Since the beginning of time, since the first little girl, there has been the promise of a happy ever after.


In stories as far-reaching as fairy tales to tabloid splashes, a woman’s happy ending has been found in heterosexual romance: the knight in shining armour, a reformed man (different from the others, of course), with true love's kiss.

Thus, the blueprint for women’s happiness and success was born… or so it seemed.

Thankfully, it appears Hollywood is finally changing the narrative.

"I’m not in love with Ken," Barbie (Margot Robbie) defiantly says in Greta Gerwig’s billion-dollar pink-culture hit. As the dust settles on Barbie’s reality-shattering existential crisis, it dawns on her that Mattel’s man-made ending of a plastic-fantastic boyfriend won’t make her happy.

More like this

Barbie rejects the age-old narrative that a romantic relationship will magically solve all of her problems, and chooses to leave the man whose identity is heavily intertwined with her own.

Barbie knows she won’t find herself if she settles for the familiarity and security of being just Barbie and Ken. After all, Barbie has her own dreamhouse and dreamcar in a pink matriarchal paradise; would she really give all that autonomy up for a boyfriend?

In response, Ken has a breakdown, as in their subversive land he is extremely co-dependent (as women typically are in the ‘real world’) on her love as an affirmation that he has value and is "Kenough".

It sheds light on how much of our identity can be lost in a relationship, by over-compromising to the person with higher needs.

Typically, the pressure is on women to adapt, to shrink themselves and their needs for the sacrifice of their so-called 'happy ending'.

Equally, if the pinnacle of success is sustaining the stable love of one man, where does that leave queer women?

Similarly, in Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodríguez) are an inseparable, formidable team, who even raise his daughter, but remain "like brother and sister". As Edgin’s wife died, it would have been easy to introduce his only female friend (who his daughter adores) as his new love interest.

Edgin even sacrifices his wife all over again, to use his one ounce of dark magic to resurrect Holga. This stereotypical act of heroism would have typically been 'rewarded' with a kiss. Yet their relationship never becomes romantic or sexual. Their friendship is proof that platonic love is as powerful and strong as any romantic one, as it even conquers death.

Meanwhile, in James Gunn’s final Marvel outing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, former flames Gamora and Peter Quill don’t end up together either. The alternate Gamora (who stayed in the present after Gamora died in Avengers: Endgame) had not met Quill, or joined the Guardians in her timeline yet.

To begin with, a heartbroken Quill is determined that this Gamora can fall in love with him – after all, she did before – but this time around, she doesn’t.

As Quill acknowledges that this version of Gamora is not the one he knew or loved, he lessens his advances and Gamora lowers her prickly defences. It gives the galaxy-saving duo the room to build a new alliance in the fight against the High Evolutionary, and even part as friends. In a bittersweet farewell, Gamora says: "I bet we were fun."

It’s a heart-wrenching reminder that the woman Quill (and countless Marvel Cinematic Universe fans) loved is gone. The new variant of Gamora won’t be forced into a romantic relationship with Quill for the sake of a traditional happy ending.

Character-driven stories have started to prioritise an ending that each individual person deserves, rather than one that would please an audience (in this case, some MCU fans) or uphold outdated conventions.

Purposefully, the audience witnesses Gamora’s joyful embrace with her new chosen family, the ravagers, to reinforce that there is never just 'one ending' or one way to be happy.

Read more

This shift marks a monumental change in women’s on-screen narrative, as they’re allowed to have a happy ending independent of men and outside of romantic love. It’s an empowering step to move away from sexualising every relationship between men and women, to demonstrate how powerful and fulfilling real friendships can be.

These platonic relationships give women more autonomy and consolidate that they have intrinsic value in themselves; they don’t need to find their other half to be complete.

Barbie sheds her patriarchal ending to sit in the discomfort of an uncertain future - and identity. Both she and Gamora stand firm against the men who supposedly love them, as they both feel that these men don’t know them properly, as they don’t even know themselves.

Barbie and Gamora are happy to sit in their uncertain future, rather than be pressured into a stable romantic one. Instead, they take comfort in exerting their autonomy, trusting their own judgment and protecting their aloneness.

Barbie is now showing in UK cinemas. Visit our Film hub for more news and features or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.