Whereas Greta Gerwig’s Barbie has taken the worldwide field workplace by storm and shattered quite a few data — the movie raced previous the $1 billion mark in simply over two weeks — it hasn’t linked with audiences in a single main market, South Korea. Some observers cite cultural variations as the explanation — particularly the movie’s feminist messaging.
Based on the Korean Movie Council, Barbie solely managed an eighth-place end on the field workplace in Korea over the Aug. 4-6 weekend, grossing $273,414, with solely a 1.2 % advance ticket gross sales fee, in comparison with 35.8 % for the opposite half of the “Barbenheimer” juggernaut — Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer — which is about for launch in South Korea on Aug. 15.
Barbie has bought 518,172 tickets since its launch on July 19, in line with the KFC (for a complete gross of $3.8 million in line with Field Workplace Mojo). That compares to three.8 million tickets for Mission: Not possible — Lifeless Reckoning Half One which opened per week earlier.
Warner Bros. knew getting into that Barbie would face challenges each in Korea and throughout Asia, which has underindexed as a area in comparison with different components of the world. One intriguing growth is China, the place it opened to a forgettable $8.2 million however discovered its footing (kind of) after Chinese language feminists flocked to see the movie and urged others to do the identical, saying it was an antidote to male-orientated patriotic motion motion pictures that rule the field workplace there. By the top of its third weekend, Barbie had climbed previous $30 million in China, and Warner Bros. hopes this bodes nicely for Japan, the place the pic opens Aug. 11.
However in Korea, a rustic the place gender disparity and anti-feminist backlash are prevalent, the movie’s focus — albeit uplifting — on feminine empowerment might have sparked discomfort and even fatigue.
“Given how gender has been politicized and have become a polarizing subject in Korea prior to now few years, younger individuals appear to be simply exhausted by discussions round gender,” says Kang Yu-jeong, a professor of Cultural Contents at Kangnam College within the metropolis of Yongin. “It’s such a delicate matter for the youthful era — the movie’s major goal — that they wish to keep away from it solely.”
Regardless of the nation’s financial growth and superior know-how, South Korea ranked 99th out of 146 international locations within the Group for Financial Cooperation and Growth’s International Gender Hole Report final 12 months.
The nation’s gender debate is so stark that throughout the 2022 presidential election, Yoon Suk-yeol, of the conservative Folks Energy celebration, ran a profitable marketing campaign whereas pledging to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Household, claiming that the ministry promotes reverse discrimination towards males. In a aggressive job market, girls’s financial development and obligatory navy service for youthful males have additionally fueled backlash towards feminism in recent times.
“The events widened the gender divide, focusing on younger women and men of their 20s,” Kang says.
Some counsel that the movie might have suffered from the truth that its feminist undertones weren’t made clearer in its native advertising and marketing marketing campaign. (For essentially the most half, the worldwide film trade has lauded the Barbie marketing campaign, saying it is among the greatest gross sales efforts in trendy instances.)
“I feel the movie’s entrepreneurs have been too cautious across the feminist topic,” Kang says. “So even the audiences who might have taken extra curiosity within the movie didn’t know what the movie was about. It was actually within the grey zone.”
On the movie overview web site on Naver — the nation’s largest portal web site — gender-specific opinions expressed shock on the movie’s feminist subtext. One consumer wrote “if you happen to’re a man, skip this one, it’s uncomfortable and appears like an academic movie.” One other added “you don’t go to a film to listen to somebody preaching.” General, male viewers gave the movie 5.99 scores out of 10 whereas feminine viewers gave it a 9.27.
However advertising and marketing and gender points apart, some see the movie’s poor field workplace as being purely cultural, since Barbie is just not seen as an iconic feminine determine in Korea.
“Star Wars didn’t do nicely in South Korea both as a result of it’s not a part of our tradition,” says Moon So-Younger, a Seoul-based journalist who has authored a number of books on tradition and artwork. “We didn’t play with Barbie once we have been rising up. We’re accustomed to Lego however not Barbie. Children right here lately don’t play with Barbie both. So there isn’t a actual fan base for Barbie in Korea.”
Min Yong-joon, a Seoul-based movie critic and creator, agrees, including that the movie’s culturally particular humor might not have translated both.
“The humor associated to Ken wearing western outfits dreaming of imaginary horses in the actual world simply didn’t translate right here,” he says. “The movie had a really explicit American context. The kitsch references additionally didn’t appear to speak nicely.”
Basically, Korean motion pictures with feminine leads are likely to battle on the field workplace, however there are exceptions. The market share of the Korean movie Smugglers, which opened on July twenty sixth and tells the story of a bunch of ladies who develop into entangled in a smuggling scheme, has bought a formidable 3.5 million tickets.
“We didn’t weigh the dangers of starring feminine leads, as a result of the story is constructed round feminine sea divers and so they have been important to the plot,” says Kang Hye-jung, the movie’s producer. “I couldn’t perceive why Hollywood went so wild about Barbie, maybe as a result of it has by no means been our [toy]. Basically, individuals are a lot extra selective once they go to a film these days. There is no such thing as a such factor as a tentpole movie anymore.”