A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Barbie Diaries is a 2006 straight-to-DVD installment in the series based on the popular Mattel doll first launched in 1959. Barbie and her high school friends work at modeling such virtues as friendship, loyalty, decency, and academic effort. When they make mistakes, they do their best to correct them. Mean girls and popular kids pose challenges, sometimes exhibiting exclusionary behavior. Barbie has a crush on a popular jock but realizes she really likes a less popular guy better.
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What's the story?
With its tame depiction of teen issues -- popularity, self-acceptance, nonconformity --THE BARBIE DIARIES is a kind of High School Musical for younger kids. 16-year-old Barbie (voiced by Kelly Sheridan) starts her sophomore year as the world's most perfect-looking self-declared nerd, and the plot revolves around her rejection by the popular mean girls and eventual understanding that she's better off without them. When Barbie loses a school news anchor job to the popular mean girl Raquelle (Chiara Zannio ), she decides to interview the "populars" for a story she herself can anchor. As she gains their confidence, she has less time for her real friends, Tia (Venus Terzo), the "intellectual," Courtney (Sarah Edmonson ), the drummer, and Kevin (Matt Hill ), the aspiring filmmaker. They feel Barbie's ditched them for her own place among the populars. At the same time, Raquelle discards her boyfriend, Todd, and he turns to Barbie, who has long had a crush on him. Jealousies arise. Friends disappoint and later forgive each other. Barbie starts wearing a "magic" bracelet and writing in a matching diary, and she believes that magic is improving her luck. A secret admirer leaves notes for Barbie, but it's not who she thinks it is. All riddles and frictions are resolved at the Fall Formal, where Barbie, Tia, and Courtney debut their garage band and recognize that it's best to be true to yourself.
Is it any good?
This movie tries to be meaningful but the messages are so mixed that it would be difficult to say what the meaning actually is. The message in The Barbie Diaries seems to be that it's a mistake to conform to standards set by shallow, popular kids who are more consumed with being admired than with being true to themselves. However, like the "populars," Barbie and her friends like to talk about clothes and makeup and boys, and like the populars, they have long legs, thin thighs, and perfect hair. Looks are not everything, but it's difficult to accept the premise that Barbie, Tia, and Courtney are unpopular figures of derision. Many movies that talk up the virtues of nonconformity at least present role models who regular-looking kids can relate to. Barbie is the lead guitarist and singer in a band. She is cute and perky. But in her fictional world, friends somehow describe her as unexciting. Tia and Courtney say Barbie is "levelheaded" and "kind-hearted," the "glue" that holds the trio together. Yikes. It must be tough standing out in their world. Many of the stories in the Barbie entertainment franchise are princess-oriented. Fantasy also persists in this high school-Barbie world of blissful, upper-middle class privilege. Kids buy their own formal dresses in fancy shops and drive themselves to school in convertibles. It seems like a pretty darn golden existence, a life unhindered by nagging parents, curfews, and poverty. Who needs exciting?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that there don't seem to be any parents in Barbie's and her friends' lives. Although they are only 16, they drive cars to school, they shop for expensive clothes on their own, and they seem to come and go without any need for adult permission in The Barbie Diaries. Is this realistic?
Barbie believes she has a magical bracelet that in combination with writing in her diary brings her good luck. Do believe in magic? Do you think it may have been Barbie's hard work that made it seem as if she was lucky?
Discuss how to separate the movie from the products being promoted.
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