By Anne T. Donahue
We’re less than a month from the release of Barbie, the movie I’m as hyped as I am very scared to see. After all, the stakes couldn’t be higher: this movie could be very bad, resulting in hundreds of think pieces about why nobody should play with Barbies. Or, it could be terrific, resulting in months of discourse about what it all means until the 2024 Oscars when Ryan Gosling wins Best Supporting over Cillian Murphy. (Imagine the discourse then.)
My true feelings will be reserved until I actually see it, and my praise will depend on whether my unfairly high expectations are met. Ultimately, as a child who grew up playing Barbies I demand to see her depicted in the same way she lived alongside my own life. And if Greta Gerwig really wants to succeed, this is the what she needs to include:
A child reading specific stage directions before every scene or moment of dialogue
Playing with Barbie is defined by two things: 1) spending hours creating the perfect home in which they live (more on that later), and 2) speaking their narrative aloud. Barbie stories are elaborate. They make zero sense, are based largely on what one thinks adulthood is. “And then they kiss!” is what must be announced, seconds before the Ken with real hair (re-named Brandon) kisses the main girl (name dependant on player’s then-favourite movie). Otherwise, who is this for? Who’s imagination are we tapping into? Why leave anything open to interpretation?
Bonus points for a grown-up’s voice in the background saying, “What was that?” only to be answered with an angry, “I’m not talking to you!” before whispering further plot advancements.
A Barbie home made entirely out of household items one’s parent/guardian allowed to be used for an afternoon
You know whose family couldn’t afford most name brand Barbie accessories? Mine and also my friends’. Thus, we had to improvise: open and empty cassette cases doubled as refrigerators and/or bookshelves. Rolled up washcloths were fashioned into bedding. The large Tupperware case Barbies were kept in while not being used also functioned as a large van/boat/apartment, particularly when on a long car ride and desperate for entertainment.
Give us makeshift accessories or give us death. Make it a real Barbie world.
Barbie and Ken’s names being changed to the names of different movie characters
Believe it or not, late into my Barbie career I renamed my dolls “Jo” and “Bill” after watching Twister. This not only indicates that I played Barbies for far too long, but that not a soul on this planet referred to their dolls as “Barbie” or “Ken.” Why start now?
Clothes made from Kleenex
Did you know this was possible? Probably, if you and I ever played Barbies under the same roof. Why actual Barbie clothes cost as much as an actual human shirt I do not know, but I can tell you that adding Kleenex to already existing pieces could really spruce up an outfit, particularly if you were hell-bent on recreating each and every Princess Leia ensemble from A New Hope to Return of the Jedi, as I, a person with one human friend at the time, was.
An elaborate set up with no payoff whatsoever
Maybe it’s my ADHD talking, but after spending no less than two hours making a dream house out of areas of the living room and a chair one’s parents never used, the will to actually play Barbie quickly dissolved, resulting in sitting in the midst of an interior masterpiece and watching whatever was on television.
Thus, if we’re not getting a few hours of Margot Robbie and friends sitting stiffly on a makeshift couch because the person responsible for their livelihood has wandered into the kitchen to watch her mom bake pie, this film is but an empty fantasy. Justice for those of us who really just should’ve been given a decorating CD-ROM.
McDonalds tiny Barbies used as villains and/or foils
I have no explanation as to why, but these tiny collectibles were used exclusively as mothers-in-law with British accents who hated everybody but their granddaughter. Most of the time they were named variations of “Chastity Wilcox” and walked the thin line between comic relief and “I’ve run out of ideas for today, so now here’s a plot twist.”
If you can name a better purpose for McDonalds Barbies that wore plastic gowns and had one strand of hair, I’d like to hear it.
One (1) collector Barbie that nobody dared touch
The inclusion of this subplot would do justice to those of us who bought Spice Girls dolls, took them out of the box very carefully, recreated the best scenes from Spice World and then yelled at any stupid soul who dared try and touch them. I will also accept a shout-out to the Titanic Rose doll that I desperately wanted but refused to spend $100 on. (Mostly because I was a 12-year-old who had a $5/week allowance.) 25 years later, and I’ve still never let go.
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