How We Played With Barbie
The girls have been defying the suits all along
The following essay contains small spoilers about the Barbie film (I’ll warn you when they’re coming.) Part of being a soul minimalist is taking the time to articulate when something grabs on and won’t let go. For those who want to discuss, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
If I think about it too long, I’ll start cringe sweating.
I’m in fourth grade and every student in Mr. Lahr’s class is assigned a different book to read. When it’s my turn to give an oral report, I send them on the adventure of a lifetime, describing in detail the twists and turns of the plot, the nuance of the characters, and all the danger they encountered.
When my time is up, I’m only half-way through and Mr. Lahr says he’ll allow me to finish tomorrow.
As it turns out, I did not give the class a book report.
I gave them a book, essentially retelling the story from beginning to end. I am the only student who has to split her oral report into two parts.
Cue the cringe sweat.
It’s one thing to create a book, a film, a meal, or a play. It’s another thing to have an opinion about those works. And then it’s a third thing altogether to be able to translate your experience of that work from a particular point of view into relevant and meaningful commentary (and to do it in a succinct amount of time).
Just like there is a skill to creating, there is also a skill to critiquing. Done well, the critique is its own form of creating.
It’s a skill I admire, one I’ve been able to access in fits and starts, but also one I haven’t actively practiced.
When it comes to critiquing any art form, I’m Winston Bishop trying to run a prank: I either go too big and offer a summary. (Retell the whole thing!) or too small, offering only an opinion. (It was great! I liked it.)
A good critique, however, moves beyond summary and opinion by attempting to offer a more objective evaluation, encouraging discussion, deeper thought, and consideration of the work and its connection to a larger conversation.
After seeing Barbie over the weekend, a few people have asked what I thought about it. That familiar book report vibe returned, the temptation to keep things on a level of either summary (here’s what it was about) or opinion (whether I liked it or not).
I’ve decided to settle with a hybrid response to my experience with Barbie: somewhere between critique and opinion which is really just more reflection (also, is there such a thing as critique divorced from opinion? We may like to think so but I’m not sure there is.)