Barbie is not Filipino. Barbie is traditionally, a bona fide Caucasian. She’s American and blond. But Barbie’s popularity - and all the associated franchises (the clothing line, the books, the TV series) have gained this doll so much marketability that she’s now making the move to Manila. Well, her musical is. Barbie LIVE! is a singing and dancing hour and a half stage extravaganza.
The story follows Barbie and her gal pal Teresa during the filming of a “new movie,” the set being a Hollywood stage. Teresa is insecure about her acting abilities, and to to bolster her confidence Barbie takes her on a tour through time (which just so happens to be her previous movies) and Teresa ends up gaining confidence in herself and learning how to conquer her fears.
But how does this Hollywood Barbie tale connect to the Philippines?
This is a clear extension of Barbie’s attempt at world domination, albeit a pink sparkly, “we are all BFF’s" takeover. Mattel is making a big push to raise Barbie’s profile in the Asian market, and earlier this year the company announced they are creating a doll specifically for the Chinese market called the Violin Soloist Barbie. This is to appeal to the Chinese Tiger parents who are known for heavily focusing on educational achievement from a young age. So less makeup play set, more orchestra ambitions.
Fun fact: They also changed Barbie’s puppy into a panda - more culturally relevant.
This isn’t as random as it might appear, as Barbie has a HUGE following in the Philippines. Mattel just opened their largest store in the Philippines (and previously opened one in Shangai which closed ) and in Taiwan - another stop on the Barbie Musical tour - they just opened a Barbie themed restaurant.
In a way there is too much attention paid to the “look” of Barbie, when there should be more paid to her message. She’s a doll. She has lots of careers - astronaut, dolphin trainer and president. She may have started out as a bimbette when she was released in 1959 (two versions: one blond, one brunette ) but she has evolved to fit in with today’s young women.
Sure she wears pink while doing it, but so what? Barbie is such a staple icon that she has transcended ethnic lines, cultural boundaries and different experiences. She has her problems - the natural hair Barbie line attests to that - and her slim frame often provokes dispute, but she’s often little girls first foray into doll-dom and is heavily associated with playtime.
The Barbie LIVE! musical sounds like a joyous bubblegum affair of frothy friendship and catchy tunes. A more diverse cast might be something to think about in the future, but for now, children - whatever ethnicity - can enjoy Barbie Land with song.
The Barbie LIVE musical is scheduled to tour the Philippines, then Japan and then Australia over the next year.