Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Barbie.
If there’s any moment in Barbie, a remarkably feminist big-studio film, that’s meant to stay with you, it’s America Ferrera’s monologue right before the film’s final act.
In trying to console Margot Robbie’s Barbie, who’s in the throes of her own existential crisis after the Kens turn Barbie Land into a patriarchy, Ferrera’s Gloria, a Mattel employee and mother, speaks plainly to the greater, painful truth of being a woman in America. Her words end up being the trigger that awakens the other Barbies who were brainwashed under the “Kendom.” (Robbie’s Barbie is immune, having visited the real world.)
The monologue was written by Greta Gerwig originally, The Cut revealed, but Gerwig and Ferrera spent months refining it into the final version that Ferrera shares in the film. “We would text each other anything related to it,” Ferrera said, adding they used songs, articles, and movie scenes that captured “what Gloria’s talking about,” in addition to a personal notebook entry Ferrera wrote nine months before joining the film.
“Ultimately, it was about giving myself permission to let go of expectations that had been placed on me,” Ferrera said of the entry. “I was trying to meet those expectations and be my true self. And those things were at odds, and something had to give.”
The monologue took nearly 30 takes to capture, and Gerwig revealed that everyone on set, men included, cried listening to it. Robbie herself was so greatly affected that an assistant director reminded her she didn’t need to be that worked up. “He said, ‘You don’t need to cry, you’re not on-camera,’” Robbie recalled. “And I was like, ‘I’m not doing it on purpose.’”
Ferrera says a lot fast in the monologue, but every word hits hard and merits a revisit. Here, the final monologue that made it into Barbie:
It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.
You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.
But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.
It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.
I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.
Senior News and Strategy Editor
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.