Reese Witherspoon + Barbie = Match Made In Heaven
In the area of news that you can't believe hasn't already happened, Reese Witherspoon is making a Barbie movie. And, in true Reese Witherspoon style, it's not just a Barbie movie. In fact, Witherspoon's production company, Pacific Standard, has optioned the film rights to Robin Gerber's Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her, a book about... well, exactly what it says that it's about. The film, in which Witherspoon could potentially star according to Variety, will tell the story of Ruth Handler, the woman who saw her daughter, Barbara, playing with "paper dolls modeled after infants," and decided to modify an adult novelty toy from abroad into what would become known as the Barbie doll. Who knew that, years later, the actress behind the feminist icon Elle Woods would be such a feminist icon herself? (Everyone. Everyone knew.)
Much like with Disney Princesses, there has been an ongoing debate over whether or not Barbie dolls are feminist. After all, the proportions on the doll's body aren't exactly something that young girls should be aspiring to (because impossible and painful and yikes). Mattel, the company who introduced the doll in 1959, has taken a lot of flack over the years for the possible connection between Barbie dolls and poor body image issues in young women, although Barbie has evolved with the times to become the kind of woman who can do it all. (She has, after all, been a doctor and had a family and been a business woman and had her own car. Ken, what have you got? That's right. Nothing.)
However, for Witherspoon to be both sidestep that debate entirely, and highlighting that debate, by simply shifting the focus from the doll itself to the strong female icon who created the doll and her feminist reasons for doing so is a really great move here.
After all, it's very easy to focus all that vitriol on the doll while forgetting the origins of the doll. It's very easy to forget that it was a woman who came up with the idea for the doll who has sold over 1 million units despite the fact that the doll's sales has been experiencing a steady decline in the past few years. Between the doll itself, and all the merchandising surrounding her — pajamas, movies, accessories, etc — Barbie has become an icon right up there with Elle Woods and Disney Princesses. And this all happened because a mother wanted her daughter to play with a doll who inspired her to be a "woman with choices."
We can argue back and forth all day about whether or not Barbie dolls are feminist, but her creation is an incredibly feminist story that absolutely needs to be brought to screen. And it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that Reese Witherspoon wants to be one of the people doing it.