On Monday night I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of the Barbie movie, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
First up I do want to say that I think it will be one of THE MOST divisive films of this year, between critics and fans a like. I suspect it’s going to cause a fair sized shit storm, I can’t wait to see how the world processes and digests it. I felt conflicted at times watching it and I’m a hardcore Barbie fan!
Why will it divide? For so long Barbie (much like Dolly Parton) has appealed to all sides. It was up to the consumer to project whatever they wanted to onto her, she had the same beliefs, opinions and moral compass as the person playing with her. This movie effectively sees her pick a side, and I think it will challenge a lot of people. The film plays with gender roles, questions and critiques societal systems, makes fun of the patriarchy (in a weirdly loving way) and make no mistake about it, it’s absolutely feminist and woke. Towards the end of the film one of the characters gives an impassioned speech to rally the troops and manages to capture the stark truth of being AFAB and/or a woman in a man’s world, which is no easy feat and not something I expected to happen in this movie.
The film very clearly has three acts, the first one introduces us to Barbie land and opens with a banging, hilarious Lizzo song that narrates the opening scenes. We get a detailed lay of the land, a look into their way of life and we meet all the Barbies and Kens who live there, it’s a delicious visual feast. It felt like the first time I saw Dorothy step into Oz in all its technicolor glory. The attention to detail with the costuming and set design is incredible, throw every applicable award their way! You’ll be teleported back to a simpler time, a time just before pregnant Barbie (Midge) was discontinued. I have no notes on act one – it was the perfect set up.
In act two Barbie enters the real world and her existential crisis era. It’s the densest part of the film and where they clearly decided to tackle a lot of the meat of what they were trying to achieve. It also feels a bit like it was a part of the hostage negotiations to get the more fantastical stuff over the line, like the mandatory safety briefing, the sensible part, the “one safe take” for the sponsors. Will Ferrel as the CEO of Mattel is there and followed around by his merry men aka the rest of the toy company’s board. Truth be told, I can’t believe that the actual Mattel CEO agreed to this depiction of him and his company. He’s either extremely self aware, or in extreme self denial and I can’t work out which!
The third act takes us back to Barbie land, and there’s a Singing in the Rain, meets Grease, meets Westside Story song and dance number from all the Kens that will stay with me until my dying day. The twist for Ken in act three is genius and one I would never have thought of and yet now seems like an obvious place to explore for him, if Ryan Gosling doesn’t win an Oscar for this we riot.
Margot Robbie gives a deeply thoughtful and heart felt performance as Barbie, America Ferrera as our main human protagonist is all of us, she’s the perfect partner to Margot’s Barbie and keeps the film grounded in parts it threatened to completely blast into space. Kate McKinnon as “Weird Barbie” is outstanding and one of the highlights of the film. Weird Barbie represents that one Barbie we all went a bit too hard with, shaved her head, melted her toes, painted her face with a heavy hand and a sharpie and for some unknown reason had her perpetually in the spilts.
Barbie has SO MANY ideas (some may argue too many) and wants to achieve so much, at times it felt like they’d locked a bunch of conservative white men and hardcore feminists in a room and asked them all the things they loved and hated about Barbie, and then took that info and inserted it into the script as a way to address and douse potential fires the movie may light. What I mean is at times, it felt slightly defensive and like it was over explaining itself.
Fair warning, if you think about this movie too hard your brain may turn in on itself. So Barbie is the problem but she knows this and will address it but is still the problem? But at least now she knows it, but she’s still the problem? But wait! Is it ok that we still love her? Even though she’s the problem? It’s best that you don’t drill down too hard is what I’m saying. I did and I’m still attempting to find my way back from the pink Matrix.
I know some of you want to know if you should take the kids, honestly – I’m torn on this one. Despite its claim of being for all ages and all people, this movie is a straight up love letter to women of a certain age (hint: us) who lost themselves in the world of Barbie as kids. If you’re considering seeing this movie, then I reckon that’s probably you, and you (and your younger self) deserve to be completely immersed in Barbie Land without distraction. I genuinely think that anyone under the age of ten will struggle to follow along with the themes, especially in act two. That being said, it’s not inappropriate in any way, so if you have small people who are LEGIT Barbie mad, they will be fine. The “riskiest” discussions are around genitals and even then it’s not something you should be worried about.
The main question I had was would Greta Gerwig be able to pull it off? Could she deliver a movie that would be all the things it needed to be to satisfy the many complexities surrounding the world of Barbie, while simultaneously not completely shitting on the brand beloved by millions.
Yes, I believe she did. Not perfectly, but it’s certainly good enough to be dangerous. They made the thing, and they got as close to it being what it needed to be as I think anyone ever could. To tick every box and to keep everyone happy is not something anyone could have achieved in just one movie, it’s too complex a subject matter – but they got really bloody close.
Ultimately it is joyful, poignant, beautiful film and it made me feel a certain type of way. Both nostalgic and seen, which is really all you could want from a trip to the cinema.
Four Barbie Dream homes out of Five.
At the end of this weeks Woiyne Toiyme I want a ROUSING and heartfelt sing-a-long, Lucy and I have re-worked ‘I am Australian’ to reflect what’s going on in the world. The words are below so you can sing your little hearts out with me this Friday night!
I am in Isolation
I came from the bedroom
No pants, my bra undone.
I gave up on personal hygiene
On the arvo of day one.
I stumble to the lounge room
And stare at my three kids
Their screen time has quadrupled
But I don’t give a shit
I’ve watched all of Netflix,
Given the house a deep cleanse
Run out of stuff to say to the other half
Fuck I miss my friends
I’ve called out from my balcony
But I can’t see anyone
Cos I don’t live in Europe
I am Australian
We are one. But we are many
And from all the lands on Earth we’re shunned
We share online, and whinge with one voice.
I am, you are in isolation.
A morning glass of rosé is
My only source of fun
I am a frigging hero
I’m in isolation
I miss the shops, I miss the sky, we’re in it for the long run
We’ve got everything we need, unless we need to wipe our bum.
We are one. But we are many
And from all the lands on Earth we’re shunned
We share online, and whinge with one voice.
I am, you are in isolation.
We are bored, but we are ready
To avoid all and every one
We’ll flatten curves, and social distance
I am, you are in isolation.
We stay home, to save our seniors
And to help our friends with dodgy lungs
We’ll share a dream, and beat this virus.
I’ll stay, you stay, in hibernation.
I am, you are, we’re in… isolation.
I’ll ask you to cast your mind back to 1985 when a then mullet-haired, precocious 5-year-old Em was preparing yet another home concert interpretive dance extravaganza; which she may or may not have planned to make up on the spot.
The Music: Like A Virgin
I’m NOT shitting you. I was already convinced that Madge was my biological Mother so it was either going to be something from her or Wham. As for the topic of the song, the only association I had with the word ‘virgin’ was the 5 litre drum of Olive Oil my Dad Vincie kept next to the stove.
The Set: A small chaotic toy room with blankets haphazardly thrown over piles of crap so as not to distract my audience (who I’d assured I’d cleaned said toy room two days earlier) from my performance.
Dolls were lined up, the cat trapped in a pram, three tiny chairs were positioned a few inches from the stage for maximum eye contact possibilities and my family were summoned to watch yet another elaborate one woman stage show.
Fast forward thirty-five years and the only things that’s changed is the set is a little larger, I write my own innuendo laden music and my cat Fluffy is no longer with us (RIP Fluffy). My Father is still made to sit and watch my performances, because he’s in my band – he’s literally a metre from me at all times. My neediness as a child knows no limits. If you had’ve told 5-year-old Em she would one day be given her very own TV spectacular, she would have probably said: “Yes, I expected that would happen. Now can you please find me some sequins, five pink ponies and a cake to jump out of”.
Now, I know people have TV shows all the time, and no-one in the history of the word has carried on nearly as much as I have in the lead up to my musical standup show being on the tellie tonight, but let me tell you why. One thing I’ve learned in life is to take the wins when they come along and roll around right to the edges in them. There have been times when I didn’t know if I would ever work again. There was a time when I was painted as basically the worst human in media. There was a time I was so broken by grief, I wasn’t sure if I could get out of my PJs, let alone be funny again. But here we are, and I we may never be here again (if the show isn’t received well!) so I will continue to shout it from the rooftops (and on The Project tonight BTW. Channel 10, 6.30pm)
So for those of you who are new here, the Rage and Rainbows musical comedy concert is a celebration of female rage and joy. It’s my love letter to the women of the world who have felt that they’ve had to make themselves smaller for society. Be it physically, mentally, emotionally or in any other way they may have contorted or suppressed who they really are and/or how they really feel. It’s also a show to help the men of world understand why some of the women they love have been walking around PISSED OFF but not really sure why. Dudes! This is gold dust, this is secret women’s business, this will make things better for you – so maybe take notes, ‘kay?! I wrote all the songs in the show with some of my cleverest pals, they are on Spotify and Apple Music and pretty much anywhere you listen to your tunes if you want a preview before tonight.
If you’re reading this and you are one of the 3000+ who came along to the taping – thanks for helping me pay for this thing to be made. You literally made a huge dream of mine come true.
I’ll leave the last word to my pal Wil Anderson who saw my show and said the following:
“It was amazing. I have thought about it a lot since, which is the sign of a really good show. It’s unlike anything else that’s out there at the moment. It’s part Lady Gaga, part Australian Idol, part John Farnham, part Barry Humphries at his greatest suburban satire, part Ru Paul’s Drag Race. There’s giant dancing vulvas and brilliant songs, and an eight-piece band. It’s a force of nature.I’ve seen all the best comedians in the world, and this show is so fucking funny. Laugh-out-loud, gut-punchingly funny. It landed hard and strong and fierce. It’s like watching a six-part Eurovision. I imagine when Madonna wanted to try stand up: she had a dream about Em Rusciano’s show.It’s for an audience that isn’t being catered to by other theatres. It’s a spectacular celebration. It’s incredibly educational. It was a wonderful show, I loved it.”
I cried REAL SALTY tears when I heard him say that. See you on the tellie tonight you guys (and on The Project beforehand, if you want to pre-game with me).
8:30pm, Channel Ten!
2019 TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT
Go on, admit it. That’s the best damn poster you’ve ever seen, isn’t it?! That unicorn was named ‘Gary’ (by my husband Scott) and not only did Gary demand a bow to match my purple leopard print explosion, he also had a fan blowing his mane out like Beyoncé. What a diva. I finally met my match.
Now, about the show.
Why Rage and Rainbows?! Because it’s the two extremes I’ve found myself swinging between over the past year. Because it’s probably what will be written on my tombstone when I die. Because once you get to the other side of anger, good shit is usually waiting for you (i.e a pot of gold. Or a cheeky leprechaun. You never know).
Here’s the official blurb:
“For ten years, if you asked Em Rusciano how she was, she said, “fine”. Yeah bullshit. She was lying awake at 3am with unexplained rage, and so was EVERY OTHER WOMAN SHE KNEW.
This past year, Em had a baby, turned 40, left her job and had a combined 45 minutes sleep. There’s been next-level rage. There’s also been love. There’s been day drinking and breast feeding NOT AT THE SAME TIME PISS OFF CLICK-BAIT WRITERS.
In the ‘Rage and Rainbows’ tour— Em is finally giving voice that gnawing rage we all try to hide. She’s unleashing it, she’s dunking it in white wine, she’s rolling it in glitter, and giving it an 8 piece back up band and four costume changes.
She’s also going to tell you what to do with it, and send it on it’s way.
More than a show, ‘Rage and Rainbows’ is a festival for anyone who’s felt fed up, furious, exhausted, demoralised… but has still maintained a strong passion for sequins.
You feeling me??
I wanted to understand my unexplained anger (look, a lot of it was easily explained, actually – hey family, don’t walk past the dog vomit and tell me there’s dog vomit; PICK THE DOG VOMIT UP). I was feeling the undercurrent of women being fed up with how things were turning out for us not only on a global scale, but also in our own lives.
So I decided to do a deep dive on that rage: I spoke to the Mothers at the school gate, I spoke to the women at the shops, I spoke to men about the women in their lives… and I realised I wasn’t alone. I think it’s time women stop re-packaging their anger to make it more comfortable for everyone else. In the long run, it’s self-harm, and it only hurts the people around us when we think we’re actually protecting them. Can you do a funny show about anger – hell yes! Because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry, right guys?!
So that’s what the show is about.
Rage and Rainbows also has ORIGINAL SONGS. Original, fabulous, sing-along songs, which I got to write with the unbelievably talented Kate Miller-Heidke and her partner Keir Nuttall. Now, listen here: I want you to learn them before the show. Study them. Press play/pause on your stereo and write out the lyrics while lying on your bed with a lollipop, like the good ol’ days. I want you to be able to sing along with me, lighter in the air, hand on your heart. Scroll down for the links to songs.
There’s also some fancy VIP packages available, which makes me feel like Mariah. VIP’s get to do fancy things like see a private sound check party before the show, have a little Q&A, and get some super stylish Merch that I have designed myself. More details via the ticket links on the tour page, or on the Frontier Comedy website.
Okay, let’s talk dates. I’ve already had to add in two additional shows, you glorious thirsty bitches!
DATES / CITIES
ATTENTION SYDNEY! There’s been a date change for the extra show we added due to a scheduling conflict. It was announced as Sunday 11th August, but it’s been changed to Friday 9th August (hooray! A non-school night! More wine!) at 8pm, still at Enmore Theatre.
Existing ticket-holders will have received an email from Ticketek to tell you: your tickets are still valid for the Friday show, and you can absolutely get a refund if you need. Fingers crossed it still works for you anyway, and if it doesn’t: I’m SO sorry. I’ll raise a glass in your honour, my loves. Any issues, contact Ticketek or Frontier comedy and they’ll sort you out.
Tickets are officially on sale, and selling fast (no, really. Some of the shows are already sold out. GO NOW. GO GO GO). Click on the button below for your city to be directed to the booking site.
SONGS TO LEARN:
So here’s your homework.
1. Book your tickets (on sale now).
2. Learn the songs.
3. Gather your rage, and meet me at the theatre.
I’ve put everything I have into this comedy concert – physically, financially, emotionally, musically, unicornally. I started writing it last year, attempting to get it all finished before my baby was born. Hahahaha. Nice try, Em. I then continued writing it after he was born, breaking every five minutes to breastfeed, eat, cuddle, or scream into a pillow. But I did it. I finished writing the damn show.
I can’t wait for you to see it, dolls. Bring it on.
Where did 2018 go?
May I remind you that the winter Olympics were this year? I mean we had a whole Olympics and I can’t even remember it. Not one thing. Not one chilly backflip. Also: Katy Perry and Taylor Swift made-up, we got yet another new PM and Barbra Streisand cloned her dead dog Daisy – what a time to be alive!
2018 has been a strange old ride for me. I can safely say that I experienced all the emotions on the menu.
The great news is that I’m finishing it in a much healthier and happier place than where I started. If you’d told me in January that come December, I’d no longer be working in breakfast radio, I’d be eight months pregnant and writing my first fiction novel – I would’ve slapped your sassy mouth and then totally made out with you because that’s secretly what I’d wanted! How did you know?! Did you steal my dream diary?!
Looking back on my year the standout events were:
Starting a new radio show
My Evil Queen National tour
Recording the Wil Anderson ‘Wilosophy’ podcast
Media shitstorm: “Em Rusciano is a difficult, volcanic bitch!”
Performing my ‘Difficult Woman’ show with Chong Lim and John Peter Farnham’s band in the Adelaide Cabaret festival
Finding out I was pregnant
My best friend Michael getting married.
Signing my new book deal
Leaving breakfast radio
All of these events were life changing in different ways. Some were traumatic and some fantastically wonderful – I’ll leave you to decide which is which! I’m now able to look back at each of these moments and see how they contributed to the fat and happy person sitting here typing these words. They all needed to happen for me to be in the position I’m now in. I wish I’d known that, during some of the more trying events; the times when I felt as though I’d never see the sun again, when I felt misunderstood, ripped off and like I was slowly being poisoned by the rage I was trying to keep on the down-low (I was failing miserably at that).
Finding out I was pregnant cleared the decks for me. It put into perspective what was important and what things I needed to change in order to be the best version of myself. (Yes, I will now go and punch myself square in the vag for writing that last sentence.) Because I was the very worst version of myself earlier this year. I look back on photos and text messages and marvel at the fact I’m not locked up somewhere. I believe people are capable of change, if they give themselves the chance to do so. It’s fucking hard shining the light inwards and seeing all the dark places. Acknowledging your deficiencies, your fuck-ups and short-comings is shithouse too. Putting in boundaries, saying ‘no’ and cutting certain people from your life is tough work, but ultimately worth it, I promise.
Look, I’ve always got a shit tonne of work to do on myself, but looking back on this year I’ve realised that I’ve already come such a long way. I’m still learning to check myself and my judgement – ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Like when this blogger recently posted about how one of her children doesn’t get enough likes on Instagram. I judged her. I was so judgey, I was Judge Judy. I’m supposed to now say some moral like “but then I checked myself and stopped judging her”… but to be honest, I’m still not over it. Just when I thought I was done judging, the internet drags me back in.
But I’m getting better.
So I now invite you to write your top three highlights and lowlights below, get it off your chest and perhaps bask in the distance you have come. I’m going to be taking break for a little while so that I can prepare for the prodigal sons’ arrival. I’ll still be around on Instagram and Facebook, because I’m a needy performer who needs constant reassurance that she’s still relevant.
I can’t thank you enough for reading my words and being invested in the things that I make. I love our community and I wish you all a fabulous Christmas and new year.
(On that note we’ve found a few more Christmas packs. For $35 you get a signed book, a shopping tote, some community pins and a couple of other treats. Give the gift of Em for Christmas! They sold out in 12 hours last week so get in quickly!)
See you in 2019 legends!
All my love,