For generations, Barbie has been part of our culture. As soon as the doll was first released in 1959, generations of children have not only grown up playing with the doll, but she has had a cultural impact on the zeitgeist overall. From cartoons, appearances in Pixar films, and even the earworm song Barbie Girl by Aqua, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know what a Barbie doll is or didn’t grow up with one.
With the new Greta Gerwig film Barbie hitting theaters later this month, it’s time to reflect a bit on the impact that the plastic toy has made on generations of children. Originally released over 25 years ago, Barbie Nation looks at the cultural influences Barbie had on the nation and the world around us. While the documentary obviously doesn’t cover the more recent additions to pop culture Barbie has made or popped up in, it’s an interesting look at just what a toy can do to culture overall and the generations who have played with it since she was released.
Barbie Nation comes in at a short 56 minutes, much shorter than most documentaries that you get on streaming services and grace the screens in theaters. But inside that, 56 minutes is a lot of information. From why Barbie was created, directly from Ruth Handler and why she created them. To what being a woman in the toy industry was like after she created Barbie. How not only the creation of Barbie impacted her life, but her children and marriage as well. The personal effects of the doll are not often discussed and it’s interesting to see how both the positive and negative of creating something so iconic can be.
But Barbie is, and always has been more than a doll. From the moment she was released, she became an ideal image. Something girls strived for physically, and it became a struggle for the brand – to meet their goals as well as the desires of society and the children playing with the dolls. And there is a counterpoint to that as well – the doll didn’t represent everyone. She was a woman who had it all and a career that wasn’t as popular at the time. But more than that – she was a white and blonde woman – who left many children feeling left out.
The documentary addresses all of this, as well as the love for the doll and the love to adapt the doll to fit different art forms and communities. It brings into the discussion what happens when Barbies of different races were released and the impact they had on more generations of children. Moreso, what happens when art and subcultures embrace the doll and the different versions of her in extreme ways.
Short and easily digestible, Barbie Nation gives viewers a different look at the doll we all grew up with. And while it is a bit older, and the culture shift and influences from Barbie continue to grow, the points made are no less relevant today as when it was filmed. It’s an interesting look at what Barbie still means to so many, and with Gerwig’s Barbie adding to the ever-growing Barbie universe, it’ll be interesting to see where she will go next.
Barbie Nation is now available on Demand.
About Barbie Nation:
Before there was Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, there was BARBIE NATION, an iconic cult classic set to make its highly-anticipated online debut on Tuesday, June 27 in an enhanced Director’s Cut version.
Barbie Nation fearlessly delves into the depths of Barbie’s dreamhouse, intimately exploring the peculiar ways in which people have embraced Barbie throughout history – and the doll’s own saucy rise from a German sex toy to the savior of Mattel.
For the very first time, this captivating hidden gem will be readily accessible, offering an all-new scene featuring the cherished ‘Black Barbie’. Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Barbie Nation, bear witness to the extraordinary evolution of a cultural phenomenon, and discover the secrets behind the enduring allure of Barbie.