Father and child sit together smiling while looking at a smart phone.

Want more recommendations for your family?

Sign up for our weekly newsletter for entertainment inspiration

Parents' Guide to

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Comprehensive docu about iconic, controversial doll.

Movie NR 2018 92 minutes
Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 1 parent review

age 10+

Great conversation starter!

I watched this film on Hulu with our 11-year-old daughter. I was surprised that she stayed engaged for the entire film (we viewed it in one sitting). I had to explain a bit about Anita Hill, and there were a few words that she asked for clarification about (such as “relevant”). The film handled Barbie’s history in a PG manner (I was worried that they would go into the German doll a bit more, but they walked the line well). I was also concerned that they would discuss issues regarding the “plastic surgery Barbie women,” but it didn’t go there at all. Fantastic interviews with feminist leaders and it was interesting to see the Barbie employees talk about their jobs in such personal detail. I love the Fashionista line almost as much as I love Lammily, so it was interesting to see how that was developed. Great film...and it helped me to have some important conversations with our daughter. Whether you are a fan or a hater...or somewhere in between, you’ll find something in the film that will resonate with you.

This title has:

Great messages
Too much consumerism

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This smart documentary takes a comprehensive look at the iconic doll's past and present. What's remarkable about Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie is how much ground is covered in such a short amount of time. While tracing the highs and lows of Barbie's history, the movie hinges around Project Dawn, which is the most ambitious reboot in Barbie's history. In 2015 and 2016, the Mattel designers and marketers involved in the project were tasked with addressing the considerable drop in Barbie sales during the 2010s while also answering the longstanding concerns of feminists and social critics about Barbie's lack of diversity.

No matter what your views are on Barbie, Tiny Shoulders reveals so much about the doll's complicated history. The fact that it was progressive to release a (relatively) anatomically correct female doll in 1959, in the face of strong opposition, shows how Barbie has been a lightning rod of controversy since her inception. The times when Mattel showed advanced thinking around Barbie -- releasing a "Miss Astronaut" Barbie in 1965, for instance, nearly 20 years before the first woman went into space -- are counterbalanced by the notorious "Teen Talk" Barbie from the '90s (which said things like "Math is hard!" and "Let's go shopping!"). It's an impressive feat to convey so much history, back story, and diverging views on Barbie in a feature-length film, which is what makes this such a timely, worthwhile documentary.

Movie Details

Inclusion information powered by

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate