blog resonates with you, or you’re curious about learning more, feel free to connect with
us here at Emmaus Psychology.

Written by Megan Hanrahan

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