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The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

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The Hawkeye June 2024 Issue
1st Amend Award School

Summer movies that blew up the internet

Two polar opposite movies take social media by storm
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©HAWKEYE image credit: Charli

Two movies hit theaters on Jul. 21, 2023, causing massive global uproar, sparking change, and ultimately changing the way many of its audience members think.
What initially caught many people’s attention was the release date of the Barbie movie, a pinked-out spin on the Barbie doll by Mattel with feminist themes, and Oppenheimer, a biopic thriller telling the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bomb.Very different movies, right? Many prepared for the Barbie vs. Oppenheimer battle, and were quickly surprised when fans of both turned these movie’s releases into a social media meme called ‘Barbenheimer’, where fans mutually respected both films, and celebrated their differences. Movie-goers everywhere flooded cinemas to watch both the Barbie movie and Oppenheimer.
Not only did Barbenheimer change the way audiences view movies, they also collectively sparked their own arguments for and against their messages. Oppenheimer, a film retelling the story of the “father of the atomic bomb” received backlash for glorifying these historic villains and nuclear weapons, while simultaneously failing to grapple with the very real and very destructive reality of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks. Many critics also point out the failure to portray the impact that the Manhattan Project had on Indigenous Americans at Los Alamos.
While it is understandable to be wary of glorification of controversial historical figures, especially in media like Oppenheimer, I struggle to see how this movie could at all be glorifying atomic weapons or the man himself. Technology has always been used as a political tool, even in the 1940’s when Oppenheimer was appointed as the director of the Manhattan Project. The director of Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan, used this story to showcase the psychological aspect that came with the bomb’s invention, as well as showing the larger picture of how it would change the world’s armory forever.
Oppenheimer is told from the perspective of Oppenheimer himself, the success that came with developing the biggest breakthrough in modern science, and the psychological turmoil that came with watching this breakthrough turn into a noose tightening around humanity’s neck. The movie shows the destruction the atomic bomb had to everything it touched, including its creator. Oppenhemier is more timely than ever, especially after Russia shocked the world by declaring war on Ukraine last year. War seems like it is constantly looming over us, and the atomic bomb serves as that symbol of our own destructiveness. Oppenheimer perfectly displays the human dynamic, the short sight that comes with anger, and becoming a pawn in a larger game despite your knowledge.
It’s hard to see how anyone could walk out of Oppenheimer feeling like the atomic bomb was a great invention and that J. Robert Oppenheimer is an American hero. This movie portrays exactly the opposite. It shows how Oppenheimer was an extremely flawed man, who despite many warnings, created the deadliest weapon in the world and watched its repercussions change the world forever. You are left with a sense of dread, knowing the aftermath of the bomb’s creation, and knowing how many lives it destroyed.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the Barbie movie tackled the issue of the patriarchy and the social structure of modern-day civilization through a feminist lens. It touched viewers’ hearts, connecting audiences across continents in a time where many live in fear. Because of these feminist messages throughout the movie, many right-wing critics have called out Barbie for being “anti-men” or for spreading transgender/queer ideology, and for indoctrinating its audience, which is simply not true. For indoctrination to happen, you must isolate someone into believing a set of beliefs uncritically, which is the exact opposite of what the Barbie movie has done. The film looks critically upon Mattel’s history, the patriarchy, and our society as a whole. If you are stuck in an echo chamber of conservative ideals, and a box office hit doesn’t agree with said ideals, that does not make it indoctrination.
Along with Barbie’s so-called “anti-men” agenda, critics have used Barbie as an example of queer ideology being pushed in modern day media. Barbie does not once touch base on the gay or transgender community. The only reason these allegations were made are because Hari Nef, a transgender actress, was casted to play as one of the Barbies in Barbie land, along with a handful of gay actors casted to play Kens. Having queer actors in films does not make it a queer movie, nor does it signal “an agenda” being pushed. The Barbie movie was simply a film that retells many of the rampant issues we have in today’s society that many activists have been speaking out against for years. Overall, Barbie was a watered down, but still prevalent look on feminism, the patriarchy, and our roles in gender stereotypes.
Both Oppenheimer and Barbie were amazing movies that showed different sides to multiple stories. They raised questions and have cemented themselves as culturally significant moments in media. Now remember folks, as this new school year starts, work hard and remember: You are Kenough.

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About the Contributor
Lucas Barquin
Lucas Barquin, News Editor
Lucas Barquin joined HSM in 2022 because he enjoyed writing and wanted to join a group where he could continue writing with others. Lucas’ goal is to write about important topics, and to make every student feel seen and heard. In his free time Lucas enjoys drawing, listening to music and playing D&D. His post high school plans are to attend an art school for graphic design and illustration.
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