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What Barbie Means for Cinema

Photo: Milana Ilickovic
Due to the overwhelming success of Barbie, Mattel is slated to release more feature films based on toys.

Even after the smash hit that was “Barbie” it’s still not “Kenough” money to satisfy Mattel.

The film “Barbie”, a collaboration between the Mattel toy company and Warner Bros, has raked in $1.34 billion dollars at the box office. With that sort of success, it’s almost guaranteed that more “toy-based” movies will be in the works.

In press releases, Mattel has revealed projects based on Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels, Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Uno, and many more. Many fans are concerned these toy-based movies will miss the mark on what made “Barbie” special.

“Barbie represents what it means to be a woman,” Brinley Mondun, who recently saw the movie in theaters, said. “ The struggles and the highs of Womanhood all wrapped into one character, one movie.”

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Barbie represents something. Ever since its conception in 1959, Barbie was created to combat the girl toy market which was dominated by baby dolls. Barbie gave girls the choice, to be a mother to a baby doll or be anything with Barbie. Teacher, doctor, astronaut, or president. All were possible with one doll giving little girls dreams that they never thought possible. If Barbie could be anything… then so could they.

Barbie is an icon. She represents hope, that’s why the movie succeeded so spectacularly because it expanded on the message. But what does Uno represent exactly?

“No other toy carries the same weight that Barbie has,” Mondun said. “They won’t be able to capture that same feeling if made into a movie.”

Other Mattel products like Polly Pocket and Hot Wheels, though popular, do not carry the same societal weight that Barbie carries. Barbie is the #1 most recognizable toy brand in the world. Nothing comes close. So the other cash grab Mattel toy movies would just be unnecessary.

It’s no doubt that no matter what movie comes next, whether it be Polly Pocket, Uno or any of the other Mattel properties, would still be wildly successful because, of course, we would all go see it. But it would and could never reach the height that was Barbie.

Part of what made Barbie so special was that it caters to not just the women who grew up with Barbie but to the men of the world. The Barbie Movie’s portrayal of Ken was a masterclass in how to show someone with flaws who isn’t bad but just craves acknowledgment and love, which could be said about all of us. All Ken knew was being Barbie’s boyfriend and when that didn’t go the way he wanted he lost himself but in the end learned that he was “Kenough” and could be his own person. Which is a surprisingly realistic and heartwarming message for a movie about a plastic doll.

Mattel has 17 films slated for the next few years. They have hired acclaimed film producer Robbie Brenner to spearhead their film division. The 17 films they have in the works are a “Polly Pocket” film directed by Lena Dunham, an “Uno” movie starring rapper Lil Yachty, a “Barney” film starring Daniel Kaluuya, a “Major Matt Manson” movie with Tom Hanks as the titular astronaut, a horror movie based on “The Magic 8-ball,” a “Masters of the Universe” movie series, a “Gritty” “HotWheels” movie directed by J.J Abrams, a “Boglins” movie, a “Big Jim” movie in the style of “Borat,” a “Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy” film with Jason Bateman attached, a film adaptation of the 90’s Wishbone series, a realistic “Matchbox” movie, an “American Girl Doll” film, and a “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” movie starring Vin Diesel.

Very few of these films have the brand recognition and symbolic importance that Barbie has. (Like seriously what is “Big Jim”?) This has led concerned fans into believing these films will be no more than shameless cash grabs by Mattel to capitalize on the success of “Barbie”. Only one of these slated movies offers something unique which is an original film called “The Christmas Balloon” which is inspired by the true story of a small girl’s Christmas wish reaching a family a whole country away. That film at least is doing something other than “Toy movie number 37”. None of those other intellectual properties come close to Barbie and her impact.

Barbie represents girls everywhere and encourages them to dream big and be anything. In the words of Mondun, “Barbie is women.”

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  • M

    Megan PilatoSep 13, 2023 at 10:45 am

    Such an amazing article!

  • T

    Trenton BibeeSep 12, 2023 at 10:19 am

    This is beautiful! Whoever wrote this is the new Shakespeare!