Where to stream it?: Available for rent/purchase on Amazon, Google Play, and Apple iTunes
Director and Producer: Susan Stern
Associate Producer: Trish Harrington
Featuring: Ruth Handler, Barbara (Handler) Segal, Elliot Handler, RuPaul, Sandi Holder
Introduction: Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour
Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour first appeared on screens in 1998, and now, in honor of its 25th anniversary, we're getting the enhanced Director's Cut. The documentary is set to make its on-demand debut on June 27, so while you're counting down the days till Margot Robbie works her magic as Barbie in theaters, Barbie Nation is streaming to quench your thirst for all things Barbie.
Barbie's Busty Beginnings
The film kicks off by uncovering the genius behind Barbie, Ruth Handler, who drew creative inspiration from the lovely lady lumps. She wanted to break free from the constraints of the conventional baby doll and create something truly empowering for teenage girls.
In the film, Handler opens up about her intentions saying, “I felt little girls growing up have enough difficulty adjusting to their own breasts as they start to develop…and I felt if they got a grown-up doll with breasts, it would ease their feelings about themselves…”
Check our interview with director Susan Stern here!
This documentary serves as a backstage pass to the pink world of Barbie obsession. We meet a vibrant and eclectic cast of characters through a series of interviews, each with their own special relationship to the iconic doll.
For some of them, Barbie is a gateway to nostalgia but for others, Barbie is a blank canvas where they unleash their wildest self-expression. It's like a playground of fantasies, kinks, and things you never thought you'd see a Barbie do.
Allen, one of the interviewees, leaves a lasting impression with his extensive Barbie collection and the LGBTQ+ soap opera he acts out with them. The most emotionally striking moment in the film comes when he discusses his deceased partner and the profound connection they shared through the dolls. His vision of a world that mirrors his Barbie universe, where love knows no bounds, carries a poignant message, particularly in light of current events.
Barbie Nation also gets into the nitty-gritty of things, touching (only briefly) upon her supposed link to cancer, the misogynistic backlash she faced upon release, and the unrealistic body standards she represents to some. Through the personal journey of one individual, the documentary highlights the damaging effects of striving for the “Barbie physique.” It's a reminder of the darker side of striving for a perfect image.
Midway through the film, we meet Marcella, who challenges the perception of Barbie as a predominantly white image. She proudly shows off her extensive collection of Black Barbie dolls, hoping to spotlight the diversity in Mattel’s lineup. But, the documentary itself fails to live up to that same level of representation. Marcella stands alone as the sole Black participant, exposing the glaring lack of diversity within the film.
Barbie Nation does a decent job of mixing history with personal tales from hardcore Barbie fans. But not everything is perfect in the Dreamhouse. It's only 55 minutes long which means some interviews and topics get just a quick glimpse, leaving us wanting to know more. And since it is the 25th anniversary of the film, it would've been awesome to catch up with the original participants and find out where life has taken them. Still, all in all, Barbie Nation is a must-watch for the Barbie fanatics out there and anyone curious about the impact of this iconic plastic princess.
The filmmaker says, “Everybody has a Barbie story,” so what's yours? Let us know in the comments!