Barbie has been much maligned in recent years. People are contemptuous of her movies, they disparage her fashion – and they make fun of her boyfriend Ken (that’s low). But not me, I’m a fan. From observation, I find that Barbie is a well-rounded, accomplished young woman with impeccable manners – an ideal role model.
I don’t think that other, less plastic, role model candidates for our young girls are awful. Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, The Olson Twins, to name a few, are all ambitious and successful. But they fall short of Barbie’s perfection. For instance, some have very questionable, or just plain odd, dress sense. For whatever reason, Miley Cyrus is struggling with her wholesome image. These girls sometimes make bad food choices. They make a range of bad decisions that generally end up in the media. Really, that’s fine. It tells me that essentially, these girls are human.
Barbie, on the other hand, rarely puts a foot wrong. Her accomplishments are numerous; she is athletic, talented, kind to her sisters and selflessly supports many charities. She is well-travelled, having frequently visited France to film her movies. She’s also visited the French countryside as well as other mainland Europe locations. She plays the guitar and she sings. She even enjoys painting.
Furthermore, Barbie loves classical ballet and dances beautifully. Her performances in “Barbie in Swan Lake” and the “Nutcracker” were stellar. No-one can question that Barbie has a sense of wonder and magic. She is supremely can-do. She values her friends and understands how to be a good friend. Barbie is in a stable relationship. When Barbie does have disagreements with her sisters, friends or Ken, she resolves the conflict with grace and civility.
As a result of Barbie’s movies my daughter recognizes Tchaikovsky music and adores watching ballet. I took my daughter to see the Bolshoi Ballet but it was too long and too serious for a child. Barbie has achieved what the Bolshoi could not. Even though Barbie’s ballets are loose adaptations of the original ballets, this isn’t a hollow achievement. Barbie’s ballets feature Tchaikovsky music played by an orchestra. Lovely. The dancing in the movies feels very real because it was animated from dances performed by members of the New York City Ballet using a technique called motion capture. These Barbie ballets have merit.
When my daughter is struggling with a situation at school, Barbie has plenty of analogies to help me out. Barbie is bound to have experienced something similar. We talk about how Barbie and her friends sorted out the problem to get ideas. After watching a Barbie movie my daughter and I hug and boogie around the room to the happy “boppy” music. The soundtracks are great fun and these movies bring me treasured time with my daughter.
You get the picture? The cynical might point out that being made of plastic and having a team of experienced advisers makes it very easy for Barbie to be a paragon. Undoubtedly! As adults watching Barbie, we might say that her “goodness” is overdone. We are suspicious and disbelieving that anyone can have so many virtues. But my daughter does not think that way – and I suspect that many young girls do not. They take Barbie at face value. So, all of Barbie’s virtues crammed into one person do not trigger my daughter’s disbelief, but rather her admiration. My daughter sees kindness and a charitable spirit as normal behavior to copy and to demand from others.
So, when all’s said and done, I am happy that my daughter is learning from a kind-hearted, beautiful, adventurous, educated woman with Barbie’s work ethic and style. I will be very happy indeed if my daughter can remember half of the wonderful things that she has learned from Barbie when she grows up.