Chinese fans hail ‘Barbie’ as rare feminism on screen

Hong Kong

In recent years, China’s box office has been dominated by domestic films, often with a nationalist slant. Patriotic war epics. But this weekend, a different movie grabbed the national attention — it’s American and bubblegum pink.

“Barbie” It has grossed 86 million yuan (about $11.9 million) in China since its Friday release, according to a Chinese ticketing site. That’s right – It ranks third among all movies across the country.

While that number pales in comparison to the runaway success of “Barbie” in the United States — which grossed $155 million domestically over the weekend — it could grow even further as social media discussion about the movie gathers pace. On Saturday, it was a briefly trending topic on China’s Twitter-like site Weibo, with more than 630 million views.

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Fans walk past a “Barbie” movie poster at a movie theater in Shanghai, China on July 22.

“Barbie” is distributed by Warner Bros., which owns CNN parent Warner Bros. Discovery.

On popular Chinese film review site Douban, the film currently holds a score of 8.6 out of 10, with nearly half of all viewers giving it full marks. The comment section included glowing praise for the film’s themes of femininity and feminism and director Greta Gerwig, known for “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” for her deft handling of the film.

Many critics called the film a breath of fresh air, comparing it to some Chinese films still full of outdated gender roles and skewed male gazes.

“You know, Chinese women don’t get many opportunities to see a high-quality, female-centric film at the cinema,” read one comment with more than 20,000 likes.

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Another great comment compared “Barbie” to another recent Chinese release, “Lost in the Stars,” which previously received criticism for its portrayal of gender stereotypes. “Lost in the Stars” showed “fake feminism under the male gaze,” while “Barbie” represented “feminism from a different perspective of real female directors,” the comment read, with more than 18,000 likes.

Others reflected on the realities faced by Chinese women, with one scathingly noting that unlike America, China doesn’t even pretend to be a patriarchy.

However, some have accused “Barbie” of performing only surface-level feminism, pointing out that the doll-perfect image of the titular character may further perpetuate existing beauty norms. “There is no new thought about feminism, the film is an expression of old ideas,” wrote one in Douban.

Feminist movements in China have faced many setbacks over the years due to censorship and continued repression of activism. But it is also resilient; Many Related to #MeToo The controversy and allegations of sexual assault have sparked waves of heated online debate, with women and supporters blaming China’s entrenched gender inequality and patriarchal society.

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An advertisement for the movie “Barbie” is displayed on a large screen outside a shopping mall in Beijing on July 20.

“Barbie,” it seems, has inadvertently quenched the thirst for better female representation and gender equality on screen — much to the surprise of Chinese cineastes and organizers.

On Friday, the day of its premiere, “Barbie” screenings accounted for just 2.4% of all movie screenings, according to Maoyan, reflecting audience appetite for low expectations; In comparison, the Chinese film “Advancing of ZQ” made up 36.8% of all screenings.

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But public interest grew. The film registered a 21.6% occupancy rate on Friday, meaning cinema screenings were 21.6% full – a ratio that most films see only by several percentage points. By Monday, Mayoyan says, theaters had increased the number of screenings devoted to “Barbie” to 8.7% of all movie screenings.

The film’s success was remarkable Growing Challenges for American Films To enter the Chinese film market – the second largest in the world, briefly took the top spot during the Covid pandemic.

China’s box office is there Become more insular And And strictly regulated In recent years. All films screened publicly in China require approval from regulators, with authorities restricting what they deem inappropriate.

While Hollywood has long tried to appease Chinese censorship, many movie studios are beginning to reconsider this trade-off, with some deciding to include scenes that irritate censors — meaning many American blockbusters have disappeared from Chinese cinemas.

For example, Seven of Marvel’s latest movies Not shown in China — meaning no Marvel films were released in the country for four years until this February, when China allowed “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum of Solace” to be released.

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