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Bill Maher Rages Against Barbie Movie & Completely Misses the Point

Bill Maher Rages Against Barbie Movie & Completely Misses the Point

Bill Maher; Margot Robbie
HBO; Warner Bros Pictures

The host of Real Time With Bill Maher is absolutely livid about the message in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

Greta Gerwig's critically-acclaimed Barbie movie, which stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in the lead roles, has officially crossed $1 billion at the global box office, making Gerwig the first female director in history to helm a film that’s crossed the billion-dollar threshold.

Unfortunately, this incredible milestone brought in even more criticism, especially of the feminist message featured in the film. This time, Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, a man who considers himself a Democrat but is constantly at odds with progressive values, had something to say that is not too far from what’s been said by the bigots he has constantly criticized over the years. (Which, frankly, has become a standard practice for Maher’s personality.)

“OK, Barbie: I was hoping it wouldn’t be preachy, man-hating, and a #ZombieLie – alas, it was all three,” Maher writes on X (formerly Twitter). “What is a Zombie Lie? Something that never was true, but certain people refuse to stop saying it (tax cuts for the rich increase revenues, e.g.); OR something that USED to be true but no longer is, but certain people pretend it’s still true. Barbie is this kind of #ZombieLie.”

Here, Maher attempts to show that he is keyed into trendy terms like “zombie lies,” which was made popular by progressive news hosts like Rachel Maddow. As he often does, Maher uses terms that are familiar to progressives to then criticize the values of progressives, which seems to really tickle his (un)funny bone.


Warner Bros Pictures

“Spoiler alert: Barbie fights the Patriarchy. Right up to the Mattel board who created her, consisting of 12 white men! The Patriarchy!” he continues. “Except there’s a Mattel board in real life, and it’s seven men and five women. OK, not perfect even-steven, but not the way the board in the movie – which takes place in 2023 – is portrayed. And not really any longer deserving of the word ‘patriarchy.’ Yes, there was one, and remnants of it remain – but this movie is so 2000-late.”

Maher goes from referencing “zombie lies” to reciting Fergie’s “2000-late” lyric in the Black Eyed Peas’ hit song “Boom Boom Pow.” The references are all over the place, really, but I digress.

The point that seems to go right over Maher’s head is that Mattel as a company is used in Barbie as a stand-in for corporate America as a whole. Will Ferrell’s splashy performance in the film, along with the other actors who play executives, makes this a clearly surrealist environment that doesn’t literally reflect the actual leadership at Mattel, nor the actual building where it is headquartered, nor the actual employees who are on payroll.

According to an USA Today report from March 2023, “men are 83 percent of the 533 named executive officers in S&P 100 corporations.” Though women are now more included and more visible in corporate America, this disparity is still pretty outrageous – yes, even in 2023. Pew Research shows that women outnumber men in the US college-educated labor force, but only 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs (via Fortune). And let’s not even get started on the exclusion of people of color, particularly women of color, in these leadership positions.

Though it would be lovely to reside in the "post-patriarchy world" that Maher suggests we’re already in, we are just not there yet. This is a point that the Barbie movie makes over and over again, not only with the hilarious all-male board of corporate executives, but also with the female president (played by Issa Rae) that exists in Barbie Land… something that has yet to happen in this current, as Maher claims, post-patriarchy society that we apparently live in.


Warner Bros Pictures

The talk-show host writes on, “At one point the Barbies have to win over the Kens, and they are told to do it by pretending to act helpless and not know how to do stuff. Helen Gurley Brown called, she wants her premise back. Yes, that WAS a thing. I saw Barbie with a woman in her 30s who said, ‘I don’t know a single woman of any age who would act like that today.’”

Maher quoting “a woman in her 30s” that he knows is equivalent to people who say they can’t be homophobic because they have gay friends or relatives. It’s also pretty strange to write an essay criticizing a female filmmaker’s take on womanhood and the patriarchy only to then quote another woman’s view on those topics and declare that the opinion most similar to yours is the correct one.

Maher concludes, “I know, I know, ‘How could I know about the patriarchy, I AM a man!’ That argument is so old and so silly. Of course, none of us can know exactly what others go through life, but I can see the world around me, and I can read data. The real Mattel board is a pretty close mirror of the country, where 45% of the 449 board seats filled last year in Fortune 500 companies were women. Truth is, I’m not the one who’s out of step – I’m living in the year we’re living in. Barbie is fun, I enjoyed it – but it IS a #ZombieLie. And people who don’t go along with zombie lies did not take some red pill – just staying true to CURRENT reality. Let’s live in the year we’re living in!”

This X post shared by Maher reads like someone who’s desperately looking for a mic-drop in the Barbie discourse. But the thing is, his review of the film doesn’t really go anywhere.

Many conservatives will agree with this post just to keep trying to take down Barbie, but they won’t agree with Maher on basically anything else. Many progressives won’t recognize this post-patriarchy world that Maher speaks of. And even centrists, which Maher often preaches to, are probably just wondering why he is taking a franchise-launching blockbuster movie about a doll featuring gorgeous Hollywood stars like this so seriously as if it was intended to be a documentary on the state of gender roles in corporate business.

Maher unleashed his full Mojo Dojo Casa House mode on the Barbie movie, and we have to laugh.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.