margot robbie and ryan gosling in neon rolling skating outfits, looking up and smiling in Barbie.

Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube

I saw ‘Barbie’ after seeing all the memes, and here’s what I thought

There hasn’t been a pop culture meme that has taken over the internet quite like Barbenheimer.


Tiffany Kelly

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 21, 2023   Updated on Jul 23, 2023, 6:58 am CDT

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There hasn’t been a pop culture meme that has taken over the internet quite like Barbenheimer. As staff writer Michelle Jaworski chronicled in her feature on the phenomenon this week, the word “Barbenheimer,” a blend of the movie titles Barbie and Oppenheimer, was created around 15 months ago. And then the memes started. They haven’t slowed down in the run-up to the release of both movies, which share a July 21 release date

I’ve been excited for Barbie since Greta Gerwig was attached to direct it (I’ve rewatched her previous two films, Lady Bird and Little Women, several times each). As an actor, she became a “girl failure” icon while starring in Frances Ha. As a director, she’s become known for films that center around strong female characters. (Enter Saoirse Ronan saying “women”.) And although people don’t necessarily associate Barbie dolls with representing real women, I was excited to see Gerwig’s take on a doll that adult women remember from their childhoods. (Note: The press tour for Barbie ended early due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. The WGA has been striking since May. Currently, unions are not asking for a consumer strike on watching new films.) 

Knowing how the internet works, I aimed to see an early screening of the film before spoilers hit. That means I couldn’t book a Barbenheimer double feature, but I would get to see Barbie before its official release date. 

I bought tickets to a screening on Wednesday night, where attendees were encouraged to dress up. I wore a bubblegum pink jacket and a clear pink handbag. The audience was filled with what appeared to be mostly millennials, and several of them were dressed up. I saw multiple Barbie looks, from an ‘80s aerobics Barbie to several classic pink Barbie-inspired dresses. All of us in the audience had likely been following the Barbie memes, and now we finally got to see if the hype was warranted.

The best part about Barbie is its length. With several big budget movies now clocking in at almost three hours, Gerwig’s movie is a neat two hours long. You never feel like you’re in one setting too long or that a gimmick has run its course. While I won’t spoil the main plot points here, I did really enjoy it. Ryan Gosling proves once again that he does his best work in comedies. Margot Robbie plays a “stereotypical Barbie” perfectly, and her character has a satisfying arc that doesn’t feel too flimsy—like you might expect from a character playing a doll. 

I only wish I had taken advice from the internet on which order to watch the two movies. You should obviously watch Barbie after Oppenheimer. If you watch Barbie first, like I did, you’ll just want to see Barbie again instead of going to see an intense three-hour character study with no upbeat chaser. 

Why it matters

What the internet chooses to latch onto and turn into a meme isn’t always a great piece of art. (See: Morbius.) And it might not always lead to strong ticket sales. But in the case of Barbenheimer, the consensus so far is that both of these movies are worth seeing in a theater

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*First Published: Jul 21, 2023, 3:30 pm CDT