Sunday, August 27, 2023

Enough With the Multiverse Shit Already

Have you been watching that new Superman cartoon? It's called My Adventures with Superman, and six episodes into the ten episode first season, I was quite enjoying it. You got some villains showing up, something to do with Kryptonian technology, and put the relationship between Clark and Lois at the forefront. Then they went and made episode seven. I'll get into it later, but the gist is they introduce a multiverse. Complete with universe numbers and a group made up of alternates of one person. Looking at the shit I watch, you might assume this is right up my alley. I certainly love the Spider-Verse movies, so why not? I'll tell you why. Enough is enough.

Comic properties are no strangers to multiverse shenanigans. Since DC had The Flash interacting with his previous iteration, each line has had a smattering of storylines that take place across different universes, such as DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths or Marvel's Captain Britain comics. That's all well and good, but the thing with comics is that there are a lot of them. There are a ton going on at any given time, and there was always a series going on that had nothing to do with the multiverse crossovers if you had no interest in them. Hell, the original Crisis was meant to dissolve the multiverse entirely, assumedly because writers didn't want to deal with it anymore. However, there's something that happens with adaptations that you don't have to deal with in the source material. Comics can have small stories that don't tie into anything big, what might be seen as filler to our current day, but necessary to build characters and a world for any comic. When adaptations come along, these sort of things are left by the wayside more often than not in favor of the big memorable stories, your Knightfalls and Kraven's Last Hunts. This has the effect of multiverse stories being more suited for adaptation, because they tend to have a bigger impact.

The long and short of that is: When The Council of Reeds showed up I could ignore they existed and read my Spider-Man. Now I can't escape it. Because the first one did so well, there's always a Spider-Verse or a Spider-Geddon occurring, and they keep having crossovers with comics I was enjoying just fine before. And because they keep making more comics, they keep making more adaptations.

I don't know if most of you can imagine a world before Rick and Morty. It was a naive age, where the concept of a deranged universe-traveling old man and his traumatized grandson having sci-fi parody adventures was a novel concept. It came out and it was funny and nobody was yet losing their shit about a McDonalds dipping sauce. Then the writers decided to do a parody of the Council of Reeds. The Citadel of Ricks had an episode, and for some reason things were never the same again. Later that year the Spider-Verse event in comics began, leading to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and now it's everywhere.

Before we move on I should clarify some terms, namely Alternate Universe story, Multiverse story, and Multiverse Team stories. Alternate Universe stories involve one or more characters crossing over to a single different universe. These have existed forever, like the Justice Lords saga in Justice League, or that first story where Barry Allen met Jay Garrick. Certain time travel stories are a subset of these, like Back to the Future 2, or even It's A Wonderful Life. A Multiverse story is like an Alternate Universe story, but add more universes. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an example, where a bunch of universes crossed into Miles' universe, or Crisis on Infinite Earths, where a bunch of heroes from different universes team up to fight the Anti-Monitor. Then we have the newest craze, the Multiverse Team story, which is similar to the Multiverse story, but specifically involves a team of people that are all alternates of the same individual. This is, of course, like the Citadel of Ricks, the Council of Reeds, and Beyond the Spider-Verse as well as its comic counterpart.

I have no problem with Alternate Universe plots. I still like them, they've been a standard trait of fiction before people called them Alternate Universes. There's a lot of room there, for something as simple as the Mr. Bevis episode of the Twilight Zone or complex as Star Trek's Yesterday's Enterprise. Sure, the format isn't fool proof, but it's versatile enough that it can make well-thought, interesting stories. However, one just isn't enough anymore.

Without the focus on just one universe, Multiverse stories are more apt to be scattershot, requiring a lot more restraint. A writer can just kind of put anything in there, the sky's the limit. If you haven't established multiple universes before the story it's almost too simple to chuck in a bunch of fanservice or solve conflicts by plucking an answer from another reality. Not to say it can't be done well, as Futurama's The Farnsworth Parabox starts with one alternate universe and turns into a chase through a bunch of them, made mainly as jokes. Into the Spider-Verse is probably the shining example of this kind of story, but as the exception, not the rule. Otherwise you get something like The Flash (2023), a hodge-podge of past characters in uncanny CGI and references to abandoned projects that never saw the light of day, all in the name of spectacle.

Finally we come to the most contentious one of all, the Multiverse Team. These are far more prone to the deleterious aspects of the Multiverse plot, as the choice to have a bunch of different versions of the same character lends itself to excess. Once again, Beyond the Spider-Verse is our paragon. Even it has flaws, which can hopefully be mitigated by its sequel, but nails the premise a lot of others couldn't. It may surprise you, but the comic Spider-Verse, the one that lends its name to these movies? It's bad. The villains are pretty stupid, turning Force of Nature Morlun into just one of a family of Spider-Man eating vampires. The story is a string of attempts to enrage you by showing a Spider-Man you loved, like the title character of 1981 cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, getting murdered by a tired cliche. Spider-Girl's dad? Dead. Spider-Man Unlimited? Dead. Repeat ad nauseam. It's danging candy in front of a baby's face before stomping it into the ground. Rick and Morty got about two good episodes out of the premise before becoming the current "I'm smarter than you" sludge, and I ain't watching more to make sure. Then there's Spider-Man No Way Home, which had its own set of problems that I don't need to reiterate here.

You may have noticed an abundance of Spider-Man in these examples. Sure, it could be due to my obsession with Spider-Man, but I offer a different explanation. Once you let it out, you can't get the Multiverse cat back in the bag. Ever since Spider-Verse, the whole property is inundated with Multiverse stories, from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, to the new movies, and periodical new Spider-Verse comics. There's one going on right now! You can't do anything with Spider-Man anymore unless you at least acknowledge the Multiverse.

So we come back to My Adventures With Superman. In the episode we're introduced to a team of Multiverse Lois Lanes (and one alternate Olsen) and a new Mr. Mxyzptlk. Through this we're shown a ton of cameos from past Superman cartoons, like Superman the Animated Series, or the Lois from Fleisher's rotoscoped cartoons. These characters don't interact with anyone or do anything, they're only on screen so you can point and say "I remember that!" I don't need to be reminded of another Superman cartoon! Now, to be fair, I would probably just be annoyed if all this amounted to was a couple of cameos, but that's not it. They introduce both kryptonite and the concept of an Evil Superman in this episode, the latter ostensibly being the reason the League of Lois Lanes even exists. It feels like they skipped some stuff! They didn't have to go the Smallville route of kryptonite being under every corner, but I thought it would at least get a proper introduction. Evil Superman, as a concept, has a lot of pitfalls, this more so due to this Superman being easily the softest cinnamon roll tumblr ever conceived, but they get to sidestep any establishment by just throwing in a scene of some Injustice knockoff or whatever. That's probably going to underpin the rest of the show! So out of nowhere this conflict arises, and there's no way the League of Lois Lanes won't be involved in the resolution. That scares me.

I don't want Superman to be all about the Multiverse. The brushes with Alternate Supermans hadn't thus far transformed the franchise into that, but each time something like this happens I become wary. My Adventures With Superman was a nice simple show. For the first time in a long time we have a Superman I actually like, and I want to see where it goes. That simplicity is tarnished if a bunch of Alternate Universes get crammed into the first season of this show. Just let me have my cute Superman show, and stop chasing the Multiverse dragon. It's the least you could do after Man of Steel.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Life In Plastic: A Barbie Marathon Part 7

Seven weeks ago I embarked on a quest, to see every Barbie movie ever made, to prepare for the live action film coming out soon. While in the preceding six articles I detailed my experience with each film, I haven't yet laid out my feelings on the Barbie series as a whole. That's what this is.

I made a tier list. Lists are dumb and I try to avoid them whenever possible, but I am nothing if not accommodating. (Keep in mind my standards are stupid and ever-changing.)

Barbie The Princess and the Pauper (2004)
Raquelle A Fairy Secret (2011)
Skipper and the Big Babysitting Adventure (2023)
BARBIE Barbie (2023)
The Secret Door (2014)
A Christmas Carol (2008)
The Nutcracker (2001)
Princess Charm School (2011)
The Pearl Princess (2014)
BARBI A Perfect Christmas (2011)
A Fashion Fairytale (2010)
Mariposa and Her Butterfly Fairy Friends (2008)
The Magic of Pegasus (2005)
Star Light Adventure (2016)
The Pink Shoes (2013)
Barbie & Her Sisters in A Pony Tale (2013)
The 12 Dancing Princesses (2006)
BARB The Three Musketeers (2009)
Epic Road Trip (2022)
Princess Power (2015)
A Mermaid Tale (2010)
Princess Adventure (2020)
BAR Fairytopia: Mermaidia (2006)
Swan Lake (2003)
Mariposa & The Fairy Princess (2013)
The Island Princess (2007)
Big City, Big Dreams (2021)
Rock 'N Royals (2015)
Dolphin Magic (2017)
BA The Diamond Castle (2008)
Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow (2007)
Barbie & Her Sisters in A Puppy Chase (2016)
Spy Squad (2016)
A Mermaid Tale 2 (2012)
Fairytopia (2005)
Chelsea: The Lost Birthday (2021)
Mermaid Power (2022)
B Rapunzel (2002)
Video Game Hero (2017)
Barbie & Her Sisters in The Great Puppy Adventure (2015)
Thumbelina (2009)
The Barbie Diaries (2006)
The Princess & The Popstar (2012)


Voice Actors

There were a lot more VAs for Barbie than I thought there would be! Kelly Sheridan is, of course, the legend. She's the OG, you can't do better. She set the standard, especially in films like Princess and the Pauper, where she managed to make the two Barbies distinct enough to tell apart. Diana Kaarina, though only with four film appearances, certainly made her mark as the second voice for our favorite doll. Even matching up against Sheridan, she gave notable performances, especially in A Perfect Christmas, adroitly conveying the subtleties of Barbie's relationship to her sisters. Next we have Erica Lindbeck. She was on board for five films, though I don't know if she made as much of a mark as I remember. She's kind of sandwiched between Sheridan and the newest VA, and she only had one movie I really liked. She's a great actress in other properties, I loved her in the Broly movie, but Barbie didn't use her to her fullest. Lastly we have the most current Barbie voice actress, America Young. There's no way that's her government name. Like that's what you might name a patriotic Barbie knockoff. Anyway. Her performance is pretty far afield from how Sheridan voiced the character. It's a more obviously young voice, even cracking sometimes. I might dislike that if Barbie was like her previous iterations, but with a complete change of cast and age for Barbie, the voice makes sense. I disliked it at first, coming after getting used to the Sheridan-type voices, but it's grown on me as the Dreamhouse Adventures version of the character did.

There's a couple actors who have been a main character in a Barbie movie without necessarily being a Barbie. What I mean is Chiara Zanni as Mariposa from the movie of the same name and Morwenna Banks from A Christmas Carol. I like both of their performances, Zanni as the unconfident Mariposa and Banks as the stuck-up diva Eden Starling. Both of them are good enough that they could have headlined another Barbie movie, though at least Zanni got cast as a supporting character again.


This one's all over the place. Early Barbie movies had orchestral scores, done by the London Symphony Orchestra or the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. It's hard to go wrong with that, especially in the case of Nutcracker, given the time-tested nature of those tracks. In the middle things get a bit muddier, as the move away from orchestral music necessitated a digital approach, which took a while to find its legs.

As far as sing-songs go, the first musical did it best. Princess and the Pauper has a classic Broadway musical style for its lyrics and performance, which provides it a timelessness some others in this series don't. Diamond Castle started the trend of including a Main Song for each film, a little pop number that could play over the intro and credits. I'm not a huge fan of these as a concept, since the style always seems behind the times when you get to it. There were a few good tunes in there, like Queen of the Waves from A Mermaid Tale, that infuriatingly gets stuck in my head sometimes. Most of them are forgettable at best.


There were a few unexpected plots going through this series, but the majority of these are pretty boilerplate. Fairies, mermaids and princesses. You could count the number of movies without at least one of these elements on one hand. Typically if those aren't involved it's about Barbie herself. Not that any of these plot elements are bad, mind you. I really enjoyed a few that had these in abundance, like Princess and the Pauper or The Secret Door. There's really not that much variety when it comes to themes here, but I suppose that's another requirement of the Barbie ethos. Overwhelmingly the point of one of these movies is that you should be yourself. Sometimes the obstacle to that is a system that is unfriendly to you, other times it's a fact about yourself you reject. If the actual Barbie isn't the main character, that's essentially what you're going to see. They only dipped into more meaty subjects on this line a couple of times, with The Three Musketeers dealing with sexism, and Mariposa and the Fairy Princess clumsily discussing racism. These aren't unworthy subjects to cover, but something about Barbie movies makes them ill-equipped to handle these very well. I don't know if it's because they're aimed at younger kids or if they just had restrictive brand requirements, but neither one of the more progressive messages come across very well, with one minor exception. In Princess and the Pauper and Princess Charm School, there's a little bit about economic class that's unusual for Barbie's oeuvre. It's not a lot, but having a main character grow up poor and then deal with princesses was more effective than other attempts at that sort of thing.

The Barbie & Her Sisters plots tend to have a bit more going on with them, usually foregoing the fantasy elements and ending up a bit more grounded. The family dynamic is the focus, and with the sisters being different ages, they could include arcs relevant to different ages of kids at the same time. A theme I really didn't see coming is a sort of parental anxiety from Barbie when it comes to her sisters. In Perfect Christmas and A Puppy Chase their vacation goes awry and Barbie blames herself for not being able to fix it. It's weird for a kids movie to make the main character an ersatz parent with applicable problems. That's the stuff that really caught me off-guard while watching, even if some of it was interspersed with stupid puppy bullshit.

Wrapping up

There's not a lot of media franchises that can compete with Barbie. The doll line alone has an impressive legacy, and that's not counting the cartoons, animated films, and finally a live action movie. Sure, one could say the same thing about Transformers, but there's something special about Barbie you don't find in other toy-driven series. There's a versatility to the brand that keeps it going, so there's always a chance you'll see something you didn't expect. Any given Transformers property will hew closely to a pre-established story, but a Barbie movie can range from a grounded musical about a princess to a sci-fi story about the fate of the stars. I think that's why it took so long for a live action film to get made; in a comic book story you can adapt one of the long-running stories, but with Barbie there's so much potential, picking something to adapt is almost impossible. G.I. Joe can never have the same cultural cache, each generation remembers their own Barbie.

I started this project as a big joke, and to be fair a lot of it is still that, but the adage holds true: The longer you perform a joke, the more sincere it's going to become. There's a lot of this that simply will never affect me the way it would a young girl, but you can't watch over 42 hours of something without taking a little with you. There's plenty of bad in there, don't get me wrong, but I still listen to the Secret Door or Princess and the Pauper soundtracks from time to time. I've learned a lot, and the most important part is that I will never have to watch another Barbie movie again as long as I live.

Who am I kidding. I'm in too deep to stop now. When's that Stacie movie coming out?

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Barbie (2023)

You would think, being a guy that watched all 42 direct-to-video/streaming Barbie movies, that it would be easy to figure out what to say about the live action one, the one I did all that work for. Somehow, it's not.

Our hero is Barbie, or to be more specific, Stereotypical Barbie. She lives in Barbie Land with the rest of the Barbies, a bunch of Kens, one Midge, one Skipper, and one Allen. (Ken's friend (all of Ken's clothes fit him)) But one day, things start getting weird. Barbie has thoughts about death, she doesn't gracefully float from her dreamhouse to the car, and worst of all: Her feet turn flat. After consulting with Weird Barbie (the one that happens when you play with your Barbie too hard) she sets out on a quest to the real world, while Ken tags along.

In a way, this is what I expected from a live action Barbie movie, at least after seeing a few trailers. It's got a little bit of the "Barbie is outdated, Barbie has done more harm than good for women, Barbie is bad" stuff I was afraid of but, luckily for all of us, that's not the point. I don't know if I could call this a celebration of Barbie either. It's not so much about the character as it is about the doll. And it's less about the doll than it's about... being a woman.

Okay listen I could watch a million Barbie movies and it wouldn't qualify me to talk about this. It's simply out of my wheelhouse! I liked the feminist angle, but I can't really form any substantive critiques because I am not embodied in the subject matter. I can't be one of those guys that starts explaining feminism to anyone! I'm just a normal man. I'm just an innocent man.

Speaking of which, Ken was great. I relate to Ken, which was funny until it got sad. For me, specifically. He's a big part of the comedy, because he's a giant idiot the whole time. It's a good look for a Ken. All of the Kens are big idiots, and that's great. The preview of the song "Just Ken" made me excited that this could be a musical, but it's not. It's got a couple songs but the only one that's like musical theater is the Ken one. There's one by Billie Eilish that hits hard.

I really didn't need to watch all those movies for this one. I'm glad I did, but they didn't provide much in the way of context or easter eggs. If anything this is closest to Life in the Dreamhouse, what with the Barbie is Everything sort of stuff, but this is far more self-examining than that show was, since that was a funny cartoon for goofs. There's a lot going on in this film, it's surprisingly poignant given how goofy most of it is. One thing the film does is anticipate the reception from the more reactionary parts of the viewing public, and preemptively responds to those ideas. Like, the obvious surface-level critiques are practically a part of the movie. It was more instructive to someone like me, whereas it's more likely supposed to give voice to already-held sentiment for its audience, but the whole reason I watch this Barbie stuff is to get an idea of how the other half lives. (That's definitely the only reason.)

I could get into spoilers but I'll restrain myself. Suffice it to say: It's good. People who aren't me (and are women) will like it a lot more than I do. It's not made for me! In fact, this movie purposefully avoided one of those things I fixated on in the old Barbie movies. (Not Raquelle.) Oh, and there was no Raquelle. It wouldn't have made any sense for her to be there, but there's still a little disappointment. Maybe later they'll make a Raquelle live action movie and I will watch it 100 times.

If you're expecting nothing but a happy fun-time romp, you'll get more than you bargained for. I don't know if this would be the "palate cleanser" the Barbenheimer advocates are reaching for. If you want something with a bunch of funny jokes and some feminism that I'm not qualified to speak on, you'll enjoy this. There's some deeper themes in there, but maybe I can speak on those once it's been out on video and I can watch it a few times. I just have to accept the fact that this won't hit deep in my soul the way a Broly movie would. I still highly recommend it, even if it didn't personally resonate with me the way it would with others. It's got a lot to say about womanhood, society, and the overall human condition. In a way, this embodies the Barbie ethos: Just because it's unabashedly pink and feminine, doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously. It means a lot to a lot of people, and you can either accept that or choose to live in ignorance.


Sunday, July 9, 2023

Life In Plastic: A Barbie Marathon Part 6

It's hard, being a pioneer. To be willing to do what nobody else can. I bet people said all kinds of shit to the first guy to climb Mount Everest. They probably said stuff like, "Why?" and "But that's for little girls," and "You're a grown man this is weird." But now I know exactly how he felt, after weeks of grueling work, feeling like it was all pointless and maybe he should have been watching Breaking Bad or something, only to see the summit, the pinnacle, the top of the world. It doesn't matter if nobody believes in you, nor think other people need to believe in you because what you're doing is inconsequential and kind of creepy. Because that summit is only a few steps away.

And I am almost there.

Film 36: Barbie: Dolphin Magic (2017)

So turns out Video Game Hero was the last Barbie movie to come out as a straight-to-DVD, and now they're all going to Netflix. So we have what I think is another iteration of the "Real Life" Barbie and her sisters. Maybe? The designs are pretty close to the Puppy movies, and the puppies are still there, not to mention we still got Erica Lindbeck voicing Barbie. I dunno. It's another mermaid flick, this time some evil marine biologist captures a magic dolphin and its mermaid friend tries to free it and runs into the Roberts sisters, who adopt her like some kind of lost child. Of course the mermaid has a magic shell that gives her legs, though she doesn't know what a sandwich is, which doesn't trigger suspicion for any of the sisters. Oh, we finally have Ken back, after who knows how many movies of absence. (I counted. 16 films.) Ken doesn't really seem like Barbie's boyfriend here, which may point to it being a new continuity. It's pretty boilerplate from there, evil marine biologist wants to sell magic dolphin, mermaid reveals she is mermaid, they all work together and everything works out. It's not great, but it could have been worse. At least the dogs don't talk, and surprisingly Barbie herself doesn't become a mermaid.


Film 37: Barbie: Princess Adventure (2020)

Woah! What!? That's a three year gap! This is unprecedented! So I had to do some research (I hate that) to figure this out, and it turns out there were no Barbie movies while the show Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures was running. I haven't watched that show because I got an episode in and there was no Raquelle so I have no reason to ever see it. So this movie is like a finale to that show, which means we got a new voice actress for Barbie, America Young. She's okay, but gives a very different feel to Barbie than the previous ones, which all had the same sort of voice. She's closer to Chiara Zanni than Kelly Sheridan or Diana Kaarina. The change in VA makes sense because this Barbie is significantly younger than a lot of Barbies we've had, she's still in high school and has parents and everything. She's also a Youtuber. This is too much background for a Barbie movie. At any rate, this is another riff on the Prince and the Pauper, but at least this one didn't insult me. Erica Lindbeck plays a princess who watches Barbie's vlogs and arranges for Barbie and all of her friends to go on a school trip to her kingdom so they can swap. It doesn't work great because we don't see her perspective of the switch the whole time, just Barbie dealing with princess shit. This one is also a musical, but all the songs are average at best. We got two villains, one is a media CEO who wants to exploit Barbie's online clout, and the other is a prince from a neighboring kingdom who tries to keep the princess from the coronation so he can take the kingdom using some technicality. The only time I laughed was when the media CEO took one of Barbie's videos and essentially made a YTP from it. Barbie didn't like it though. There's a sideplot of Ken trying to tell Barbie something but being unable to. He's definitely not her boyfriend in this continuity, so I assume he's trying to confess his feelings. If the whole show was a will-they-won't-they with Barbie and Ken there is no way I would be able to stand it. There's too many other side characters, like some asshole red haired guy who they gave a song for some inexplicable reason. A pale comparison to Princess and the Pauper, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.


Film 38: Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday (2021)

Yeah, from now on these all take place after Dreamhouse Adventures. I guess it's nice to have only one continuity for once? I'll get into it later. As you can see from the title, this is a Chelsea oriented movie, which can mean only one thing. This is baby shit. They're all on a cruise because of Barbie's mom and it's gonna be Chelsea's birthday but then they cross the international date line and skip a day and she gets sad and has a Wizard of Oz style adventure where she does a bunch of shit with talking animals that sound like her sisters but oh what it was all a dream who could have guessed. Okay, for a while I didn't catch the dream thing. I don't know the level of magic that exists in this world, maybe there are talking animals, who knows? Barbie is still on about her vlog all the time, but now that leaves Skipper without a thing to do. She's supposed to be the internet one! I guess now she just makes music. It was better before. The closest thing to a villain in this movie is the activities director on the cruise, who for some reason is actively malicious towards the Roberts family. It's not even funny, he's just creepy.


Film 39: Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams (2021)

Barbie's going to New York, baby! This is a weird one. Barbie goes to some performing arts school for the summer, where she's put in a room with another girl who is also named Barbie Roberts. The other Barbie is from Brooklyn, while our Barbie is from Malibu, so they refer to each other as such. Weird that middle names didn't come into this, but I guess nobody wanted the main character of the film to be called Millicent the whole time. The two Barbies become best friends immediately. Like, right after they meet they sing a song (which sounds a bit like a love song) and they're inseparable. They meet one of Brooklyn's old friends who's actually a super famous pop star but wants to learn more shit on the down low, but then her manager dad buys his way into directing the center and wants to make sure his daughter wins the solo at the end of the semester. They have the whole "Barbie is bad at things" montage that we got in Princess Charm School, but in this movie it's weird. This is the actual Barbie we're talking about, not some character she's playing. They're making her a more relatable figure, but to me Barbie should be more aspirational. Think Spider-Man vs. Superman. Spider-Man fucks up all the time, but it makes you feel like you could be him, while Superman is the idealized hero, he does the right thing all the time. On that note, while they're all dancing and being silly, Malibu Barbie knocks Brooklyn Barbie off a stage and she sprains her ankle, and Manager Dad tells the principal that Malibu did it on purpose, so she gets expelled and the two Barbies sing a breakup song. Luckily the pop star finds a video that shows it was an accident so Malibu comes back and both Barbies get the to sing a big song in Times Square. Manager Dad faces no repercussions. Brooklyn's gonna be in the rest of these, and they even got a whole teevee show that I'm not going to watch. (I'M NOT YOU CAN'T MAKE ME) I'm not sure how I feel about her. She's not a one-to-one copy of Malibu Barbie, like she's not hypercompetent in all skills or anything, she's almost entirely music-focused. I dunno, I just like it better when I can use names and don't have to put prefixes before them. There's probably someone out there who's really happy about Brooklyn Barbie and I can't hold that against them.


Film 40: Barbie: Mermaid Power (2022)

This is a sequel to Dolphin Magic, which I guess means that one had Dreamhouse Adventures Barbie all along. You would think that this, being a sequel, would make more sense while having less to introduce, but somehow they fucked that up. Right in the beginning of the movie Barbies and sisters are cleaning trash from the ocean and like a minute later they're all turning into mermaids. As if they all knew they could do that with Barbie's magic necklace already! Don't get me started on Mermaid Town where they have to do a magic ritual like in that Fairytopia movie or Mermaid Tale 2 but in order to do it they have to find the Mermaid Avatar. For some reason every mermaid has an elemental power, even the Barbie crew who just became mermaids like 5 seconds ago, except for one who gets all of them, and then they can do the mermaid ritual and save the ocean. The evil marine biologist is back, this time with a Mr. Crocker-like obsession with proving mermaids are real, and a badass crab sub. This movie has too much going on. It's gotta introduce the entire mermaid society, their magic powers, then there's racist mermaids who hate land dwellers, and to top it all off there's a giant trash heap in the ocean. Once again there's a million characters in this thing, all throwing fire underwater(?) or shooting air or talking to dolphins and I can't care enough to keep track of it all. Anyway there's a little girl mermaid who turns out to be the Avatar and she disintegrates the trash island and evil marine biologist becomes a mermaid and turns into a good guy. This showcases one of the problems with maintaining one continuity with these things, if this were made before the Netflix era, I'm sure it would have been a standalone film with Barbie playing a character. Instead they had to shoehorn the Roberts sisters into this plot and world all at once and it just kept throwing shit at you. One of the things that made the Barbie franchise so versatile was its ability to have unrelated movies, even if they all had the Barbie branding. I hope they move back towards that model with later releases.


Film 41: Barbie: Epic Road Trip (2022)

The only cool thing about Netflix is that once in a while they make a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style thing, like that one Black Mirror special from a few years ago. I mostly like them if there's a way I can just fuck up the story, though a lot of these are on rails pretty hard. Surprise surprise, they made a Barbie one! Malibu Barbie, Brooklyn Barbie, Skipper, Ken, and a bunch of dogs are taking a road trip across the US to test out Skipper's dog adoption app, see the sights, and get to NYC for some backup singer audition. A lot of choices boil down to choosing between Brooklyn or Ken, because Ken still hasn't confessed his feelings to Barbie. Now, I know they didn't intend this, but it feels like choosing Barbie's romantic partner. I, of course, immediately speedran Ken% because I need to get my boy laid. I was the heteronormative devil on Barbie's shoulder, making her go to every little romantic spot Ken set up until they kissed on the Ferris Wheel in Pennsylvania and I cherished the small morsel of vicarious romantic fulfillment in my cold dead heart. Apart from the endings where it asks you to start from the beginning, there's a smattering of choices that set you just a little bit back in the story, like in Roswell they can be abducted by aliens which deposit them back at the beach in the beginning of the movie but with no memory of what happened before that. Or a haunted house in New Orleans that opens and trap door and sends them back a few scenes. My first ending was Brooklyn and Malibu move to New York with musical artist careers, while Boyfriend Ken moves to be with Malibu Barbie and be a malewife. I ran through it a few more times for completion's sake, where Brooklyn and Malibu live alone in London with a record deal, or one where Barbie goes back to Malibu without a job, Ken, or anything to show for the road trip. The multiple nature of this kinda works for Barbie, since she's yet to become her omni-talented self, it makes sense not to lock her down as a singer or whatever. I liked it more than I thought I would, if only because I could act as a spiritual wingman for Ken.


Film 42: Barbie: Skipper and the Big Babysitting Adventure (2023)

I wasn't expecting a lot from this film, especially considering how the Chelsea one went down. The babysitting angle and the fact this began with a 2D animated segment that looked like cheap PBS anime didn't help either. But this film had a crucial component I couldn't even have imagined. THEY BROUGHT BACK RAQUELLE!! Well, kinda. Turns out the show has a character named Tammy who, as far as I can tell, is Raquelle with a different name. She's bitchy, entitled, rich, and a failqueen. Also she's got black hair and calls Skipper Mini-Barbie. I was completely blindsided, I thought they just weren't interested in the Raquelle archetype anymore, but here she was! (Mostly) She may have been reincarnated, but I know whatever lives we live we would find each other again... Ahem. So Skipper fucks up her babysitting job and since everyone else is leaving for the summer (Barbie finally being the Barbie I know and planting trees in the Amazon) Skipper decides to work at the local waterpark. But! Turns out Tammy's dad owns the place and put her in charge. Tammy's dad is great, he's the stereotypical businessman, talking on four phones all the time and rating any possible situation on whether it's good for business or not. The funniest joke in this movie is when he sees a pie chart, imagines it as pie, and leaves in the middle of a business proposal so he can go get some pie. He's a legend. Anyway Skipper and some friends get hired because nobody else wants to work for Tammy, and Skipper gets the idea to set up a daycare for little kids in the park. After Tammy tries to steal the idea and fucks up (As she should) Skipper and her friends have a little odyssey trying to get 6 kids back to the park without anyone catching wise. This was way funnier than any recent film has been, like the part where Skipper talks to dolphins by pointing her eyes in opposite directions and screeching, and the only reaction to this from her friends is, "Wow, she is a good babysitter." I think they're finally hitting their stride with this Barbie, which was a nice endcap to my own odyssey across the Barbie-verse.

Rating: Raquelle/BARBIE

(But really like a 5 out of 6)

I... I did it! I watched every single Barbie movie! There were a lot of surprising moments going through this, I liked a lot more of them a lot more than I thought I would. Sure, there were plenty that fit the Barbie stereotype I had in my head, but the spikes in quality were very appreciated. Given the breadth of content here, I'm not actually sure any of this will give me insight to the live action movie coming up. But if there's one thing I've learned through all of this, it's that you can be whatever you want to be. Apparently what I wanted to be was a man in his thirties who watched the entirety of a franchise made for little girls. Thank you for following me on this journey, and hopefully I'll do something less insane next time. Come back for a little denouement later!