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Barbie and the Problem of Corporate Power

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As the film “Barbie” breaks box office records, now is a good moment to reflect upon the role of corporations in the toy and entertainment industries. Whether you believe the Barbie doll creates unrealistic expectations for girls, or see it as offering a kind of “I can do anything” message of proto-feminism, there are other factors at play here. First of all, Mattel, the doll’s parent company, as this article makes clear, has a very checkered record when it comes to producing their product: exploiting labor, continually moving factories to lowest-wage countries, racking up health and safety violations. Secondly, as movie studios scheme to cut costs and pay writers and actors even less, producers of big budget films like this one, grappling to represent the entertainment industry and its efforts to cross-brand with toys, comic books, you name it, would do well to look to paying their own workers decent wages. As this review points out, you can’t blame the director of “Barbie” – she at least acknowledges the complexity at play and pokes some fun at corporations. But corporate power once again shows that it’s much more interested in profits than in social responsibility.

Barbie and the Problem of Corporate Power
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Antti Kivivalli

Yes, strange phenomena we have in this world: dolls and movies that are known worldwide.

The referred article mentions the German origin of the Barbie doll, but somehow gives the impression that Barbie was significantly different from Lilli. Actually it looks like the first Barbie dolls were manufactured by the very same molds as Lilli.

What changed was the main target in marketing, the pinup doll based on a cartoon was no longer for the men, but for the girls.


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