Can my child watch the Barbie movie?
Rebecca on July 20, 2023
The film deals with adult themes but they’re likely to go over younger viewers’ heads. You’ll probably be more concerned about the violence and Ryan Gosling’s pecs.
This blog doesn’t contain plot spoilers but does discuss scenes from the film.
I love taking my children to the movies. The love for cinema and the experience of watching something together is important for me to share with my tamariki. But I also know from my work at the Classification Office that the movies they see need to be age-appropriate or I could be doing more harm than good.
So when the first hints of a Barbie movie starring Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, were announced I was pretty excited at the prospect of another movie option for us to see together. I have an eight year old and a four year old. My eight year old has seen the marketing everywhere. They don’t have a Barbie but they really want to see what all the hype is about.
The Barbie film has received a rating of PG: parental guidance recommended with warnings for violence and coarse language. A PG rating is given to films where parental guidance is recommended for younger viewers so it is important as a parent to consider the themes and whether they’re appropriate for your tamariki. Each person is different and has their own limit. Parental guidance is recommended for Barbie because of the violence, coarse language, and the adult themes.
So what does this mean for our whānau? Would my eight year old be able to understand what’s happening in the film?
Here we have broken down the rating with examples for each of those content warnings. As a guide for younger viewers I suggest the film is most suited to pre-teens and older, and that depends on their maturity. While there are no harmful scenes or impactful language used, the adult themes of the film coupled with the violence mean that parental guidance is recommended for younger children.
There are adult themes which younger viewers will likely not understand but could be curious about. The story deals with what it means to be human, and in particular what it means to be a woman in a modern world. References to the Barbies being beautiful and good happen throughout the film but are coupled with a strong empowerment message; there many different types of Barbie and the message that every woman is beautiful comes across more than once. The strong feminist messages are an excellent opportunity for conversations with your whānau after viewing the film. I can also anticipate my eight-year-old wanting me to explain ‘the patriarchy’ as the word is mentioned more than once in reference to the gender imbalance in the real world compared to Barbie Land.
The strongest parts of the film in my opinion are when Barbie travels with Ken from Barbieland to the real world. After the utopia and safety of Barbieland the real world starts to negatively impact on Barbie’s self-confidence. We see Barbie and Ken rollerblading in Santa Monica and we see men starting to stare at them. This makes Barbie feel more and more uncomfortable. A stranger slaps her from behind (we can assume that they slap her bum but this isn’t shown) and Barbie impulsively responds by punching him in the face. We subsequently see Barbie and Ken arrested, but no further consequences are shown and they are released.
The strongest language is one cleverly bleeped ‘m*therf**ker’ which in context is funny, not harmful and also very brief. Younger viewers would miss the reference.
The violence in the film is overly comedic, with no real consequences for any of the action. In a gloriously choreographed fight sequence between all the Kens they battle with over-the-top hand to hand combat and they fire imaginary weapons at each other. They act as though they are ‘shot’ or wounded but there are no real injuries (just wounded egos).
There is a moment where dangerous behaviour is shown in a flashback of little girl cutting a Barbie’s hair off and burning the ends of her doll’s hair with a lighter. There are references throughout the film to ‘weird Barbie’, one of the Barbie characters in Barbie Land who has cut hair and scribbles on her face.
A PG rating is given to films where parental guidance is recommended for younger viewers. Each person is different and has their own limit when viewing films and tv shows. I’ll be making a nuanced judgement call about whether my eight year old sees Barbie, and I hope our breakdown of the strongest content helps you make your judgement call also.
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