Kate McKinnon in 'Barbie'

Kate McKinnon Discusses Upcoming ‘Barbie’ Movie — What the Film Is Really “About”

Kate McKinnon went to college with Greta Gerwig, learned all about her genius years ago, and knew the ‘Barbie’ movie would be something to write home about before touching the script.

The upcoming Barbie movie from writer/director Greta Gerwig is bound to be an eye-opening sociocultural commentary, as the trailer not-so-subtly indicates as Margot Robbie’s Barbie loses her prized, permanently-arched foot — and all her Barbie peers respond with disgust and shock. 

In the film, Kate McKinnon plays the Barbie doll that becomes the subject of child experimentation. She’s the Barbie you gave a haircut to with your dull scissors from the dollar store. The Barbie you decided to adorn with a face tattoo via Crayola crayons. You know the one — whose legs are ceaselessly defying natural human physicality. However, she is also the Barbie who knows about the “real world” outside Barbieland. She pushes Robbie’s Barbie to choose the Birkenstock over the high heel and discover what’s outside the land of daily parties, exquisitely choreographed dance routines, and first-class fashion. 

During an interview with Fandango, McKinnon talked about the upcoming movie, and how she knew it would be a unique venture. 

Kate McKinnon went to college with Greta Gerwig

McKinnon and Greta Gerwig both attended Columbia University – years before the world would come to appreciate Gerwig’s genius. McKinnon explained: 

“I actually went to college with Greta… I know that she’s a genius. I knew that even before any of her movies came out…I knew how brilliant she was, and when I heard she was doing the Barbie movie…I knew it was going to be something.”

McKinnon and Gerwig even did comedy shows together, giving McKinnon a lot of time, prior to her upcoming role in Barbie, to come to understand Greta, as well as her artistic perspective. With hits like Little Women and Lady Bird under her belt, the expectations for Barbie are rightfully quite high, but McKinnon suggests that the movie will meet (and mauve even rise above) them. She went on to note what the Barbie movie is all about. 

Margot Robbie in 'Barbie'
Margot Robbie in ‘Barbie’ | Warner Bros. Pictures

Kate McKinnon says ‘Barbie’ demonstrates how “gender roles deny people half their humanity” 

As the promotional materials indicate, the Barbie movie is for those who loved Barbie as much as it’s for those who hated her. Meaning, this movie is going to tackle the controversy surrounding the doll, yet also the very real obsession and love many retain for the toy. Gender roles — and the consequences of strict adherence to them —  is one of the major thematic throughlines in the film. McKinnon explained: 

“[It’s] about how gender roles deny people half their humanity, and we need to just be ourselves, and it’s a very powerful message…Everyone’s themselves, you know?” 

Those in attendance during the interview — Robbie, America Ferrera, Issa Rae, and McKinnon — go on to discuss the role of “The Kens” in the film, who are mostly there as props. The Kens are extensions of the Barbies — not individual toys existing outside her realm. As Issa Rae notes earlier, the Kens are an “accessory…to support the greatness that is women slash Barbie.” 

Flat Feet Scene 'Barbie'
Flat Feet Scene ‘Barbie’ | Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s clear that this film is going to flip gender roles, norms, and expectations on their head, presenting an alternate, but no less viable or valuable alternative to the shackled social structures we currently operate within. 

With President Barbie, wacky Barbie, classic Barbie, and many more all in attendance (as well as just a couple of Kens), we’re ready to jump into the Barbie Corvette and take a trip down memory lane — yet one that’s a bit more transgressive than the toy’s decades-long reputation would suggest. 

Barbie premieres in theaters on July 21, 2023. 

About the author

Josh Lezmi

Josh is an entertainment writer and editor at Thought Catalog.