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Black Barbie: A Documentary – Hot Docs 2023

Black Barbie A Documentary Hot Docs 2023
Gives an interesting history of the little known Black Barbie doll.

Black Barbie: A Documentary – Hot Docs 2023

Runtime: 01:40
Synopsis:
Love her or hate her, almost everyone has a Barbie story. Even if they don’t have a story, there’s a story as to why they don’t have a story. In this film, we tell the story behind the first Black Barbie, because yes, she has a story too. It started with the filmmaker’s 83-year old aunt, Beulah Mae Mitchell and a seemingly simple question, “Why not make a Barbie that looks like me?”

Table of Contents

The little-known history of Black Barbie is told in . For decades the image of Barbie was that of a slim white girl with long blonde hair. However, Lagueria Davis learns through her aunt Beulah Mae Mitchell, a former Mattel employee, that a special Black Barbie was released in 1980 and has become a rare collector's item. Lagueria traces the history of Black Barbie, interviewing designers Kitty Black Perkins and Stacey McBride-Irby, while also tackling the socio-political impact of the doll and how kids of all races and genders view the Barbie brand.

Black Barbie: A Documentary Synopsis

Black Barbie: A Documentary is a film by director Lagueria Davis that tackles the titular Black Barbie and the general history of black representation in dolls. Before Black Barbie's release in 1980, Mattel only released black dolls meant to be friends of Barbie, such as Francie, Christie, and Julia. It was a big deal for Mattel to release a doll that was branded as Barbie and sported a unique afroed appearance. However, Black Barbie quickly vanished from store shelves and despite later black doll lines, such as Shani and So In Style, Barbie is still viewed by most as a primarily white doll.

My Thoughts on Black Barbie: A Documentary

There is a point in Black Barbie: A Documentary when Lagueria Davis interviews her niece, who not only believed Barbie to be a primarily white doll but was also naive about the ratio of ethnicities in the world, claiming “most people are white.” Indeed, the titular white Barbie has become a rare collector's item that few people even knew existed. Then there's the fact that the original designers, Kitty Black Perkins and Stacey McBride-Irby, were not called for a 40th-anniversary doll released in 2020, designed by white male Bill Greening. Then there is a study late in the film showing some shocking assumptions children made about the Barbie brand. Ultimately, Black Barbie: A Documentary is a film meant to give this doll the recognition it deserves.

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How to Watch Black Barbie: A Documentary – Hot Docs 2023

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.