A parent's guide to 'Barbie': What to know before watching it with the kids

Are your kids ready for 'Barbie?'
By Kristy Puchko  on 
Barbie presents herself to jaded tweens.
What's the suitable age for Barbie? Credit: Warner Bros.

Barbie is a doll fit for all ages. But is the new Barbie movie fun for all ages? Sure, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are the picture of playtime wholesomeness in the trailers and the red carpet. However, the latest from writer/director Greta Gerwig is rated PG-13. And some eyebrows were raised over the "beach off" jokes in the teaser trailer.

If you're a parent or guardian looking to take curious kiddos, here's a rundown of all you need to know to make the decision on if your children are ready for Barbie

Barbie is rated PG-13 for suggestive references and brief language.

Barbie and Ken in front of her dreamhouse
Credit: Warner Bros.

This is the classification the MPAA has offered for the Barbie movie. But what do "suggestive references" and "brief language" mean? Slight spoilers ahead. 

When Barbie and Ken go to the Real World, she is confronted with some crass behavior by men on the beach. Construction workers catcall her with cliches, specifically half-mumbled things like "Are your pants made of mirrors?" However, these men talk over each other, so the racier bits ("I can see myself in them!") are either lost in the sound or not uttered at all. It seems the idea is to tip adults to the kind of talk this is without making it easy for kids to imitate it. Basically, this bit will likely go over kids' heads, as will the cops' unwelcome comments on Barbie's outfit and body, which make her feel — as she puts it — "like an object." 

Barbie does note to the construction workers that they seem to be speaking in "entendre," and then tells them matter-of-factly: "I don't have a vagina. He doesn't have a penis. We don't have genitals," before rollerblading away. Later, Barbie will also reference a gynecologist. So, parents or guardians with more curious kids might want an answer ready if they ask what that word means. 

In Barbieland, there's a bit of suggestive language when one Ken (Ryan Gosling) gets into an argument with another Ken (Simu Liu). They both "beach" as a job, so there's a rivalry there. They begin to bark they will "beach [each other] off." Though it sounds dirty to the adult ear, it's a goofy bit that young kids are unlikely to get.

The only other bit of "language" that comes to mind is a curse word that's bleeped. In the third act, President Barbie declares "They're [bleeped] dreamhouses" — with the Mattel logo covering her mouth during the expletive. For adults, this bit might spark an irreverent giggle. For kids, they'll likely get it is a curse word, but which one is pretty well masked. 

Are there any sexual references in Barbie

Barbie winks
Credit: Warner Bros.

Not really. Ken doesn't even understand what kissing is, so when he asks to spend the night at Barbie's dreamhouse, he admits he's not sure why.

However, Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) does lust after Ken briefly, noting she'd like to see "What kind of nude blob he's packing under his jeans." There will be no Barbie or Ken-related nudity in the film — and any child who's ever played with one IRL knows exactly what's down there anyway.

Is there violence in Barbie

The Kens ready for battle in "Barbie."
Credit: Warner Bros.

Yes. But most of it is mild or goofy. 

After the construction workers catcall Barbie, a male stranger sexually assaults her by slapping her butt without consent. In response — as seen in the trailer — Barbie punches him in the face, and is then arrested. This could spark conversations about bodily autonomy and consent, as well as whether it's ever OK to hurt someone who's hurt you.

Later, the Kens engage in a battle. But their weapons are mostly sports equipment like lacrosse sticks and frisbees. And ultimately, the battle becomes more of a dance-off with a game of rock, paper, scissors thrown in.

Any drugs, alcohol, or smoking in Barbie? 

The Kens drink "Brewski Beers," but they "drink" in the Barbieland way, where they hold up empty bottles inches from their mouths, and nothing comes out. So, beer bottles are more props than a depiction of alcohol being consumed — and in context, it's not depicted as desirable behavior.

Is there any adult content in Barbie

Barbie stands between two Kens.
Credit: Warner Bros.

As discussed in our review, Barbie does deal with gender politics, illustrating the double standards the patriarchy imposes on women — and even the pitfalls it has for men. The words "feminism" and "patriarchy" are used often within the film. So, some kids might have questions there. 

Kids might also ask about cellulite, as Barbie discovers some on her thigh — much to her (comical) horror. There are also discussions of unattainable beauty standards throughout most of the movie.

Otherwise, Barbie is experiencing existential dread, asking her friends, "Do you guys ever think about dying?" Despite repeated references to "thoughts of death", no one in the film is dying or at risk of dying. The existential dread is dealt with amid a candy-colored spectacle that softens these tougher topics, with lots of silliness besides.

Feeling prepared? Enjoy Barbie

How to watch: Barbie is now available to watch at home. Here's where to get it.

Mashable Image
Kristy Puchko

Kristy Puchko is the Film Editor at Mashable. Based in New York City, she's an established film critic and entertainment reporter, who has traveled the world on assignment, covered a variety of film festivals, co-hosted movie-focused podcasts, interviewed a wide array of performers and filmmakers, and had her work published on RogerEbert.com, Vanity Fair, and The Guardian. A member of the Critics Choice Association and GALECA as well as a Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes, Kristy's primary focus is movies. However, she's also been known to gush over television, podcasts, and board games. You can follow her on Twitter.


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