Why America Ferrera’s Barbie monologue was much more than ‘basic feminism’
Her speech has completely divided audiences
As America Ferrera delivered Gloria’s monologue in the London Barbie screening we attended on Friday night, the whole cinema broke out in applause. Across the UK and US, too, this pattern has continued, with endless women typing out their appreciation for the scene on Twitter (“She stole the film”). Searches for ‘Barbie America Ferrera monologue’ subsequently spiked on Google as we collectively relived the speech’s sentiments at home.
But America’s monologue, a cultural moment she told Vanity Fair she shot over two days with 30 to 50 takes in total, wasn’t loved by everyone who saw it. Some audience members said the feminism was “basic”, others argued it had been “said before”. It “lacked nuance”. Was “eye-roll worthy”, and “could’ve been cut”.
Ironic, really: A speech about the contradictions women face as they try to do “everything right” being picked apart for everything it did wrong. Because, Gloria isn’t talking to a room full of gender theorists when she delivers this speech. She’s talking to a group of Barbies, naive like many of the pre-teens who’ll head to cinemas to see the film, who’re just beginning to understand the injustices which could make their world really very complicated.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Gloria said Greta Gerwig didn’t intend her monologue to be “the truth” but “Barbie Land pink truth”. A simplified, shortened, honest and aggressive expression of why being a women, a girl becoming a woman, – or simply a doll representing a woman – is harder than it ever should be.
So, yeah, maybe the speech doesn’t explore every nuance of womanhood, politics, society and existance – we’d need a much, much longer film for that. But for Barbie Land truth, it couldn’t have been more rousing and honest.
So, here’s America Ferrera’s Barbie monologue in full:
“It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.
“You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass.
“You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time.
“You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining.
“You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful.
“But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.
“It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.
“I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”
Recommended stories by this writer:
Featured image credit via Warner Bros.