This documentary was about the current battles of Barbie and Mattel, and the fight to remain relevant. The documentary did a good job showing the corporate internal challenges that they face, such as new Barbie sizes not being able to fit into the old Barbie clothes, cars and houses; which make up a mind-blowing amount of inventory. People don’t think about those challenges. People just want dolls that give their kids something to make them happy, keep them interested, and ideally also share a positive message. This used to be the case. The career Barbies showed how Barbie remained relevant over the years by giving something for girls to aspire to. The African American barbies with different hairstyles and fashion made something for more girls to connect with, and more accurately represent real people and populations. But that is where things pretty much stagnated.

The documentary felt a little stagnant… but was that the fault of the filmmakers, or just a circumstance of the fact that Barbie is so stagnant? Even their hardest attempt at making different size Barbies was laughable to anyone not immersed and constrained by corporate world. They made Barbies that were slightly shorter, slightly different color, slightly larger/fuller sized. Everything appeared to be a pretty slight change except for the drastically different hair and clothes; but both hair and clothes are easily changeable. Obese Barbie may have still been to controversial, even though according to the US CDC in 2018, 39.8% of Americans are obese.

The documentary showed how Barbie being put on the cover of Sports Illustrated made the public really angry. It was an admitted mistake, and a reasonable mistake; since marketing is always on full force and typically no publicity is bad publicity. Except for this one time. If Mattel survived bad publicity and public outrage over Barbie on Sports Illustrated, then it probably could and would survive creating obese Barbie, overweight Barbie, dwarf or midget Barbie, handicapped Barbie, and other “Real-World” Barbies.

That’s what made it kind of laughable, showing how truly hard people were pushing inside of Mattel to keep Barbie relevant, and were wanting to make “drastic” change. But it was never enough change for anything to actually change. I wonder how the people working there felt after watching it, and if they could see where drastic change was just not happening.  The documentary was interesting to show not only a glimpse of Barbie’s journey over the years, and how American culture has changed, but above all – how hard it is to remain relevant.

Barbie is the very epitome of what women are “supposed to be”, but now is a time when women are pushing hard to be untethered by societal expectations and limitations of what they are “supposed to be”, but rather, what they “are”.

tiny shoulders rethinking barbie, barbie