Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Barbie

We've been running a column series (for over three years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we are talking about Barbie. Since the movie came in really strong at its release a few weeks ago and is still all over social media, it made us think of our own experiences with the iconic doll. For fun, check out which Barbie was popular the year you were born. (If you were born before Barbie's existence, we'd love to hear what things were like when she first came onto the scene.)

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them. 

Melissa Amster:

Barbie was such an integral part of my childhood. My sister and I spent hours in the basement playing with our collection of Barbies and coming up with all sorts of stories for them. The earliest memory I have is creating villains in the Barbie universe. Ballerina Barbie was Jessica and then she had two sidekicks named Margo and Luigi. (Luigi was female. I don't know how my sister and I came up with that name either.) It's strange that I can remember these names but can't remember my passwords or why I went into a room. 

Courtesy of Good Housekeeping

When I became obsessed with Back to the Future, I acted it out with my Barbies and Kens. The Barbie pink Corvette doubled as the DeLorean. Peaches 'n Cream Barbie was Lorraine because she had the best dress for the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. 

Courtesy of Fashion Doll Guide

When I got Tracy and Todd, it was around the time my aunt and uncle got married, so I had wedding fever at nine years of age. I would stage weddings on my dresser, since it looked fancy. They always walked down the aisle to "Saving All My Love" by Whitney Houston. As an adult, I learned that song was about an affair. Oops!

Courtesy of Barbie Wiki

I gave my Barbies and Kens different names so they would be individuals. I liked having control over what each Barbie or Ken would be named. If they came with different names, I obviously kept those. (I loved Barbie's friend Miko with the long dark hair.) If I had multiple dolls with the same name, I changed it for one of them. Like I had two Dereks (from Barbie and the Rockers), so one of them was changed to Jimmy. I think I named Dream Date Barbie Diane. I also named one of the Skippers Sari (like Sara, but with an "ee" sound at the end) because my babysitter's sister had that name and I thought it sounded unique. 

As I outgrew Barbies, I still found a way to keep them at the top of my mind, thanks to a friend with whom I shared a wacky sense of humor. Shortly after we became friends during our freshman year of high school, we decided to come up with all sorts of Barbies and Kens that were not yet on the market. Our ideas got pretty bizarre, but we'd send each other drawings and descriptions of each Barbie and Ken we came up with. Seeing one of the humans in the movie coming up with strange Barbie ideas made me think of how we would do that. My favorite, and the one that still cracks me up, is Chicken McNugget Ken. Don't ask. Seriously. :)

I finally got a chance to see the movie this past weekend and it was a lot of fun. It also felt nostalgic in some ways. I appreciated the messages that empowered females, especially from America Ferrera's big speech. I also loved how meta it was. For the most part, it doesn't take itself too serious or anything and that's what makes it even more enjoyable. It also reminded me that I had a few "weird" Barbies when I was growing up, thanks to the use of scissors, markers, and even some nail polish remover. 

My daughter's collection. She even has a "weird" Barbie.

Sara Steven:

**Post contains some light spoilers for the Barbie movie**

I’ll be honest–I didn’t know what to expect from the Barbie movie. When I’d first heard that there would even be a Barbie movie, I wasn’t instantly drawn to wanting to see it. I figured it might be tailored for the younger crowd or so filled with sugary-pop fluff that I’d quickly lose interest. Seeing the movie in a theater was never on my agenda.

It’s not as though I was never a fan of Barbie. Growing up, I was like most young children in the eighties – I loved to imagine what life would be like if I could step into the tiny heel-lifted feet of my Barbie, often playing pretend with friends of mine. I had two Barbies from the Barbie and the Rockers line and loved the cassette tape included in my recognizable Barbie box. To this day, I can still remember their theme song, “Barbie and the Rockers”, and the song “Born With a Mic in Our Hands”. I’d pop the tape into my boom box and we’d listen and sing along while moving our Barbie’s akimbo arms, allowing her to shake and move.

Courtesy of Pinterest

As we grew, we’d branch out and create sensational dialogue. Our Barbies were demon-possessed or had to suffer with ghosts or vampires, our movie influences of classic eighties horror films like The Lost Boys and Poltergeist or anything from Stephen King became the backdrop for our verbal screenplays. We’d cut their hair and become freelance artists with our Barbies, much like with the Weird Barbie character portrayed by Kate McKinnon in the movie. It felt like one of the last steps in the process of growing up with and bonding, then outgrowing our Barbies. 

My young adult son had made plans to partake in "Barbenheimer" with a few friends of his, the biggest draw for him being Oppenheimer. He felt he could suffer along and watch the Barbie movie, too, but it turned out that he absolutely loved it. When he arrived home and filled me in on how great it was and that he recommended I see it in theaters, I decided to take the chance. My husband was a good sport about it and joined me, I think more out of curiosity on his end than anything else. 

I had imagined if they’d ever make a Barbie movie, it would look and feel more like the music video from the song, “Barbie Girl,” by Aqua. A cute, quirky, pink-infused experience. And while all of that is true of the film, I was surprised by the emotional depth, the reflection I still feel weeks after, on top of the fun yet heart-wrenching nostalgia that engulfed me while enjoying the Barbie Bites snack I’d purchased at my local Majestic.

I don’t easily get teary-eyed while watching a film. Yet it happened several times during Barbie. When Margot Robbie (Barbie) is sitting on the bench next to an elderly woman, then tells the woman, “You’re beautiful,” it was such a touching, lovely moment. And who didn’t fight back tears during America Ferrera’s (Gloria) monologue about the trials of being a woman. At one point during her speech, I leaned over to my husband and said, “Yep, pretty much.” Gloria’s relationship with her daughter mirrored my own, considering how much I miss the days when my two sons were younger, when life seemed so much easier. When they thought that everything I did was amazing and wonderful. Before they realized I’m just a fallible human, and nowhere near perfect.

Barbie realizes that, too. It might seem easier to be perfect, and she might miss the ease of that life, but it’s better to experience a real life full of mistakes and complications, because it means a whole range of emotion and feeling. I love that my children know the real me too. I think we can form tighter bonds when we can be ourselves. 

My husband still talks about the film. He said it made him question his own choices and the type of relationship we have. I liked how towards the end of the film, Barbie lets Ken (Ryan Gosling) know that she appreciates him and apologizes for the times she may have taken him for granted, and in turn, he also apologizes to her. Amidst all of that are the multiple Barbies and Kens that we’ve seen over the years. And the Alan doll, portrayed by Michael Cera. I tried to zero in on all of the different characters I remembered playing with while I was growing up, even if they were never my own personal Barbies. Overall, I’m really glad I decided to take a chance on Barbie. I think, much like what Barbie did for me when I was a child, it changed my perception of the world, for the better.             

Share your Barbie memories with us!

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dstoutholcomb said...

this was my first Barbie:

I had this one, too:

I had a lot more over the years.


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Barbie Jacket said...

"Sara and Melissa Talk About...Barbie" is a delightful conversation that delves into the enduring allure of Barbie. From her ever-evolving style to her inspirational role, Barbie's impact on generations shines brightly in this engaging discussion.