Even now, at 50 years of age, when I hear that a friend or colleague had a Barbie Dreamhouse as a child, the pull of envy in my chest cavity tugs ever so slightly.
My cousin had one. I remember her never wanting to play with it when I was at her home, despite my pleas. She also had a waterbed. And a pool. While I couldn’t wait for a sleepover with my cousin, my mother dreaded my return because I spent hours (and possibly days) lamenting the fact that I had no Barbie Dreamhouse, no waterbed, no pool.
Despite my feeling that I was being denied everything great and wonderful in the world, I wasn’t actually living without Barbie merchandise. I had a Barbie townhouse, complete with three stories and an elevator. As my mother tells it, I didn’t play with Barbies –enough to justify spending more money on a Dreamhouse, anyway.
But, man, did I ever want one.
I suppose Barbie has long represented an ache for me, a craving that was never satisfied.
Barbie has walked hand-in-hand with business and capitalism, a fact the movie makes clear. So many girls longed for new outfits or the latest Barbie iteration, whether Barbie was taking on corporate America or excising tumors in her surgical scrubs. From her conception, Barbie was inspirational and aspirational.
Much of our rampant consumerism has been an effort to mask a deeper longing, a need we haven’t figured out how to fill in any other way besides buying items that make us feel wonderful for only a hot minute. When I longed for a Barbie Dreamhouse, maybe what I really wanted was an extravagance that my frugal parents didn’t often allow. Maybe I wanted more acceptance; what I sought was a “yes” when usually I heard “no.”
To see this all too human ache displayed in a fanciful Barbie film wasn’t what I was expecting to see when I sat in the theater with my Diet Coke and popcorn. I was expecting campy and funny and outrageously pink, and I got that in spades, but I don’t know that I was ready to see a 70-foot screen worth of the longing that pervades us, whether we’re Barbie, Ken, Skipper or Alan.
We’re all trying to understand aches and longings and empty parts within us that a Barbie Dreamhouse can’t fill. The film makes it clear, though, that a Mojo Dojo Casa House can’t either. Nor can a corporate job, a brewski beer, or a deliciously choreographed absurd fight scene.
Woman, man, or something in between—we share this anxious existence together.