‘Barbie’ Director Greta Gerwig Says Mattel Was ‘Incredibly Open’ to Including Feminist Criticism: ‘It’s a Lie Any Other Way’

“It felt like we had to give the counterargument to Barbie,” Gerwig says

Margot Robbie in "Barbie" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Barbie” director Greta Gerwig said Mattel was “incredibly open” to including the “counterargument” of women who found the dolls oppressive in the Warner Bros. Picture movie, noting that “it’s a lie any other way.”

“It felt like we had to give the counterargument to Barbie, and not give it short shrift, but give it real intellectual and emotional power,” Gerwig told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. “And Mattel was incredibly open to it. I said, “We have to explore it, because it’s a lie any other way. And we can’t make it a lie.” I think they heard it.”

Hitting theaters July 21, “Barbie” centers on the perfectly pink and picturesque Barbieland, where everyday is a party until one Barbie (Margot Robbie) has an existential crisis that prompts her to embark on a journey to the real world. Upon arriving in reality with Ken (Ryan Gosling) — who unknowingly snuck into her car — Barbie begins to meet women who provide this counterpoint by making the views about the dolls crystal clear.

While Gerwig’s iteration of “Barbie” is already being praised for its feminist messaging, the director noted that she sees the flick as “humanist” above all else.

“How Barbie operates in Barbieland is she’s entirely continuous with her environment,” Gerwig said. “Even the houses have no walls, because you never need to hide because there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed of. And suddenly finding yourself in the real world and wishing you could hide, that’s the essence of being human.”

In fact, beyond grappling with inequitable power structures that leave women marginalized, “Barbie” also asserts that “any kind of hierarchical power structure that moves in any direction isn’t so great,” according to Gerwig.

“You go to Mattel and it is really like, ‘Oh, Barbie has been president since 1991. Barbie had gone to the moon before women could get credit cards,’” Gerwig said. “We kind of extrapolated out from that that Barbieland is this reversed world [where Barbies are in charge and Kens are subordinate]. The reverse structure of whatever Barbieland is, is almost like ‘Planet of the Apes.’ You can see how unfair this is for the Kens because it’s totally unsustainable.”

“Barbie” hits theaters July 21.