Is the ‘Barbie’ Movie Appropriate For Younger Kids?

The long-awaited Barbie movie is here. My social media feeds are filled with the vintage Barbie looks Margot Robbie has been nailing on the red carpet, love letters to Barbie from all generations, hilarious memes, and, most of all, raging debates among parents asking, ”Is ‘Barbie’ appropriate for kids?”

I know, it sounds a little counterintuitive considering that every little girl in America was patiently awaiting opening day. But if you haven’t heard, the Motion Picture Association actually gave Barbie, Ken, and the gang a PG-13 rating!

It never once crossed my mind that perhaps Barbie might be inappropriate for my 8-year-old daughter. First of all, the movie is being marketed to girls well under 13. There’s an entire line of Barbie dolls and accessories in the toy aisle, not to mention Barbiecore clothes and accessories in the children’s section (PS: we own most of it).

It was never going to fly if I told my daughter she could have a “Margot Robbie” Barbie and a “Ryan Gosling” Ken doll but had to wait five years to see the movie. I’d love to think my daughter will want a Barbie-themed bat mitzvah but it’s rather unlikely.  

Second of all, I really and truly don’t think my daughter and her friends will pay a bit of attention to the movie’s dialogue. They only care about watching their beloved dolls come alive as they soak in larger-than-life Dream Houses, Barbie’s over-the-top wardrobe, and a movie set that is SO pink, it caused a global shortage of pink paint.

It’s not giving anything away because it’s in the trailer, but one scene features a moment where Ken suggests sleeping over at Barbie’s house. Barbie innocently replies, “To do what?” My daughter laughed when she saw the trailer but never asked for more details. But if she did ask, I would’ve delicately explained those dynamics.

It’s inevitable that Barbie may bring up questions about romantic relationships, feminism, and even death (there’s a scene where Barbie brings a dance party to a screeching halt by asking, “Do you ever think about dying”?). I’m not worried. In fact, I’m happy to use the movie as a jumping-off point to answer questions, broach sensitive subjects and start a healthy dialogue.

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

I took my daughter to see Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret—another PG-13 movie sans the distraction of a glossy set and wardrobe. Based on the famed and beloved Judy Blume novel, the movie touched on puberty, religion, family issues, and more.

A few days after seeing Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret in theaters, my daughter asked—while we were in a long line at Target—what it was like when I got my first period. Maybe it wasn’t quite the setting I was hoping to have such a chat with her, but we had a really beautiful and honest conversation that I believe my daughter was able to grasp because of the foundation laid out by the movie. So if anything beyond “Which Barbie is your favorite” is asked after we see the movie—I’m prepared!

With that said, taking a younger child to see Barbie is a personal decision. The movie received its PG-13 rating because of “suggestive references” and “brief language.”  Some parents may not be ready or comfortable to discuss the more advanced plot lines while others may simply just know if their child is or is not ready to be introduced to mature topics.

It’s worth noting in the film, Barbieland features a diverse group of Barbies and Kens with a range of body sizes, disabilities, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. But, if you’re still unsure—here’s what you need to know so you can make an informed decision before buying tickets to Barbie for your family. 

Sexual Innuendos

Barbie and Ken have been “couple goals” for decades. Raise your hand if you’ve been “witness” to hundreds of weddings for the celebrated couple in your playroom! But much of the innocence of their relationship likely has to do with one important detail—both Barbie and Ken are missing their private parts. It’s a fact that is acknowledged in the Barbie movie though they make reference to their missing genitalia in a humorous way. It’s not explicit or vulgar and there’s nothing that resembles nudity. At one point the words “vagina” and “penis” are used.

There is also that reference mentioned earlier when Ken asks Barbie to stay the night, but he doesn’t know what that really means. Ken does try to kiss Barbie more than once. There are also some pick-up lines, cat-calling, and other double entendres that you may get that your kids may not. Oh, and the Kens do have plenty of scenes when they are shirtless.

Mature Language and Themes

It should be noted that Barbie is directed by Greta Gerwig whose body of work includes directing movies with strong leading ladies and coming-of-age themes such as Ladybird and Little Women. So Gerwig’s take on Barbie focuses on gender roles and equality, what it means to be a woman, finding happiness, and fulfillment, and even touches on death as Barbie has a bit of an existential crisis.

Yes, there is some “strong” language used but the one word that would really require some “earmuffs” is actually bleeped out. There is no other profanity. There is some beer-drinking in some scenes as well.

While these topics are broached with sensitivity, care, and humor, they are definitely geared toward the older audiences (hello Gen X) watching for the nostalgia of it all.

Mild Violence

And by mild violence, we mean barely any that is a real cause for concern. There’s a battle among the Kens that is “cartoony” at best— most kids have likely seen worse in Disney movies. Their weapons include inflatable pool toys and they get the most aggressive in a dance-off. There is also a car chase scene, but again, nothing that’s a real cause for concern.

If you’re still unsure or do take your younger child but want to be prepared with conversation starters after seeing Barbie, Common Sense Media has some great ideas to get you started. The organization is known for its reviews and ratings of TV shows and movies based on children’s age and appropriateness. In the review of Barbie, the group includes talking points that you can bring up with your child.