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Black Barbie gracefully showcases the melanin flavor of a iconic doll


Director Lagueria Davis has partnered with Netflix to present "Black Barbie," a compelling documentary that offers a personal account of the experiences of Beulah Mae Mitchell, a longtime insider at Mattel. The film delves into Mitchell's experiences as an African American woman working at the renowned toy company for over four decades and the profound significance of the introduction of Black Barbie in 1980.


During my childhood in the 1980s, I vividly recall Mattel's dominant position in the toy market. While I favored GI Joe, my cousins were enthusiastic about Barbie. On numerous occasions, I borrowed one of their Barbies to act as my rescue victim, allowing one of my GI Joes to come to the rescue. Notably, there was no "Black Barbie" during that time. Having appreciated director Greta Gerwig's 2023 interpretation of the iconic doll, I eagerly anticipated viewing "Black Barbie."


Through personal interviews and archival footage, "Black Barbie" delves into the transformative power of representation. It explores the long-lasting effects of the lack of representation for Black women in the media and the importance of seeing oneself reflected in the world around them. The film showcases how the introduction of Black Barbie had a profound and empowering impact on young Black girls, providing them with a valuable representation that was previously lacking.


In addition to Mitchell's story, Black Barbie also features other Black women, including Shonda Rhimes, Gabourey Sidibie, and Misty Copeland, sharing their experiences of struggling to see themselves represented in mainstream media and the powerful effect that Black Barbie had on their self-perception and identity. Hearing this woman speak gave the documentary an extra sense of realism to the effect that no matter how much success you may have, you still want to see yourself represented in mainstream media.


One of the most notable segments in the film involved the presentation of historical recordings featuring pioneering Black designer Kitty Black Perkins. The film also examined the adverse impact of white Barbie on individuals of color, particularly Black girls, who may perceive blond hair and white skin as the epitome of beauty. Some parties, including doll collectors, have raised questions regarding the true meaning of representation and whether the mere existence of a Black Barbie signifies progress.


Additionally, the film included a thought-provoking segment in which collectors analyzed the Barbie TV series, highlighting the marginalization of Black Barbie as a secondary character. They noted that numerous feminist films center on white femininity, casting Black characters in the role of the Black best friend. This observation underscores the acknowledgment of Black characters in a context that emphasizes the uniqueness of white characters.


Director Lagueria Davis has crafted a profoundly moving and thought-provoking film that illuminates the importance of diverse representation in society and stirs deep emotions. "Black Barbie" encourages audiences to consider the impact of stereotypes and limited representation on individuals and the broader cultural landscape.


"Black Barbie" " is a must-see documentary that offers a poignant and emotional journey and a rich educational experience. It illuminates the power of representation and its vital role in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and others, leaving the audience with a deeper understanding of the world we live in.


Final Grade: A


"Black Barbie" is available to stream now on Netflix.

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