I saw the Barbie movie a couple of weeks ago and was completely enchanted. I have never seen a movie that is so silly and so clever at the same time. (No spoilers ahead.)
The movie simultaneously embraced what people love about Barbie and what they hate about her. Barbie’s story is emotional. The stakes felt huge. They threw in emotional stories about mothers and daughters, finding your place in the world, and only having your identity through someone else’s love. There were dance numbers, beautiful clothes, and a CEO, who surprisingly, wasn’t evil. There was even a ghost! Everything but the kitchen sink was in this movie. But they made it work!
Here are some story takeaways from the Barbie movie.
1. If you’re going to be silly, be really silly. Be creatively silly without limits.
2. If you’re creating magical worlds, have very clear rules about how they work and stick to them. For example, there was one way in and out of Barbieland.
3. Silly can be emotional. There are lots of emotional stories that made you care about all the characters. I never thought the Barbie movie would make me cry.
4. If you’re going to have a message in your movie, instead of making it feel like homework, make it entertaining. Besides all the emotional stories, this movie was about what it means to be a woman in the modern world. A heavy topic that could have felt overly political and strident. Instead, the filmmakers got their point across while being entertaining, sweet, and funny.
5. Don’t let your storytelling stop at the page or in the theater. The marketers of the Barbie movie did some genius things that continued the story out in the real world. One, at every premier Margot Robbie wore a real outfit from Barbie’s wardrobe. (If Mattel needed another income stream, they would be selling those dresses.) Two, they have life-sized Barbie boxes in all the theaters, ready-made for selfies.
Let the Barbie movie inspire you to embrace the silly! What crazy thing can you build your next story around?
P.S. If you want to know more about Barbie’s history, the Netflix documentary The Toys That Made Us has a wonderful episode about the blonde bombshell.
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