A few weeks ago, I wrote about “Barbie” (the movie) and disability. As Amber, my social media coordinator says, “the algorithm decided to show your post to a lot of people.” More than a million people, in fact. And wow, did those people have something to say.
I won’t get into all the details, but I will offer a few thoughts on what I learned from this experience:
1. Some people had wonderfully insightful comments about my Barbie post.
I loved hearing from various wheelchair users about how they disagreed with me because they felt seen and represented so well through the dance scene. I loved hearing from other wheelchair users that they wished the film had done more to acknowledge people with disabilities. I deeply appreciated the insights into the character of Weird Barbie (played by Kate McKinnon). These comments changed my mind about the message around disability within the film. (You can read about what changed here.)
2. Some people had terribly snarky and cynical comments.
I have a pretty thick skin in this space, but it troubles me a lot when my page holds mean remarks towards other readers.
3. Lots of people saw my post as being unjustly critical of Greta Gerwig’s film.
I would say that the sign of a truly great film is when it generates terrific conversation about what went well and what could have been better. I hope this post honors Gerwig’s achievement rather than diminishing her craft in any way.
4. I’m still considering WHY so many people reacted with such fervor to this post.
As a society, we like to celebrate diversity without reckoning with what it would cost for us to truly become people and places of welcome. I wonder whether the vitriol that came towards me for suggesting that this film could do better was essentially defensiveness.
5. Social media is fickle.
I had a post with over one million views one day, and one with fewer than 300 views the following week. Again, it comes as a reminder that my calling is not to write controversial posts in order to gain more likes. Rather, it is to faithfully reflect on what it means to be human. Sometimes a million people are interested. Sometimes a handful.
In the end, this flurry of comments and likes and shares and disagreement and affirmation leaves me more or less where I started. Writing about faith, disability, and our meritocratic culture with hopes that I can help us all (myself included) imagine new possibilities for a culture shaped not by conformity and competition but by belovedness and belonging.
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