Greta Gerwig Responds To Rightwing ‘Barbie’ Critics

Greta Gerwig, director of current box office smash ‘Barbie,’ has responded to the wave of rightwing criticism of the movie, stating that the movie itself is an “invitation for everybody to be part of the party.” 

Gerwig discussed the backlash in a recent interview with the New York Times. When she was asked whether or not she anticipated “the degree to which rightwing pundits are bashing the movie as being ‘woke’ and burning their Barbies,” Gerwig responded: 

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“Certainly, there’s a lot of passion. My hope for the movie is that it’s an invitation for everybody to be part of the party and let go of the things that aren’t necessarily serving us as either women or men.”

“I hope that in all of that passion, if they see it or engage with it, it can give them some of the relief that it gave other people,” Gerwig explained.

Examples of some of the backlash include conservative commentator Ben Shapiro burning Barbie dolls in a YouTube video. Ginger Luckey Gaetz, wife of Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, stated that the “movie neglects to address any notion of faith and family, and tries to normalize the idea that men and women can’t collaborate positively.”  

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Gerwig also responded to certain critics claiming that Mattel, the company that owns Barbie and executive produced the film, interfered with the creativity of the production, specifically in a scene where one of the main characters describes the dolls as “sexist and fascist.” 

It wasn’t like I ever got the full seal of approval from [Mattel], like, ‘We love it!’ I got a tentative, ‘Well, OK. I see that you are going to do this, so go ahead and we’ll see how it goes,’” Gerwig stated. 

“But that’s all you need, and I had faith once it was in there and they saw that they would embrace it, not fight it. Maybe at the end of the day, my will to have it in was stronger than any other will to take it out,” she said. 

‘Barbie’ has already been a huge theatrical hit, recording the highest ever opening weekend box office figure for a female director: $356 million in the US, including $162m in North America (including Canada).

Just four days after the film’s theatrical release it grossed around $414 million worldwide.


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Museum of Capitalism Offers Scathing Critique of American Culture

Love it or hate it, capitalism is an economic system that is so deeply entrenched into each of our lives that we simultaneously don’t notice its presence and can’t imagine living without it. We spend our entire lives learning how to operate within the capitalistic economic system that surrounds us, yet most of us spend little time contemplating the nature of capitalism and what it really means in our day-to-day lives. In light of this contradiction, the Museum of Capitalism, a roving art exhibition currently on display in Manhattan, imagines what capitalism would look like from the perspective of someone living in a future after the economic system has collapsed.

While the museum is based on a fictional premise, it incorporates so-called “artifacts” of capitalism from the real world to offer social commentary. Energy bars and cheeseburgers, for instance, were passed around on trays and offered as “edible artifacts,” and a hand-cranked “minimum wage machine” dispenses pennies at a rate of roughly one cent roughly every three seconds, allowing them to earn money at the same rate as a minimum-wage employee. Another of the museum’s exhibits is a disassembly line, where visitors were invited to destroy discarded shoes and cell phone chargers with hammers and pliers. The idea is to portray capitalism as if it were an alien concept or an artifact of a bygone era to encourage the public to contemplate the economic system in a new light.

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The project started in 2017, in Oakland, California, opening in a failed retail space in a gentrified warehouse district. The first exhibition included a gift shop, as well as an exact replica of this gift shop but with all of the items for sale removed. Over the years, as the museum opened in various places, the curators added and removed art pieces, such as an installation of barbed wire which, as the museum notes, played an instrumental role in the spread of capitalism as it enabled westward expansion by allowing individuals to more effectively protect their property, as well as informing intellectual property laws. The barbed wire, installed within the museum’s windows, is visible from both inside and outside the museum, raising the question of whether the “real” museum of capitalism is within the gallery’s walls, or outside on the streets of New York.

Museum visitors can take the pennies they earned at the minimum wage machine to the “anti-capitalist coin crusher,” which adorns these coins with slogans like “property is theft,” turning them into souvenirs.

The gallery explores the various aspects of capitalism from a number of perspectives, including labor, gentrification, and fossil fuels, with the intent of making the system of capitalism seem strange, such as in a label that reads “The F.D.I.C. was a corporation of the United States government whose role was to provide deposit insurance,” describing a shelf lined with books with the logos of companies that failed during the 2008 financial crisis. Other installations include a collection of American flags made by prisoners and a collection of pens used for marketing pharmaceutical companies.

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The museum has invited guests to donate objects that “speak to the lived experience of capitalism.” One guest brought an empty bottle of Adderall. Museum visitors can take the pennies they earned at the minimum wage machine to the “anti-capitalist coin crusher,” which adorns these coins with slogans like “property is theft,” turning them into souvenirs. As a whole, the museum is overtly political, with an organizer saying “until capitalism is over, the Museum of Capitalism will still have work to do.” The museum’s website deadpans, “Our educational work is crucial for establishing justice for the victims of capitalism and preventing its resurgence.” Perhaps one of the most emotionally stirring installations in the museum is a 6 by 9 by 7 foot room, equalling the size of a prison cell, which visitors are invited to stand inside and listen to more than a hundred voicemails left by people responding to a fictional apartment ad offering a room of this size for $612 per month. This piece speaks to the effects of income inequality on people’s ability to find decent living conditions, and invites visitors to contemplate the oftentimes-invisible effects capitalism has had on their lives.

Culture Words

Obama Criticizes Cancel Culture

In keeping with the tradition of American presidents who have left office, former President Barack Obama has chosen to almost entirely avoid commenting on American politics, instead choosing to focus his time and energy on the Obama Foundation, a charitable organization that recently held its third annual summit. At this event, Obama spoke about a number of issues, but his comment that generated the most attention concerned “cancel culture,” or the widespread attitude of criticizing a person online who was caught engaging in improper behavior in an attempt to end their public presence. 

Though it is arguably now widespread, cancel culture is a phenomenon that has emerged only recently, in the wake of the hyper-awareness of people’s lives and the unprecedented speed of the spread of information afforded by social media. It is a fiercely controversial phenomenon, as some claim that it is an unfair form of mob justice whereas others posit that it enables just retribution when other aspects of the culture fail to appropriately punish bad behavior.

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Obama came out in favor of the former argument, characterizing the attitudes of people who engage in cancel culture as self-indulgent and unhelpful. “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised, and you’re always politically “woke,” he said, “you should get over that quickly.“ While not referring to the phenomenon by name, Obama made his thoughts on the matter clear, asserting that “the world is messy, there are ambiguities,” and that “people who do really good stuff have flaws.” From Obama’s point of view, the form of mob justice aimed at ending the careers of public figures through social media attacks is injudicious, as it doesn’t allow for nuance or mutual understanding. 

Obama implicitly compared cancel culture to “slacktivism,” a derogatory term describing people who purport to be activists but constrain their political speech and behavior to often-anonymous comments on the Internet, accomplishing nothing except engendering in themselves a sense of self-righteousness. Obama specifically called out young people on college campuses, whom he feels in recent years have normalized and encouraged attitudes of judgmentalism over forgiveness when they should instead be focused on trying to bring about more meaningful change. Obama may have been thinking of Justin Trudeau, whom he endorsed for Canadian Prime Minister despite revelations of Trudeau’s past wearing of blackface and brownface costumes.

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Though Obama didn’t specifically mention any examples of the phenomenon, stories of people affected by cancel culture have been widespread in recent years. Most recently, Ellen DeGeneres had to defend her decision to sit next to former President George W. Bush at a baseball game, explaining that despite their political difference, she considered Bush a close friend, and adding that becoming friends with people you disagree with is essential, particularly in the current hyper-partisan political landscape. Non-celebrities are also prone to being punished by cancel culture; for instance, a school security guard was recently fired for telling a student not to call him the n-word, in a case that was widely considered to be the result of an excessively strict zero-tolerance policy that fails to take into account context, even when that context is exculpatory.

Other celebrities have also come out against cancel culture. Dave Chapelle, a comedian famous for his unapologetic takes on social commentary and political issues, took Obama’s side in the debate, asserting that “the First Amendment is first for a reason,” and stating that he doesn’t get mad at comedians whom he knows to be racist. Taylor Swift has also complained about cancel culture; during an interview with Vogue, the singer who herself has been a target of cancel culture described the experience as “isolating,” adding that she doesn’t “think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly.” 

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Ellen DeGeneres Draws Criticism for Friendship with George W. Bush

On Sunday, Ellen DeGeneres drew attention for what seemed to be an unlikely occurrence: she was spotted in a suite at AT&T Stadium watching a football game while seated next to none other than former President George W. Bush. Initial reactions to the pairing were ones of humorous bewilderment; it seemed inconceivable that DeGeneres, a Hollywood liberal who is happily married to her wife Portia de Rossi, would be so close with a President who infamously supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being a union between one man and one woman. 

This surprise turned into outrage as Twitter users argued that Bush, responsible for starting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was in fact a war criminal whom DeGeneres ought not associate herself with. The controversy, which continues to unfold even after DeGeneres addressed the criticism by urging kindness among people with political disagreements, speaks to the increased polarization of modern American culture and raises questions about the role of celebrity in shaping the image of politicians even after they leave office.

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Adopting her trademark cheeriness and sunny disposition, DeGeneres sought to downplay criticisms of her friendship with the former president by stressing the importance of remaining civil even with people who don’t “think the same way you do,” and asserted that it’s okay not to share beliefs with people whom you consider to be your friends. Reaction to DeGeneres’ monologue were split; while many viewers applauded the talk show host for her willingness to extend an olive branch across the ideological divide that characterizes much of American political life, other, more vocal critics accused DeGeneres of leveraging her privilege as a celebrity to whitewash Bush’s image when she had an obligation to instead call him out for his crimes. 

This is but one criticism of the event; other denizens of the Internet pointed out, in detail, the former president’s long history of advocating policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people, and some argued that DeGeneres’ philosophy of kindness was ill-suited to the modern political era. The general consensus among internet thinkpiece authors was that DeGeneres enjoyed the privilege and freedom of being able to maintain friendships with people who represent harmful political ideologies because her celebrity status protects her from the consequences of these ideologies.

The fact that several other celebrities, including Kristen Bell, Blake Shelton, and Reese Witherspoon quickly took to social media to rush to DeGeneres’ defense did little to satisfy critics who saw DeGeneres’ friendship as an example of how celebrity privilege can whitewash criminal behavior. Rather, these same critics interpreted this wave of celebrity defenses as an example of class unity, as rather than engaging with the arguments of people with genuine political grievances, the celebrities simply protected a member of their tribe.

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That being said, a handful of celebrities were among those voicing their dissent. On Twitter, Mark Ruffalo suggested that “we can’t even begin to talk about kindness” until Bush was “brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War,” among which he claimed were “American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars—emotional & otherwise—inflicted on our military that served his folly.” And Susan Sarandon, quoting a piece from, suggested that Degeneres’ lighthearted framing of her friendship with Bush was disingenuous, as she treated the former president as someone of differing opinions rather than acknowledging his numerous accusations of being a war criminal.

Whether or not one considers DeGeneres’ handling of the controversy to be responsible, the episode has opened up a broader conversation about celebrity privilege and how fame enables even members of marginalized groups to tacitly support oppression under the guise of friendship. While DeGeneres and her allies would argue in favor of reconciliation between political groups as an opportunity for healing during an era of extreme partisanship, those who are on the receiving end of political oppression would beg to differ.