To Dream Anew or Revisit Our Horror
Here’s my takeaway: Given the option between examining the inherent dangers of nationalism or watching beautiful people dance, audiences will choose pop-pink glittery musical escapism.
Additionally, when given the option between unpacking the collective spiritual negligence – and society’s cavalier disregard, and lack of reverence, for the power of nature – or admonishing women who don’t dream of servitude to the male ego, the media will give most of its attention to the men who cry out loudest that they’re under attack.
And both choices deliberately miss the mark. Barbie and Oppenheimer are movies about the destruction and potential rebirth of human kind. As human rights continue to be stripped and redefined, as the cost of living asphyxiates our joy in living, as the temperatures rise and natural disasters increase, we’re realizing our “leaders” are cowardly and selfishly inept and the moral responsibility for shared survival is our own.
Are The Barbie & Oppenheimer Movies Really That Deep?
Yes. Movies have always have been deep. If you love movies – if you love the art of storytelling, or any art at all – then you know that art is the subjective ocean of human experience. Its potential for meaning is deeper than you can fathom, and you’re free to tread as lightly or dive as far down as you’re capable. Your choice doesn’t diminish all that art represents, and your curiosity only expands your own awareness. Art just is, as the ocean is, as the cosmos are. Consider them, or don’t.
There are a few angles to take with these summer blockbusters, but what’s most obvious from ticket sales reporting is that Barbie’s outperforming Oppenheimer. They were set up to compete, and while they’re very different films they do share some strong similarities. Both Barbie and Oppenheimer are extremely very well performed and produced pieces of cinema. And both are perfectly timed, must-see, cultural thermometers.
Why Is Everything Barbenheimer?
Of course the marketing efforts for these movies have been tremendous. But it’s very easy to market products which already resonate with their audience. These movies fit the collective right now because the majority of the population are existentially stressed out. And when people are maxed out they respond very well to what’s correctly pitched at them – especially if it can offer relief or insight.
Don’t threaten me with colorful and dramatic escapism!
As a society, we find ourselves bound within a rapidly radicalized world whose existing industrial and political power structures seem hyper-fixated on a mythical ideal of progress, which everyday intensifies its soul crushing grip upon our very lives.
We are broke, we are sick, we are tired, and we are pushed to ceaselessly work and produce and deliver for the systems around us. We are directed, always, to yield unto the system which ultimately doesn’t see our individuality as valuable unless it can exploit and replicate it. The system does not and cannot care who among us dies so long as It progresses.
In its combined economic and theatrical artistry, Barbenheimer simultaneously holds up a mirror to the world we’ve passively created for our selves – through complacency – and it slides open a window to our potential when we choose to actively engage in making the future.
What Is The Barbie Hype All About?
We can look at The Barbie movie as but one artistic response, in a series of messages across entertainment, to the reversal of Roe v Wade and the emotional violence of the Female experience within an unequal world.
We live in a white cis-het patriarchy and that’s the spade. Patriarchy is foundationally violent, because violence is the requirement for retaining power. And so long as one hand holds the power, equality can not exist. History presents the record. The data is everywhere. Read a book.
The Barbie movie is not a direct attack on men. But men feeling attacked by it is very telling. When you haven’t addressed your own violence, you project that onto everyone and everything which doesn’t soothe your sensibilities. Again, read a fucking book.
The Barbie movie is a conversation among women.
It’s an admission, to ourselves and one another, about our feelings of defeat and exhaustion within “the real world” of modern society. It’s a call from your bestie, telling you to keep believing and dreaming. It’s an invitation to your inner child to play again, to reimagine the world where you – as The Feminine – are capable of anything. It’s a loving nudge to become re-inspired by the iconic doll who has always represented possibility.
What it feels like for a girl.
Sure, Barbie is an unrealistic piece of plastic. But she’s also just another iteration of the “Woman” as canvas. The woman as that unto which we project our ideals. Every woman is a canvas this way. We are painted upon. We are adorned, and decorated. We must accept this and deliver beauty.
Don’t worry, equality means men also have their own societal projections to deal with. But I’m not here to do the heavy lifting of collective psychological excavation for men who refuse to honestly engage. Hard life when you don’t want to look at yourself.
For the modern little girl, Barbie became her personal canvas for her biggest, most hopeful ambitions. Okay, so a lot of those ambitions were rooted in capitalism, and fantasy. But isn’t fantasy the point of toys, and playtime? To play, and to act out our experience and inclinations and responses? To escape the external world and its confining structures and looming expectations for our futures? Isn’t playtime where we get to create alternative realities?
We desperately need to re-imagine the world.
Oh, the movie is VERY pink. It’s very Barbie. It’s very little girl fantastical. It’s silly, and has numerous fun, and unimportant loopholes. That’s the glory of imagination: it doesn’t have to make “sense.” You don’t need to overthink, just feel it.
Also, it’s full of jokes that hit you right in the ovaries – not depressed Barbie in her sweats and Pride & Prejudice. PLEASE! That was a direct assault! What did I ever do to Greta?
The Barbie Movie was “girls night.” It was a sleep over with your best friends where you enjoyed just being a girl again. It was a feminist parade. And the exclusion made men mad. Just like in the movie.
But when men get over themselves and start being honest about much they “love and respect women” – and why they don’t want to actually hire or promote them to higher levels of shared power – then they can come over. And we can start co-creating that newly imagined bright colorful world of possibility.
See, Ken is only starting his journey. Because he’s never had to consider a reality where he defines himself, rather than adapting to the constraints of society. He’s never had to define himself, because the definitions the world gave him were comfortable for him.
The power of Barbie
Women have been adapting to constraints for generations. That’s how inequity works. It’s constraining, and your survival is dependent upon adapting. And now as whichever wave of Feminism we’re in begins to swell with the rising temperatures of the ocean, most of us have already done the work of defining and redefining what being a Woman means to us. We have an idea of the world we want to live in.
Okay, we’re tired because yeah sometimes we get EMOTIONAL and have to long cry it out. But we’re still fearless to dream and imagine a plan and create a fabulous and fantastic world, because we know we can. And that’s the power of Barbie, if you couldn’t pick it up from the movie: we know we can.
Oppenheimer: A Tale of Political Hubris
I don’t care about anyone who’s upset that this movie is centered around one white man’s guilt.
First of all, white guilt is a fantastic focal point for any major production, and I think we could all agree that more white men deserve to feel their mighty egos crumble beneath the weight of their misplaced righteousness and fraudulent hubris.
Oppenheimer isn’t meant to illicit sympathy for the scientist. We’re not supposed to have pity on a man who said “Oopsie,” after the fact. And I think Kitty would agree.
We’re looking at the revelation of a shit show: that, at least since world war 2, the U.S. government has been a circus run by insecure and petty men, desperately committed only to creating names for themselves and earning their peers’ respect by maneuvering themselves toward whichever position their ego believes is big enough to gloriously accommodate it.
Every man in this historical piece is playing at covering and catapulting his own ass to his desired position: Lewis Strauss, Kenneth Nichols, Boris Pash, Gen. Groves, and of course the Title man, Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer’s American Ego
Several things are going on in this movie. A man, many men, are dancing toward a cause. Their causes shift. And our main character is dancing throughout. First he’s dancing for his passion – science. Then he’s dancing for his career. And finally he’s dancing for forgiveness and acknowledgement.
From the beginning we’re given glimpses into Oppenheimer’s sensitive ego. Whether or not he really attempted to poison his teacher – I don’t know. I didn’t look it up. But when he meets, and receives encouragement from, Niels Bohr we see how quickly the ego can redirect itself.
Oppenheimer goes where he feels good. And don’t you? Don’t I? He spends time with the communists because of his brother, and also because he’s a theorist. The man wants to engage with people who actually have ideas to express. Additionally, the radicals like him. They embrace him and boost his confidence. But when Oppenheimer’s colleague, Lawrence, reveals that his associations are costing him a major opportunity he tones it down.
And who do you know that hasn’t (or wouldn’t have) adapted their behavior for a bigger/better job opportunity? It’s not like most Americans today have principles they’d never budge on for a check – or for glory, with the check attached.
Oppie’s big oopsie.
Even as Oppenheimer becomes more aware of the project’s ramifications coming down the line, he’s already far too deep to turn back. So he turns in every other direction he possibly can. He’ll bend and twist to whoever asks him a question. And after the deed is done, he mistakenly believes he has any influence.
He wanted to believe he was doing the right thing, and that’s an easy mistake to make. We all want to believe we’re doing the right thing. The individual, in possession of an ego always wants to believe that it is right.
But what action is right, without right motivation? And what ego has a motivation other than serving itself?
Oppenheimer’s motivations were never based in stopping the war. They were for his own glory. He was driven by his curiosity to know and to see, by his scientific interests. He was eager and happy to head and host the project at Los Alamos, because that meant he could exercise his brain and talents, unhindered.
When his taste for glory met with its own exploitation, it was too much for him to bear. He tried to leverage what influence he had for morality. But morality has no more place in American politics than a scientist does.
We’re the good guys.
The U.S. government, and the United States – as a nation – cannot exist separately from the men running around, flashing one another, within its institutions. No matter how much propaganda government agencies churn out, and what party darlings repeat, the United States doesn’t represent or uphold any moral values whatsoever. It never has.
America has always only stood for its own existence. There’s no national interest in the evolution of its citizens’ minds or souls, nor in the progress or protection of its people lives. There’s no national goal for individual growth. And why should there be? What nation benefits when its people are happy?
(That’s a trick question. Lots of countries have happy, healthy, well educated citizens and relatively strong economies.)
But America could never because America has always functioned inside an “Us versus them” paradigm. And the “us” is always cis het white *American* men. And the only way to be with “Us” is to pledge allegiance. But that allegiance will never guarantee protection.
“You don’t want the Russians to…”
The running line was that Russians couldn’t have the bomb first.
But in nearly all modern political sagas you can switch out Russians with any group. The Blacks, the Gays, The Arabs, The Cubans, The Chinese, The Jews. You don’t want either of them to… what? Exist? Be happy? Earn a living? Feel love? Express an idea? What is it that you really don’t want someone else to do that everyone couldn’t do?
What’s the real threat?
America – and the men at its controls – only functions to keep those controls moving as they always have: engaged in battle against an other. The other is not real. The threat is manufactured. The enemy is already inside the house.
There is no other agenda to political gain, than political gain. The Manhattan project was never about stopping the war and restoring peace. The successful development of an atomic bomb was nothing more than a race to power and national pride.
The United States of America – the child prodigy of Patriarchy – has always been in competition with its sibling nations. The Patriarchy is a sports team at a private boys school, and the pissing contest never, ever, ever ends.
What Oppenheimer Teaches us About Manipulation
The movie shows us that all politics is manipulation; all enemies and their threat, propaganda. Governments exist for the purpose of elevating ambitious men with agendas (starving egos), and they’re playing a game you and I could never conceivably afford to buy into; especially as the chips on the table are our lives.
Lots of people die in war; that’s the cost of freedom. Oppenheimer wasn’t great at math, and neither am I, but the reasoning that other people have to die for some people to be free has never really added up for me. If anyone should die, it’s the people who think they’re allowed to define freedom for everyone else.
Politics is never about anything other than power-hungry men, playing angles while human lives hang in the balance.
In the film, we’re shown how the need to feel great, powerful, and liked, becomes a dizzying drug which can blind individuals to our shared humanity.
Nolan’s Oppenheimer is a story about how the individual ego inflates, allows itself to be manipulated, and is subsequently and inevitably destroyed. No one can be all things to everyone. No one can always say the right thing – and especially not once they’ve been wrung up to buckle and be broken.
When people know exactly how to play to your ego, they also know exactly how to destroy it for you.
Of course, men of integrity and honor exist. But when’s the last time your selfishness battled your morality and won? Tell me in the comments – when was the last time you felt anger or envy or deep personal sadness, but despite your own emotional inclination you did the right thing for someone else?
The Ego’s story only has one ending.
Here’s the real gag of it though – the ego will always be destroyed. There’s no scenario of existence where the ego endures. Every ego gets checked eventually, and that’s why most people aren’t ambitious: Their egos are too afraid to suffer the inevitable crash.
Most people wont allow themselves to be ambitious, curious, or daring – because there’s always a price to pay. Better to play it small, they think. And why not? While fear is its own kind of suffering, the other side of fear – a bold and burning curiosity to endeavor, the brave faith to succeed – also guarantees unknowable suffering.
You can’t compare or predict suffering. It’s subjective and unavoidable. But the ego will do whatever it can to get around it, to minimize damage to itself. Or so it believes it will. In all of the avoidance, in all of our justifications, negotiation, and rationalizing – within ourselves, and to others – we only ever perpetuate damage and create more havoc.
Boo-hoo, Oppenheimer. Hollywood should tell different stories.
As previously stated, I don’t care.
I don’t care that people think there are other stories to be told. Go tell those stories, then. If you think Hollywood should be easier to break into you, then go devise your plan of action. If you’re passionate about diverse stories then let that passion fuel you to the point where you rearrange your entire life around the things you believe.
So anyway, let’s call the spade a spade: A respected white male storyteller in Hollywood is more than likely going to tell stories centered around white men. I mean he did make Tenet with John David Washington as the lead. And it was a brain-bending thriller, like all of his others.
But what does Christopher Nolan – or any other professional artist, in any medium – owe you, personally? What does any artist owe anybody? Just because I’m a good writer does it mean I should write about topics that YOU like, and which make you feel comfortable?
What does anyone living and breathing on this planet owe anybody else on this planet? That’s the real starting point of the new story / new world we need to be telling and creating. Please make sure to answer these questions in the comments below.
Tell me what you think before we both die