These classic “Barbie” films empowered an entire generation to be unapologetically themselves
Who we are today is partly defined by the shows we watched growing up. As someone who watched every classic Barbie movie on repeat (until the CDs stopped working), my outlook on life is deeply driven by the lessons I learned from Barbie and the adventures she embarked on. I’m sure I’m not the only one who grew up as a hardcore Barbie girl. And now with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie about to premiere, we’re all reminded of the lifelong impact Barbie has on an entire generation.
As we count down the days until we witness real-life Barbie, Margot Robbie, take us back to a time when days were pinker and simpler, let’s reminisce about some of our favorite classic Barbie movies and the lessons they’ve taught us.
“Barbie of Swan Lake”
You’re braver than you think
As one of the first Barbie movies, Barbie of Swan Lake introduced us to the kind of girl Barbie is and the kind of girl we have the potential to become: brave yet gentle. Based loosely on the classic narrative of The Story of Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, we watch Barbie take on the role of Odette who faces challenges brought by the evils that rule the forests. As a timid girl who keeps to her small village in the comforts of her family bakery, this trajectory sends her into a world of chaos. As she navigates these new challenges, it is in the smallest of choices she makes, from dancing her heart out to realizing the magic that lies in the arms of love, that she redefines what being brave is all about.
As kids who feared the world and the idea of new experiences, this movie set a new trajectory for everyone’s lives (mine included)—a life filled with the courage to believe in oneself no matter what.
“Barbie as The Princess and The Pauper”
Live your dream
A classic tale inspired by Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, Barbie as The Princess and The Pauper explores the freedom of pursuing your dreams. With a newfound sense of bravery with the help of the Swan Lake narrative, Princess Anneliese and Erika take this with them as they seek out the life of their dreams. Luckily for them, their doppelganger appearances allow them to swap lives to experience what they’ve always dreamed of having—a life free of responsibilities.
As easy as this fearlessness may seem in childhood, the same simplicity vanishes once adulthood kicks in. As expectations swarm the choices we make, living the dream feels a little absurd and even selfish. But this movie remains a crowd-favorite as it reminds an entire generation of what it feels like to have a dream and turn it into a reality.
What makes you different makes you special
We could all relate to Barbie: Fairytopia’s Elina in one way or another. As a wingless flower fairy, she is different—and not in a good way (at least initially)—from the other fairies who could fly and constantly made fun of her. When a curse spreads and weakens the ability of fairies to fly, Elina sets on an impossible mission to find a cure to save her garden and friends. Demonstrating the saying “Your greatest weakness is your greatest strength,” she discovers that what makes her different makes her special, too.
This message in Barbie: Fairytopia established a deep sense of identity among its viewers, allowing them to embrace their most authentic selves and turn their differences into their greatest strengths. And although we may forget this from time to time, a quick rewatch can do the trick and pivot you back into this positive self-imagery.
“Barbie and The Diamond Castle”
Friendship is the true treasure
We all quarrel with our friends, but what happens when a big fight breaks out? Do we stay in touch or are the years of friendship over just like that? Barbie and The Diamond Castle tells the tale of two best friends who embark on a journey to find a diamond castle but experience one of their biggest fights, severing their friendship forever.
This movie teaches us a lot about what being friends is all about, and especially as a kid, the message of treasuring friendships is beyond powerful. A reminder that the relationships we build are more valuable than diamonds or riches is pretty cliché, but it's something we ought to take with us into adulthood when circumstances test our friendships. Remembering that our relationships are the true treasures in our lives can ground us more than we know.
“Barbie: Princess Charm School”
There’s a princess in every girl
I know I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that the girls who grew up watching Barbie have grown up to be unapologetically girlie, and I personally have Barbie: Princess Charm School to blame (or thank) for that. Blair Willows, a “kind-hearted commoner,” wins the lottery as one of the lucky girls who train to become a princess at the Princess Charm School. From not knowing the first thing about being a princess to slowly learning basic etiquette and how to waltz, Blair discovers that she already has what it takes to become a princess; it was inside her all along.
As a kid, this reality was probably the most empowering thing! So as the movie ushered in the era of embracing one’s inner princess, it has inspired an entire generation of girls to own the woman of poise and grace inside her with pride.
You can’t ever forget the movies that changed the essence of who you are. And for those who have witnessed the lifelong impact that classic Barbie movies have had, hold on to it and never forget how great it feels to be a Barbie girl!
Words Vanessa Tiong
Art Macky Arquilla