top of page

"Barbie" and "The Bear": Unmasking Grief and Cognitive Dissonance in Two Worlds

AI Generated Barbie & The Bear
Barbie and The Bear

In the vast realm of entertainment, it's not often that a gritty TV show like "The Bear" and a seemingly saccharine movie like "Barbie" find themselves in the same conversation. Yet, when we delve deeper into the themes of these two vastly different stories, we discover striking parallels between them. "The Bear" offers a raw exploration of grief, while "Barbie" delves into the complex world of cognitive dissonance. Despite their differences, both narratives uncover profound insights into the human condition.

The Unseen Grief of "The Bear"

"The Bear" introduces us to chef Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto, who grapples with the profound loss of his brother Mikey to suicide. The show opens with a dream sequence, one that lingers like an uninvited guest throughout the series. In this dream, Carmy faces a growling grizzly bear in a cage, a symbol of his inner turmoil and unresolved grief.

This dream captures the essence of grief: a lurking beast that emerges when least expected. Carmy, like many of us, immerses himself in the hustle and bustle of daily life to escape the unbearable pain of loss. He throws himself into the relentless chaos of his kitchen, seeking refuge from the gnawing grief that haunts him.

Watching "The Bear" feels like an embodiment of grief itself—momentarily swept away by the whirlwind of life, only to be abruptly confronted by the roaring bear of loss. The show mirrors our cultural inclination to avoid dwelling in grief, encouraging us to power through life's challenges even as we grapple with personal tragedies.

It's a reflection of the world we inhabit—a world where the relentless pursuit of an elusive American Dream often eclipses our collective grief. We're two and a half years into a pandemic that has claimed over a million lives, and yet, we're expected to move on swiftly. We relate to Carmy, trying to rebuild our lives while wrestling with the gut-wrenching reality of loss.

"The Bear" underlines the emotional rollercoaster of grief—the panic, the dread, and the haunting reminders of what once was. It's a poignant reminder that grief is not a linear process; it ebbs and flows, catching us off guard when we least expect it.

Cognitive Dissonance in "Barbie"

Now, let's pivot to "Barbie," a movie that on the surface seems worlds apart from "The Bear." This cinematic creation revolves around the life of a unique Barbie who faces expulsion from Barbieland due to her inability to conform to society's rigid standards of perfection. Her journey into the real world becomes a catalyst for self-discovery and reveals the true essence of perfection—inner beauty and strength.

The concept of cognitive dissonance takes center stage in "Barbie." Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that arises when we grapple with conflicting beliefs or attitudes. For instance, someone who prides themselves on financial responsibility yet makes impulsive purchases experiences cognitive dissonance. Similarly, an employee who consistently receives praise but is told their projects are underperforming faces this discomfort.

Barbie, living in the utopian perfection of Barbieland, has built her beliefs around ideals such as "women are powerful, they can do anything, and they are perfect." Her world conforms to her beliefs, and she blissfully predicts that everyone will like her. As she says, "It is the best day ever. So was yesterday, and so is tomorrow, and every day from now until forever."

However, the dissonance creeps in when Barbie confronts her own imperfection—flat feet. Her belief, "I am perfect," clashes with her new reality, "I have flat feet." To escape this dissonance and avoid confronting reality, she embarks on a journey to the Real World, convinced that her problems will be solved by cheering up the child playing with her.

In the Real World, Barbie's dissonance grows. She realizes that the world isn't perfect, and her belief that women rule and everyone loves her doesn't align with reality. She faces criticism, rudeness, and gender-based discrimination. Barbie's cognitive dissonance becomes palpable, leading to her shedding tears—the first visible sign of her pain.

Avoidance, a common response to cognitive dissonance, becomes Barbie's coping mechanism as she returns to the comforting embrace of her earlier beliefs in Barbieland. She yearns for a world where her convictions hold true—that the world is perfect, women reign supreme, and there's no danger in sight.

But life has other plans for Barbie, as she returns to a transformed Barbieland, ruled by Ken, a reflection of the patriarchal realities of the Real World. The dissonance becomes unbearable, pushing Barbie to the brink of despair.

A Monologue That Sparks Change

In a pivotal moment, the character Gloria, played by America Ferrera, delivers a monologue that sheds light on the impossible and contradictory expectations placed on women. Her words resonate with the cognitive dissonance that we all experience to varying degrees and serve as a catalyst for change.

The Power of Cognitive Dissonance and Grief

As unlikely as it may seem, "The Bear" and "Barbie" converge on the themes of cognitive dissonance and grief. Both narratives reveal the discomfort that arises when our beliefs clash with reality. In "The Bear," Carmy grapples with grief and the need to confront it, mirroring the dissonance that arises from the loss of a loved one. In "Barbie," we witness cognitive dissonance in action as Barbie's beliefs about perfection and her world unravel.

These stories demonstrate that avoiding discomfort and clinging to familiar beliefs can only provide temporary relief. Real growth and change occur when we confront our cognitive dissonance and sit with our grief. Just as Barbie learns to navigate a world that doesn't conform to her beliefs, Carmy in "The Bear" must grapple with his grief rather than escaping it.


"The Bear" and "Barbie" may be worlds apart in terms of genre and tone, but they both offer profound lessons about the human experience. Whether it's the unrelenting grasp of grief or the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, these narratives encourage us to confront our inner turmoil, challenge our beliefs, and embrace the transformative power of change. In the end, it's a reminder that our journeys, however diverse, share common threads of growth, resilience, and the pursuit of self-discovery.


bottom of page