Friday, May 17, 2013

Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse

Before I begin my post about Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse (a post you're all dying to read, I know) I'd like to take a minute to say, that I haven't been paid to review anything that appears on this website. In the event that I have been paid (woo hoo!), I will make sure to post it here on the blog. In the meantime, you can be sure that everything I write is my free and honest opinion.

Back to the blog.

If you watch television with your son or daughter, you've likely seen the commercials for the Barbie Dreamhouse. (For some reason I could only find the German version of the commercial. If you want to see it, you can click here). You've also probably seen the short ad that comes after it, advertising the web television show, Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. Oddly enough, my daughter didn't bother me about getting a Dreamhouse. She seemed more intrigued by the web show, and kept begging me to let her log on and watch it. Finally, after the ten gazillionth plea, I relented.

I really, really, really wanted to hate the series. I had decided, even before watching, that there would be nothing of value to my daughter in the show. Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse? Come on! Isn't each web show just a long commercial for the toy?

But after watching one episode, I am ashamed to say, I really, really, really like the series.

As of writing there are 31 episodes, each about three minutes long. There are also some extras like music videos, and Barbie's little sister's reading fan mail. Each episode deals with Barbie and her friends' (mis)adventures in and around the Malibu Dreamhouse. Although the show is being used to endlessly promote the toy, as well as the Barbie brand (I haven't even tackled the endless activities and games on the Barbie web site, though I plan on doing that in a future post) which I HATE, the show itself is smart and funny, which I LOVE. It constantly pokes fun at the Barbie brand, reality television, commercialism, and the over-the-top Malibu lifestyle. Episode 22 shows what happens when there's a glitter shortage in Malibu. Episode 29 shows what happens when Ken tries to get a life that doesn't involve Barbie--with crazy results. Each episode has something to giggle about.

The only thing that gives me pause about the series is the racial tokenism. Barbie has exactly one African-American friend (Nikki), and one Latina friend (Teresa). Barbie's enemy, Raquelle, has black hair and could be seen as Asian or also Latina. (The name Raquelle brings to mind the actress Raquel Welch, an American actress of Bolivian descent). I think it's great that the Barbie series has a diverse cast, but the characters don't really seem to have any shape or form of their own outside of Barbie. (See Episode 31, "Let's Make a Doll"). I question the judgement of the series creators in giving Raquelle black hair. Even in the name of diversity, why should the villain have darker hair and darker skin? What does this say about our perceptions of dark-haired, darker-skinned people in America?

Overall, I would rate this web series as safe, and even enjoyable to watch with your kids. I WOULD however, be ready to ask and answer tough questions about race in America, especially if your child, like mine, is a child of color.

To watch the Barbie:Life in the Dreamhouse series, click here.

Thoughts on this anyone?

Next post, boys' media!!! (I personally don't believe in strictly for boys or girls television shows, but I know that marketing and culture would mark certain television shows, movies, and toys as such.) So, see you soon! In the meantime, don't forget to comment.

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