Today In Pop Culture: Barbie Movies Are A Thing, But Why?

Published on March 9th, 2016 in: Today In Pop Culture, Toys and Collectibles |

By Jeffery X Martin

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The Barbie doll was introduced on this date, back in 1959. That chick is 57 years old and, suffice it to say, she looks great. She looks even better now that Mattel has decided to make Barbies in different skin tones and body types. I can’t be the only one to see those wasp-waisted blonde Barbies and think, “Damn. Eat a toy sandwich or something.”

Barbie dolls generated a wide variety of accessories. When I was a kid, every girl wanted a Barbie Dream House. Remember the giant Barbie head that you could put washable makeup on? I wanted one of those, because I thought Barbie would have looked great as Peter Criss. She’s got her own clothes, her own pets, her own super-groovy customized van to go to her own beach house in; this is the girl who has it all.

And while Barbie may have gotten weird (remember Pregnant Barbie?) once in a while, nothing about the Barbie phenomena is stranger than the streak of Barbie movies that began in 1987. Cartoon tie-ins are nothing new in the toy marketing world, but few of them of tried so hard to capture the zeitgeist of suburban white girls as the Barbie franchise.

Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World/Barbie and the Sensations–In her first video adventure, Barbie has a rock band, because of course she does. They’re sort of the Go-Go’s, and they after they finish their world tour, they have to play one more show in outer space to help promote world peace. In Barbie Land, we’re not just the world, we’re the whole freakin’ universe. While they’re in space, the band’s name changes to the Sensations, with absolutely no explanation given. They come back to Earth through a time warp and end up in 1959. This video proved that Barbie could sing, but she could never be as truly, truly outrageous as her toy rival, Jem. Looks like somebody shrank Meg Foster.

Barbie in the Nutcracker–Little girls all want to be ballerinas, don’t they? So does Barbie! And she’s the star of the Nutcracker, because of course she is. It’s pretty much just the Nutcracker, complete with that delicious public domain music by Tchaikovsky, except Barbie does get to teach aspiring ballet dancers everywhere that if you practice hard, you’ll get all those complex steps right. Well, no shit, Barbie. My little girl learned that from Suspiria.

The Barbie Diaries–In an attempt to make a version of My So-Called Life ten years too late, The Barbie Diaries gives Barbie a last name (Roberts) and makes her a sophomore in high school, pining after hot guy Jordan Catalano… I mean, Todd. She should be moist for Kevin, but as we all know, Barbie has no vagina, so what’s the point of all this anyway? This was the first (and last) Barbie movie filmed with motion-capture technology. Andy Serkis played every single role, including the Barbie Dream House. That last sentence may be a lie.

Barbie and the Three Musketeers–By 2009, the Barbie series was referencing classic works of literature more than Iron Maiden. Wary viewers expected Barbie and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to drop at any time, with Barbie befriending a magical albatross named Wingy that she wore around her neck like an amulet. Instead, we got a female version of The Three Musketeers, which sounds like a video I used to rent from the back room before my prostate got all swole. There’s also a sword-wielding cat, like Puss in Boots, but not. The only thing missing is Bryan Adams, Sting, and Rod Stewart singing, “All for one, all for Barbie.” On second thought, it’s probably OK that we don’t get that. We didn’t want that song the first time.

Barbie: A Fairy Secret–Well, I think we all knew this was coming, but the title is unfortunately misleading. In this movie, Barbie discovers that all the fairies live in a town called Gloss Angeles, and I wish to all hell I were making that up. This movie involves shopping, love potions, and going to Paris. It’s as much a boarding school fantasy as M├Ądchen in Uniform, but nowhere near as arousing.

The Barbie movies are in a class by themselves. There are generations of girls who don’t know real fairy tales, but they know the Barbie versions, and toy sales have ascended in accordance. It could be worse, I suppose. Thankfully, we only got one Garbage Pail Kids movie.

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