Normally, pop culture is one subject that this writer strays from unless it involves politics. That being said, the announcement of Sony Productions to want to cast Amy Schumer to play the role of Barbie in its film of the same name deserved a bit of a mention, if not a Mt. Hamner rant. Before beginning an editorial opinionated commentary/rant, a bit of background is necessary.
The toy company Mattel produces the iconic doll, which debuted on March 9, 1959, at the American Toy Fair in New York City, per History.com. The first massed produced toy doll in US history was conceived by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, when she observed her daughter ditching her baby dolls to play with paper cut-outs of adult women in imaginary play. Though modeled on a German comic strip character named Lilli and initially marketed as a “racy gag gift for adult men in tobacco shops,” the “Lilli doll” became increasingly popular with children, prompting Handler to buy the rights to the doll, renaming it “Barbie” after her own daughter, Barbara.
Mattel began marketing the doll through the “Mickey Mouse Club” TV show, which it began sponsoring in 1955. By 1961, huge customer demand for “Barbie” led the toy company to release “Ken,” Barbie’s boyfriend, who was named after Handler’s own son. Subsequent years saw the release of Barbie’s best friend Midge in 1963, and her little sister, Skipper, in 1964.
However, Barbie has not existed without some controversy, despite the doll’s popularity and huge commercial success. While many thought Barbie brought an alternative to traditional 1950s gender roles through her various occupations portrayed by the various outfits adorning the doll at purchase, many saw the iconic doll’s never-ending supply of outfits, cars and homes teaching children to value materialistic items. But, it was Barbie’s appearance that drew the most controversy, considering that her 36-18-38 measurements were viewed as “unrealistic.”
As a young adult woman who sported Barbie’s measurements until having a child, these measurements were not unrealistic. And, as a child who received every conceivable Barbie, Ken, Midge and Skipper that brought hours of fun and enjoyment, not once did her measurements or appearance produce any negative body image. Neither did her “endless wardrobe” or iconic cars and houses produce negative “materialism.” It wasn’t even an issue because “it was a toy.” Toys are not realistic imitations of real life, which was something children in days gone by knew. Moreover, parents and extended family provided solid teachings on what is most important in life with material trappings being an “aside” to a good and wholesome life.
According to The Washington Times:
Industry sources told Vanity Fair on Friday that producers Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Amy Pascal envision a “Barbie” film that “will try to take a contemporary spin on beauty, feminism and identity.” The magazine said the story currently involves Ms. Schumer playing a doll that is “expelled” from an idealistic land of toys before venturing off into “the real world.”
Anyone who has grown up with “Barbie” knows Barbie would never be “expelled” from anywhere. Moreover, Barbie would never be associated in any way with someone like Amy Schumer, much less have Schumer portray the iconic toy doll. For generations of Barbie fans, especially us older ones, Barbie was not a maker of political statements, a supporter of fad social trappings, a possessor of wavering values and principles, nor a symbol to stand for feminism and identity. Barbie was a toy, a doll to play “dress up,” that allowed young girls to dream of the possibilities of various outcomes as an adult.
A child could dress Barbie as an airline attendant to dream of traversing the skies on airplanes to different locations around the world. She could light the imagination of a child to dream of conquering the latest incurable disease when dressed as a doctor. In a dazzling sequin gown, Barbie allowed young girls to dream of attending a gala event in their finest to dance and have fun. A child could dream of being on-stage as a singer when dressing Barbie in her iconic black mermaid gown and stand to pose in front of a microphone.
But, as with all things, social justice hounds tapped the iconic doll for controversy and marred the image of Barbie as a tool for imagination play, vaulting her into political, social, and feministic issues prostitution. Amy Schumer playing Barbie is almost a social justice hound dream. This is the woman who claimed she would leave the US if Donald Trump was elected president, then reneged on that declaration, proving she is as full of hot air as establishment politicians. Being that Chuck Schumer is her father’s cousin, it seems to run in the family.
Amy ended up alienating millions of Americans and her own fans through condescending insults toward their political views — something Barbie would never do. Schumer’s attitude, thus influencing her portrayal of Barbie, is in contradiction to the doll’s marketed attitude for decades. Moreover, the association of Barbie with an individual like Schumer further mars the iconic doll’s popularity. While many feminists, liberal lefties and alt-lefties might support Schumer and the film company bringing Barbie to the “fringe,” the other sects of the population might not appreciate the slash to Barbie’s perceived attitude and character.
Just as many parents have censored their children from watching Disney’s “Hannah Montana” because of the debaucherous Miley Cyrus being cast in the role, many parents should avoid the film with Schumer in the role as Barbie.