Up until yesterday, I expected that Jewishness would only be at the periphery of the “Barbie” movie. Sure, Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie, was Jewish and named the doll after her daughter. Sure, the cast is chock full of Jewish actors. And once again, sure, Greta Gerwig co-wrote the script with her partner, Jewish creative Noah Baumbach. But, would any of the characters be explicitly Jewish, would the movie take on Jewish themes or would the movie even feel Jewish? Probably not.
Hey Alma pals, I am happy to report that my expectations have officially been subverted.
Yesterday, the New York Times published a feature on Greta Gerwig, in which the “Barbie” director explained that she wants movie-goers to have a somewhat religious experience in the theater. Specifically, she wants her audience to feel like they were receiving the blessing over the children on Shabbat.
For context, the profile explains that though Gerwig was raised Christian, growing up her close family friends were observant Jews. The families spent considerable time together and Gerwig was often included in Shabbat dinners. “Every Friday the family’s father would rest his hand on Gerwig’s head, just as he did on his own children’s, and bless her too,” the profile reads.
“I remember feeling the sense of, ‘Whatever your wins and losses were for the week, whatever you did or you didn’t do, when you come to this table, your value has nothing to do with that,’” Gerwig told New York Times writer Willa Paskin. “‘You are a child of God. I put my hand over you, and I bless you as a child of God at this table. And that’s your value.’ I remember feeling so safe in that and feeling so, like, enough.”
“I want people to feel like I did at Shabbat dinner,” she continued, explaining how she wants movie-goers to feel when watching “Barbie.” Greta concluded, “I want them to get blessed.”
Wow. Not only might just be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read, but who am I to deny Greta Gerwig and Barbie the opportunity to bless me?!
As a Jew who doesn’t observe electronic prohibitions on Shabbat, you’ll likely be able to catch me in theaters next Friday, seeing “Barbie” on its opening night and reciting my own prayer: Blessed are You, Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe who made Barbie.