Saturday, February 10, 2024

Journey into Lent with Barbie (and Ken)

In the aftermath of a glorious battle that began with hobby horses and tennis rackets and ended in a fabulous dance sequence, an assortment of Barbies, Kens, and Mattel employees ponder the events of Greta Gerwig’s delightful film, Barbie. One of the Kens speaks to the group, his voice deep and resolute:

"We were only fighting because we didn't know who we were."

Throughout a series of wild adventures, the film probes the topic of identity. We follow Stereotypical Barbie on an ordinary day as she soars through her predictable, perfect life. She has always seen her core identity in being the perfect Barbie: arched feet, flawless skin, and a fun "girls' night" every night. However, when she discovers cellulite, experiences mishaps in her Dream House, and her heels touch the ground, everything falls apart. Who is she? And who is Ken, the blond guy whose job is “beach” and whose core identity relies on being Barbie’s boyfriend-but she's not that interested in him? 

Are the Kens supposed to find their identity and purpose in being subordinate accessories to the Barbies? Are the Barbies supposed to find their identity and purpose in being “long term, low commitment casual girlfriends” to the Kens?
Their confusion bursts into conflict: the Barbies against the Kens, the Kens against the Barbies, and the Kens against each other. There is no true peace. 

In order for harmony to exist, in order for them to experience fulfillment, in order for them to truly be able to love themselves and each other, the Barbies and Kens need to discover who they really are. Who they were made to be. 

We each need to do this too, don’t we? We need to learn who we are. Otherwise, our relationships--and our own lives--will suffer. 

The season of Lent offers us the perfect opportunity to do this. 


Roman Catholics begin the season of Lent in just a few days, when ashes are smeared on our foreheads. One by one, we feel that grittiness press against our skin as we hear the phrase, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” One by one, we are reminded of our lowliness, and that we are nothing without God. We spend the day in prayer and penance, and this continues for the next several weeks. 

Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we strip away whatever is distracting us from the immense love of God. Fighting off sins, addictions, and unholy habits, we push deeper into prayer, asking God to heal us, to help us, to bring us closer to Him. We become naked, in a sense, as we vulnerably encounter Christ in the deprivation of the desert. We are dust, and we need God's help. 
Ash Wednesday 2023 hype! 

After a long Lent, we finally gather in a darkened church. A bonfire pierces the air, and a candle is lit and lifted high. The light of Christ; thanks be to God. The "happy fault" of Adam is recounted, the Gloria is sung. Water is blessed. As a congregation, we renew our baptismal promises: we deny Satan, his empty works, and his empty promises. 
We recall that our core identity is not found in the sediment of the Earth, but in the glory of God, and we rejoice in the new life found in Christ. It's a gift of new life that we each received at our Baptism and are called to embrace every single day. 
We are not just dust that shall return to dust, but we are children of God who are invited to spend all of eternity intimately united with Him. 

This incredible gift and outpouring of grace is our reality. Unfortunately, we often act like the Kens. 

We don't know who we are--maybe we've never been taught, maybe we've forgotten--and we fight. We dehumanize others. We put them down, and we turn them into objects that exist for our own gratification. 

We treat ourselves poorly, too. We see ourselves as objects, as machines, who must be productive in order to be "good," who must "earn the right" to be loved. If we are broken or wounded, we dehumanize ourselves. We are clearly not "good," our brokenness is our own fault, and there is no hope for us. Our relationships fall apart; if we can't see ourselves as "good" or "worthy of love," then how can we recognize that in others? 

Thankfully, there is hope for us. Like the Barbies and the Kens, we can learn who we are--and we can live accordingly. We can pray with that Easter Vigil liturgy and remember who we became at when that water was poured over us. We can recall that we are baptized men and women who have been anointed and "share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1268). 

The Holy Oils used at Baptism.

We are new creations. God showers us with His graces, transforming us and bringing us abundant joy. His Spirit dwells within us! St. Paul reminds us: 
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body." (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Our Baptism changes everything. 

If we really, truly, act according to our identity as children of God, how would our lives be different? 

If we treat other people as children of God, how would that affect our relationships? 

If, in the midst of conflict, we keep the dignity of the human person (of all human persons) in the forefront of interactions, how would our communities change? How would our world change? 

In the season of Lent, let's enter the desert with Christ. Let's allow Him to strip anything away that distracts us from Him. And let's remember who we are: baptized men and women who are invited into a glorious adventure with God. 


  1. What a creative way to connect Barbie and Ken to this Lenten season! Loved reading this!!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this! Have you seen Greta Gerwig's Barbie movie? I loved it, and I'm excited to write more about this movie-I recently spend part of a weekend curled up with my St. John Paul II books (Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body) because the movie felt like it touched on some exact points that JPII addressed. (eventually, I hope to get another blog post or two up about that topic!)

  2. Ooo, looking forward to reading your posts about it! I have not seen the movie but am so intrigued now!

    1. I hope you enjoy the (when I eventually get them up; February was kind of an insane month so I am taking my time getting back into writing regularly). If you watch the movie sometime, I'd love to hear what you think! I know some Catholics couldn't stand it, but I observed many valuable elements and themes and it is a great discussion movie.