“You’re either brainwashed or ugly and weird,” Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s Barbie says. I’m wearing my Birkenstocks sipping on a Pink Drink at my friendly neighborhood un-unionized Starbucks, where the “partner” behind the counter complimented my “protect choice” shirt. I’m not ugly, but I’m not brainwashed either. Here comes the Barbie review from your friendly neighborhood wannabe New Yorker. No, I didn’t like it. Yes, I laughed and cried.

When Barbenheimer first became all the rage, my brother and I were dismayed to find that it would take place during my study abroad program in the homeland—separate annoying diaspora reflection to come. I lamented that I would have to wait until August to see our household’s most highly anticipated movies since Toy Story 4. However, my brother reminded me that the movies would of course be available in India, and that too, on the premiere date. It’s not a country as invested in censoring the nine-dash line or references to homosexuality as others.

So, I carried my American-born, confused Desi self to the movie theater in India five times. My brother made fun of me because I only managed to see three movies: the Barbenheimer double feature once with my study abroad cohort and once with my cousins, plus Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahani (translation: Rocky and Rani’s Love Story) with my uncle and aunt.

The first half of the doll movie was incredible. Not every joke was great, but I laughed out loud many times, more than any of my friends in attendance. Lizzo’s opening number, which turned into a Groundhog Day-style sequence, was hilarious. And as has been noted in every other begrudging and/or enthusiastic review of the movie of the summer, Ryan Gosling stole the show as Ken. At intermission, I rated the film a Ken out of ten. (In India, it is common practice to have intermissions because Indian movies tend to be longer; they also insert them for foreign films.) But after the first half, the patriarchal transformation of Barbieland to Kendom, deprogramming of brainwashed Barbies, and reclaiming of Barbieland was confused at best.

My first viewing was in a mostly empty theater besides the girlies I befriended in my summer class. After the show, one of my peers commented that her boyfriend needed to watch it immediately. In the auto ride back to campus, we unpacked the movie’s shortcomings alongside its best moments, but I think her boyfriend could still benefit from the “your girlfriend is not your personality” lesson.

My second viewing was a cloak-and-dagger operation; I watched with a female and male cousin, both around my age, the latter of which had to be conned into watching by being told we were going to watch Oppenheimer. (He didn’t like Oppenheimer when we watched it a few days later.) We got a funny reaction video of him realizing what was happening as the 2001: A Space Odyssey spoof that opens the movie played and then not much else. I thought he, a young man who respects his female family members and writes poetry, might be receptive to Barbie’s lessons. But his dad called about a third of the movie in, and he picked up and responded “not much” when asked what was going on. The rest of the time, he learned Javascript on his phone.

The TikTok reception of Barbie has been overwhelmed with White women bawling at America Ferrera’s monologue and wringing their hands over their boyfriends’ interminable inability to understand what it is like to be a woman or even to understand the film. Yes, the experience of being socialized and socializing as a woman is singular and deeply personal. But this accepted ignorance of men, especially those viewers look to as potential life partners, is disheartening. Would these same viewers watch a movie about people of color and come away with the conclusion that they could not understand because the characters are unlike them in some essential way? My cousin has many marriageable years for character development ahead of him, but resigning oneself to Javascript and phone calls before giving the Barbie movie a chance is not exactly a trait to put in the matrimonial ad or Hinge profile.

I shed a tear at Ferrera’s monologue, too, but mostly because the actual situation is so much worse than what she describes the plight of women to be. The didactic speech from Ferrera’s character Gloria focuses on social instances of the double bind, the phenomenon which feminist scholar Marilyn Frye described as cases in which women are punished no matter what decision they make.

For example, Gloria notes that women must be excited to be mothers but not talk about their children too much. (Barbie seems overly fixated on the mother question, framing the doll as helping young girls imagine themselves as something other than mothers, but assuring the audience by the end of the movie that it is completely okay if a young girl decides being a mother is her life’s calling.) In the monologue, nothing is spoken of violence against women, unequal opportunity, or, surprisingly, the pay gap, a mainstream American feminist staple.

Even the movie’s simple points are unsure. As Jessica DeFino wrote in the latest issue of her newsletter The Unpublishable, “you cannot subvert the politics of Barbie while preserving the beauty standards of Barbie. The beauty standards are the politics, or at least part of them.” DeFino writes about the contradictions in Barbie’s merchandise: one of the movie’s many brand collaborations includes an anti-cellulite lotion. In a product image, the lotion is hot pink and is being applied to completely smooth legs that funnel into pastel pink rollerblades.

In the movie, Stereotypical Barbie is hysterical when she discovers cellulite on her thigh, an abrupt end to her stereotypical perfection, a pink slip, so to speak. She also cries seeing the breadth of humanity at Griffith Park, including a wrinkly old lady she calls beautiful. This woman has been allowed to gracefully retire from stereotypical beauty, which we might interpret to be Barbie’s dream. Barbie does choose to grow old in the end, after all. But, as she so adamantly maintains, she never wanted anything to change! She had a great day, every day. She eventually chooses to become human, but the then-minor issue of cellulite is glossed over. She—Margot Robbie, that is—does not appear to be old enough for cellulite. So, Barbie survives for another few years.

If there is White privilege and its transmogrified sister White guilt, Barbie’s transformation could be attributed to her pretty privilege and pretty guilt. She only wants imperfection when she realizes Gloria must live as an imperfect being (by Mattel standards) every day; the connection between the dolls and those that play with them is never quite sorted out. Why is there only one of each doll, if it seems each Barbie is connected to one real-life doll who is played with? Or if each Barbie simply represents the whole product line, how can it be that only one doll from one of these lines has an owner who is depressed that she does not live up to Barbie’s standards? Does no other doll have an owner who is tragically only America Ferrera gorgeous and not Margot Robbie gorgeous?

There is a Barbie in a wheelchair, and some Barbies of color, but no disability-, race-, or class-centered feminist politic really makes its way in. It’s a classic 2008-era colorblind feminist casting. Gloria is an executive assistant, a lowly job besides the fact that she works for the CEO of Mattel; she and her daughter are Latina, which doesn’t really get any attention besides a shot of her White husband botching the pronunciation of “bolígrafos” on Duolingo and later his use of “¡Sí, se puede!” which Sasha, Gloria’s daughter, calls appropriative.

Sasha calls Barbie a White savior ironically, but only somewhat so, as she does believe Barbie has just cracked the code to saving Barbieland. There’s a terrible statement from Gloria comparing Barbies who don’t know how to handle patriarchy to Indigenous people who had no immunity to smallpox, which was presented without irony, sarcasm, or self-awareness. It appeared to be a genuine attempt at wokeness with no attention to its inappropriateness or insensitivity.

Another strange point was when Weird Barbie was offered a cabinet position in the Barbie Cabinet and she quickly claimed the sanitation spot. Especially being part of the Indian diaspora and watching Barbie in India, seeing an outcast member of society seemingly naturally gravitate toward sanitation work, with glee and a hidden smile, was odd. It seemed to imply an inherent weirdness to the people who conduct this work and an inherent desire to conduct it. In India’s caste hierarchy, people assigned the lowest caste, the Dalit caste, have historically faced and currently face oppression by being relegated to mostly being sanitation workers and, in turn, face oppression partially due to their status in this and other looked-down-upon professions. Many other social, economic, and political injustices also affect Dalit people.

Through its strange inherent characteristics for Barbies and Kens (Allan and “weird” dolls excepted), Barbie manages to promote an essentialist gender theory, for which Mattel and its historical doll design can probably be blamed. But why does Stereotypical Barbie’s transformation from doll to human begin with finally attaining a vagina? Yes, Hari Nef, who is trans, plays a Barbie. But does that make the Barbie trans? Unclear.

Some leftish viewers have lamented that the movie is good but fails to be radical enough in its politics. This is true about the politics. Until now, Gerwig has been the queen of White feminist films—see Lady Bird and Little Women. These are good films meant to be good films. Her collaboration with Mattel, on the other hand, is meant to sell more Barbies, not deconstruct the racial capitalism that upholds the corporation, even if Sasha notes what underlies this hot pink superstructure. Adapting Marx on capitalism, a character in the film notes that “Kenland contains the seeds of its own destruction.” Well, so does Barbie. A.S. Hamrah writes, “The lesson is about how to think about Barbie as a person, not how to be a woman in an oppressive society.” Gerwig and Baumbach can tug at the social oppression of women in this movie, but pulling that thread would unravel Will Ferrell’s well-tailored suit and reveal that the Mattel CEO has no clothes.

Besides the politics, the movie fails elsewhere. Half of its jokes fall flat as Barbie’s feet and tiny plot holes abound—how does Ken know how to get back to Barbieland? Did the election procedurally go to the Barbies in the end or would the Kens have denied them the right to vote? Mattel bought the superstars necessary to make the movie glimmer, but setting the corporate feminism aside (if it’s possible to do so) it’s just not a great movie.

My brother still hasn’t seen Barbie; he has waited to watch it with me, so I’ll be contributing to Mattel’s coffers again this summer, and maybe to Dharma Productions’, too. Rocky aur Rani, by the way, manages to be more feminist than Barbie within its first five minutes, by having a feminist character rather than trying too hard to be a feminist movie. (Also, it prominently features Rani Pink, India’s equivalent to Barbie Pink, as South Asian American publication The Juggernaut recently noted.)

Rani is a provocative talk show host and grills her chauvinist guest, a state-level government official, on why he did not comment on a rape case in his constituency. He minimizes the case and employs typical victim blaming, citing women’s overeating and dressing habits. She responds by citing that there are very young and very old victims of rape as counter examples, in proper third-wave feminist fashion, which is at least one wave past Barbie.

Don’t worry, there’s more to come. Mattel has dozens of film projects lined up to milk its intellectual property. Now that we’ve learned what we can from Barbie, what will Mattel teach us about feminism in Polly Pocket? In View-Master? In Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots? We’ll just have to wait and see what tear-jerking monologue the next film brings us.