When the Barbie film premiered, the now iconic monologue delivered by Honduran American actress America Ferrera as Gloria was instantly one of the most talked about moments. She highlights how “it’s impossible to be a woman” and lists standards women have to meet in society: “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.” The speech was praised for spotlighting the complicated reality of being a woman but some claimed it’s a simplification of feminism and Ferrera is speaking up against the criticism.
“We can know things and still need to hear them out loud. It can still be a cathartic,” Ferrera told The New York Times. “There are a lot of people who need Feminism 101, whole generations of girls who are just coming up now and who don’t have words for the culture that they’re being raised in. Also, boys and men who may have never spent any time thinking about feminist theory. If you are well-versed in feminism, then it might seem like an oversimplification, but there are entire countries that banned this film for a reason.”
She shared that the monologue was 30 to 50 times and that she collaborated with screenwriter and director Greta Gerwig on the speech after Gerwig asked what she would say in her own words.
“Some of what we talked about made it into the script. The line, ‘Always be grateful’ came out of that conversation with Greta. She added ‘But never forget that the system is rigged’.” That section in the speech goes:
“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.”
The speech affected men and women alike on set during filming according to Gerwig who said that she was in tears and she looked around and realized everybody was crying on set. “The men are crying too, because they have their own speech they feel they can’t ever give, you know? And they have their twin tightrope, which is also painful,” she told The Atlantic.
For Ferrera, it was just as emotional to film as it was for viewers to watch. “We ended in tears. It ended in laughter, it got big, it got small, and I was able to do that because I really trusted Greta to know what would be right for the film,” she told the NY Times.