One Reason We All Want to Live in Barbieland? There Is No Gun Industry.

The characters—and some of the audience—were audibly relieved the Kens couldn’t inflict the horrors we see in the U.S. every day.

Simi Liu, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in Barbie. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

After watching Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, my daughters and I left the theater laughing and crying. But lingering in my mind was a scene that plagued me with reminders of how dystopic America has become in contrast to the dolls’ utopia. And it has to do with guns.

In the film, when the CEO of Mattel, played by Will Ferrell, enters Kendom (formerly known as Barbieland), he and his corporate sidekicks walk into a brawl. The war between Kens is fierce, but the most brutal violence is rendered with beach balls, not bullets. “There are no guns in Barbieland,” as Ferrell said.

The characters—and some of the audience, all of whom likely scanned the theater for exits before sitting down (it is the “real world” of America, after all)—sighed deeply, relieved the Kens couldn’t inflict the horrors we see in the news every day.  

The gun violence epidemic in our Real World is complex. Still, one facet of why this preventable crisis continues to devastate our lives is the marketing machine behind the gun industry. For decades, the gun industry has marketed the lie that guns make us safer when in reality, research has long shown that firearms make society far more dangerous. Guns are now the number one killer of our kids.

Much like the Kens used their newfound knowledge of patriarchy—and yes, horses—to take over Barbieland, the gun industry uses masculinity as a vehicle for sales. Gun manufacturers, marketers and lobbyists have cultivated a series of tropes to target key audiences, specifically white young men seeking a sense of belonging. They use advertisements promising the fulfillment of combat-style fantasies, virility and power.

Do you want to be “Good Guy with a Gun Ken” or “Military Might Ken”?

The gun industry has perfected the formula to prey on natural human developmental insecurities and fears to sell deadly products without considering the human toll. This isn’t a Mojo Dojo Casa House they’re selling to young men. They’re selling an epidemic. 

These predatory practices come with deadly consequences.

By tapping into military fantasies and needs for validation, the gun industry has created its own “Mass Shooter Ken.” This Ken comes with his own accessories like body armor, a racist manifesto, and an AR-15, complete with an illegally-secured stabilizing brace and ammunition. No background check needed!

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ryan Gosling and Ncuti Gatwa in Barbie. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Much like when the Barbies broke free from the cognitive dissonance that enabled the Kendom’s patriarchy, we owe it to ourselves, our children, and future generations to break free from the myths the gun industry has touted for decades.

The first step is recognizing the big, audacious, carnage-inducing lies the gun industry spent millions building. Ask any parent at Uvalde whether “a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun.” Ask your friend or neighbor the last time they successfully used a loaded firearm in their home defensively and compare that with the eight kids a day killed or injured with an unsecured firearm in their own home. Simply educating your children about guns will not stop them from picking one up. By stripping these lethal fallacies of their power, we can start to reshape America’s relationship with guns. 

Much like how the Kens degraded Barbieland, the gun industry is tearing at the fabric of our nation; we can rebuild if we let ourselves out of the box they’ve forced us into. 

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Kris Brown is the president of Brady United Against Gun Violence. Read more about Brady United Against Gun Violence through her twitter feed @KrisB_Brown