Barbie does more than just offer a feel-good story–it asks its viewer to wrestle through difficult questions about life and growing up. In it, Billie Eilish sings the quintessential question the movie deals with, “What was I made for?” A question many resonate with, as displayed by the song’s rise in popularity on social media. Barbie shows us a transition of going from how we viewed the world as children to how we view the world as adults. Because once you genuinely begin to wonder about the hard questions in life, it’s nearly impossible to return to that state of naiveté. The questions must be satisfied.
Someday We Might Understand
Eilish’s song does a good job of putting words to this growing up experience: “I used to float, now I just fall down // I used to know but I’m not sure now // What I was made for?” In some sense, no matter what our childhoods looked like, we all experience some naive simplicity as children. But as maturity comes, we find our once sure world lacking. We begin to see or experience the world’s pain and injustice. We wonder about morality and why things are the way they are. When bad things happen to us or our loved ones, we may wonder why bad things happen to good people. And, sadly, the innocent simplicity of childhood is lost. We can’t un-ask the questions, and answering them turns out to be particularly complicated.
In Barbie, we see this transition take place in Barbie herself. She starts the movie loving her ‘perfect’ world and life. When she is forcefully confronted with difficult questions, she doesn’t want to think about them. She wants to go back to her simple life—just like all of us want. But as she slowly begins to realize this isn’t an option, she begins to want something new—she wants to become human. Not only does she choose to no longer ignore the questions and pain, she chooses to embrace them. Eilish sings about this too when she says “I don’t know how to feel // But I wanna try // I don’t know how to feel // But someday, I might.” The hope presented by Barbie is that even if we don’t have the answers the moment we ask the questions, we might in the future. Until then, we can experience the full range of human emotions—the pain and the joy. And that opportunity in and of itself is beautiful and something to be excited about.
Many people across the world cling to this hope—that the beauty of living a full life will redeem all the rest, making the pain bearable. Others believe that right and wrong don’t really exist and the only meaning that life has is the meaning you give it. Oftentimes, for these people the questions about pain and injustice asked as they were growing up were written off as being either the wrong questions or questions that don’t have answers. They are told to let go of their questions because they are too complicated and difficult. In some sense, taking this perspective allows people to ‘return’ to naiveté by turning a blind eye. But this isn’t true naiveté, and the much harder and fulfilling path is seeking out the answers.
How Things Were Meant to Be
Christianity has had a reputation in recent decades as being a place where people should not ask questions. It has been put in opposition to science and scholarly pursuits, where questions would be asked and answers sought out. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only does Christianity itself embrace questions, but countless scientists and truth-seekers have themselves sought the answers to questions because their Christian worldview encouraged them to find order in the midst of a seemingly chaotic universe.
When we grow up and ask questions about why there is pain and injustice in the world, it isn’t simply because of a naiveté to the way the world works. It’s because we weren’t created to live in a fallen world. We weren’t created to have to deal with pain and injustice—we were created for so much more than that: life, fellowship with God and others, and rewarding work. But sin crept in, darkening the world. Death and fear entered the world.
In Christianity there is fulfillment and an answer to every question, whether it is a question of “why?” or “what is my purpose?” We don’t have to give up and accept that something is ‘just the way things are.’ We don’t have to ignore hard things and ‘look on the bright side.’ God sees our difficult and painful questions and he invites us into a deeper relationship with him. The answers he provides are not merely cold, logical facts. He goes deeper, into the heart of the matter and speaks to the pain and confusion that the question comes out of. He enters into our pain with us, as he himself experienced suffering and injustice. In some sense, through a relationship with him, we can even begin to return to the simplicity of childhood, no longer naive, but beginning to be returned to who God created us to be.
In Barbie, Barbie has the opportunity to talk to Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie. Ruth tells her that, if she wants to, she can choose to live a ‘real’ life in the human world. But “Humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever.” If Barbie chooses to become real, she will no longer simply be an idea; she won’t live forever. However, she will have the chance to experience real life and discover what she was really made for.
For the Christian, the idea that “humans only have one ending” is true in the sense that we will all die one day. Ultimately, though, we know that death is not the end of the story. Christ has trampled death and it has lost its sting. A human’s final ending isn’t death. Christ offers a way into eternal life with him if we would only follow him. Our bodies and spirits will live forever, but not all ideas will live forever. One day, when the world becomes new at Jesus’s return, there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). We will enter the fully realized Kingdom of God like trusting and joy-filled children (Mark 10:15) and as image-bearers of the triune God. We won’t have to grow up to find the new heaven and earth lacking, because we will live in the presence of the living God who is both for us and with us, forever.
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