Warning: The following contains spoilers for “Barbie.”

Anyone who played with Barbie as a kid will tell you that their make-believe scenarios — fights between friends, trips to the doctor, frantic searches for shoes before a fashion show starts — fueled the unpacking of real emotions. In Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” such a moment arrives in the second half of film against the backdrop of the the candy-colored plastic dreamland.

Barbie (Margot Robbie) has made her return to Barbie Land after a brief, overwhelming visit to the real world. She’s despondent over the changes her feminist utopia has undergone as the Kens have taken over, and her newfound feelings of inadequacy are tormenting her: “I’m not smart enough to be interesting. I can’t do brain surgery. I’ve never flown a plane. I’m not president. No one on the Supreme Court is me. I’m not good enough for anything.”

America Ferrera’s Gloria — a woman in the real world whose dark fantasies about Barbie have set the doll’s crisis in motion — comforts and reassures Barbie in a sweeping monologue that outlines the maddening and contradictory expectations women must negotiate.

It is literally impossible to be a woman,” Gloria says. “You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough… I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing a woman, then I don’t even know.”

Giving the powerful monologue that’s at the heart of the movie to Gloria, rather than the film’s namesake, felt more earned, Gerwig told The Times.

“America’s [Gloria is] a human, America’s us,” Gerwig said. “America has lived in the world as a person and can kind of articulate all this. Barbie just got flat feet yesterday.”

“When I was working with America in rehearsal,” Gerwig continued, “she shared with me, from years earlier, something she’d written in a notebook, which was astonishingly similar to what the speech was. And it was like that thing in ‘The Shining’: ‘It was always you.’ We’d been, each in our way, coming to this moment. When she gave that speech, it was coming from such an unadorned true place inside of her.”

Reading the words in the script for the first time, Ferrera said, “it just hit me as the truth.”

Margot Robbie as Barbie in Greta Gerwig’s film about the beloved and complicated doll.

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

“There’s no woman in my life who those words aren’t true for,” she told The Times. “Not a single one. And when we hear the truth, it hits in a certain way, and you can’t unhear it, right?”

The actor added that Gerwig didn’t put parameters on how to perform it.

“Greta never gave me a target,” Ferrera said. “We talked about it, but she wasn’t like, ‘I want you to laugh here. And I want you to cry there.’ Even when I was like, ‘What’s the tone of this?’ she said, “I don’t know, let’s just do it and find out.’”

Here is Gloria’s monologue in its entirety:

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.

Times staff writer Mark Olsen contributed to this report.

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