In the Dreamhouse series, Barbie is very much the perfect girl. She never gets upset with anyone, no matter how badly they treat her, she never gets more than mildly frustrated, no matter the situation, and she never stands up for herself to asserts her own rights when people are mistreating her. Although she was able to stand up to Closet on a few occasions, she does so with a smile and a sense that his demands are nothing important that would ever upset her.
One example of Barbie’s perfect girl-ness is her relationship with Raquelle. Raquelle makes it no secret that she doesn’t like Barbie and links her own self-esteem with outdoing her at something. Anything, really. But no matter what Raquelle does or how obnoxious she is, Barbie never has so much as a gently-worded suggestion for her to stop being such a bitch. Their complicated relationship only teaches girls not to stand up for themselves, to endure whatever treatment someone decides to heap on them and just plain put up with terrible treatment.
In the first episode that I will be reviewing, Catty on the Catwalk, Barbie and her friends are getting ready to walk in the Malibu Fashion Show. Of course. How long can a TV show aimed at girls go without having a fashion show? It can solve everyone’s problems and accomplish so many great things. So why wouldn’t everyone have a fashion show every goddamn episode?
Anyway, Raquelle, as always, is determined to outshine Barbie. But this time, she has a new plan. In the beginning of the episode, Raquelle is standing outside of the Dreamhouse holding a plate of cookies. She drops one, but quickly picks it up and puts it back onto the tray. Barbie opens the door and Raquelle announces that she brought her “friend” her favorite cookies, peanut butter fudge. Barbie starts to tell her that that’s no her favorite cookie, when Raquelle asks for a favor.
Barbie, of course, is all ears. Raquelle tells the doll that she wants Barbie to teach her to be just like she is. In the diary room Raquelle lays out her master plan. “My plan is simple,” she says, “Step one, steal Barbie’s secrets. Step two, win the Malibu Fashion Show. Step 3, Ken dumps her and we sail away on his yacht.” The plan is simple, but mystifying. She believes that Ken will dump his girlfriend of 40+ years all because Raquelle wins a fashion show? She believes that being just like Barbie will help her to win, even though she resents Barbie and everything that she is?
Not even slightly suspicious, Barbie starts to teach Raquelle how to be just like her. She begins with the runway strut. She says that it’s all about confidence and instructs her to “project fabulousness”. Whatever that means. Barbie is about as articulate as Tyra Banks.
In the diary room, Barbie tells the audience that she’s so excited to help Raquelle and get her to improve her runway skills. Adding, “Raquelle has so much room for improvement! Wait, that came out wrong.” Are you sure, Barbie? Could you possibly manage to say something negative about someone, ever?
Back at the fashion lessons, Barbie teaches Raquelle about so many important ways for her to walk the runway. Seriously, it’s like a science. But not an actual science with unsexy research and scary test tubes. Like a girly science that’s easy to do and has no real benefit to the world.
-Style switcharoo: A quick change. Barbie changes her outfit in a matter of seconds. Raquelle tries to emulate her and ends up in a mismatched ensemble.
-Cute hair flip: Exactly what it sounds like. Barbie says that it’s all in the neck angle.
-Flaunting the fierce: Using your face to sell the look. She does a duck-face look montage with Raquelle.
-End of the runway twirl: Barbie’s final bit of advice. Plant heel, spin, and smile. It might LOOK easy, but it’s truly complicated and something only an experienced runway walker should attempt.
During the lesson, Barbie admits that Raquelle is laying her flattery on a bit thick. But Barbie says that she’s easier to train than Taffy. Keep in mind that Taffy is a dog.
After the lesson on how to be a fab fashion icon is over, Barbie asks her protege if she has any questions and Raquelle says no, quickly skipping off to form the next part of her dastardly plan. In the dairy room she tells the camera, “Thanks for helping me help myself… to Ken!” With all of Raquelle’s determination to get Ken, I honestly wonder what she thinks she’s going to do with him once she gets him.
But anyway, the next scene takes place at the fashion show. Raquelle is scoping out Ken in the audience. She then says, “You’re about to get Raquelled right between your eyes!” I have no idea what that means. None whatsoever.
The fashion show starts and Teresa and Nikki walk the runway like pros. Of course, all of Barbie’s friends are a part of the show, as who could be friends with Barbie without knowing how to walk a runway? It’s finally Raquelle’s turn. She starts out confidently, but then she steps out of her shoes. She tries to recover with a hair flip, but accidentally blinds herself with her long hair. Determined to still wow Ken, she does the plant, spin, smile part of the end of the runway twirl, but spins entirely too much. She makes herself dizzy and gets disoriented, falling off the runway and into Ken’s lap.
Thinking that her plan has worked, she suggests to Ken that they leave the show. But Ken, of course, only has eyes for Barbie. As soon as his girlfriend of 40 some odd years starts walking the runway, he completely ignores Raquelle. Barbie pulls a bow on her outfit and changes the entire thing, do which an outraged Raquelle declares that she was holding out on her. There is a confetti cannon and Ken stands to applaud Barbie, dumping Raquelle onto the floor. Ken shouts, “I love you, Barbie!” to his girlfriend. On the floor, Raquelle eats some discarded popcorn.
It seems that Raquelle’s scheming and planning is never addressed because her plans are usually so inept that nothing happens as a result of them. But in the real world, girls aren’t up against cartoons who can’t manage to walk in a straight line. They’re going to find themselves being friends with other girls who have the ability to make some of their schemes come to fruition and will be able to sabotage them. Telling girls to never stand up for themselves against people who clearly don’t have their best interests in mind and stay friends with them, despite the disruptions in their life, is a bad lesson to teach them and one that will undoubtedly go on to cause them a lot of problems in the future.
But Barbie’s submissiveness and inability to be proactive is no more clear than on the Reunion Show. Since the style of the show is vaguely related to reality TV, there is a reunion show at the end of season 1. The show features Barbie, Ken, Raquelle and Ryan as these four characters have the most drama surround them. The host, Randy Bravo, opens up by asking Barbie about Raquelle’s constant scheming. Will Barbie let her feelings be known? Will Barbie say that she doesn’t appreciate Raquelle’s ever present attempts to sabotage her and steal her boyfriend?
Of course not. Barbie responds with, “There’s no scheming, Randy.” Where has she been for the entire season? Raquelle did nothing but scheme the entire time. She makes it quite clear that she doesn’t care about or support Barbie and should not be considered a friend, but Barbie, being so forgiving that she wants Closet back after he leads to the destruction of the Dreamhouse, wouldn’t hear of it. With a cheerful tone, she adds, “But things sure are more interesting when Raquelle’s around.”
The show then cuts to a clip of Barbie getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Raquelle is trying to do the same, in a different location that’s not in front of the theatre. But Barbie’s fans trample her and she ends up with her head in concrete.
Back in the studio, Raquelle is bored with all of this nonsense that’s not centered her when Randy asks about her book. Raquelle then springs to life and jumps in front of the camera to promote her book. She says, “It’s called Raquelle, the story of me, told by me.” Ever the helpful brother, Ryan slingshots copies of the hardcover book into the audience. There are assorted screams and someone shouts, “My eye!”
Then Randy turns to the boys. He says, “When it comes to Barbie, both men had to the be alpha doll.” There is a recap of the two fighting at various times in the show. Then They cut back to the studio, where they’re still fighting. Of course, Ryan is a bit of a frenemy to Barbie as well. He is determined to date her and break up her and Ken, but his attempts always go awry and no one thinks anything of it.
In the real world, a person so determined to meddle in someone’s love life would be completely unwelcome and stressful. I’ll get into issues of consent later. But when it really comes down to it, Barbie, the perfect girl, is unable to be clear enough with Ryan that she doesn’t want to date him and is committed to Ken, so he continues to try to win her over, even when his attentions cause problems. If Barbie was assertive enough to make it clear to Ryan that she wasn’t interested, he could go on to try to find someone else to date, or at least, leave Barbie alone. But she’s not, so she doesn’t and Ryan continues to pursue her even though he doesn’t really have a chance.
In the rest of the show, Randy shows clips of Barbie getting plastic pox and Ken coming over to help her and ending up with it himself. Everyone seems to think that this is adorable and Randy makes a comment about, “true doll love.” While Raquelle and Ryan hiss and boos at the cheering crowd through bullhorns. The show wraps up with a joke about going to Paris and the episode ends with Barbie telling everyone that she’ll see them next season.
Overall, Barbie’s inability to stand up for herself is teaching young girls a problematic lesson that they should never object to someone treating them badly or trying to meddle in their lives. In the world that young girls are living in, they need to be clear about what they want and don’t want and be able to stand up for themselves when someone is not acting in their best interests. But in Barbie’s perfect world, there’s no need to ever say a cross word, even at your own determent.
To read all of the Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse articles, click here.