Picks and Pans Review: Barbie Nation
Barbie turns 40 next year—a major milestone for any doll, living or otherwise. And TV is taking notice. Last month, ABC News offered a special called The Secret Life of Barbie, reported by Robert Krulwich with his usual dry wit. This documentary, part of the P.O.V. series, covers much the same ground with less zip and more breadth. We learn how Barbie's creator, Ruth Handler, overcame toy-industry resistance to a children's doll with grown-up breasts. We see how Mattel has altered Barbie's image to fit changing times (glamor girl, working woman). We hear from collectors and critics on the plastic plaything's status as a female role model. What distinguishes Barbie Nation from the ABC program is the extent of its interest in the rich fantasy lives of adult Barbie cultists. Creative lesbians stage an S&M scene starring Barbie and Ken—only on PBS.
Bottom Line: Interesting take on an unlikely icon