Deadline reports that Diablo Cody will take on the next draft of Barbie, a live-action movie from Sony Pictures based on the eponymous Mattel doll. Jenny Bicks, a Sex and the City alum, wrote the first pass at the script.
Cody — who won an Oscar for teen pregnancy romantic comedy-drama (why are there not more entries in this category?) Juno — was originally launched to fame by writing a blog, and later, a memoir that chronicled her year spent working a stripper. She is very sharp, very funny, and in no way timid about identifying herself as a feminist.
"Sharp," "funny," and "feminist" aren't the first words that come to mind when we think of Barbie, but… okay, yeah. "The spirit of the doll is all about female empowerment," writes Deadline, apparently unironically.
Yes, Mattel has tried for some time to rebrand Barbie as something other than literally the worst possible role model for girls — Miss Astronaut Barbie came out all the way back in 1965 — but between the doll's comically anatomically incorrect proportions, less-than-nuanced conception of race, and noted aversion to math, they haven't exactly made it easy on themselves.
That's why the treatment of Barbie in recent pop culture has almost invariably used irony to create a comfortable distance. Think of Aqua's 1997 megahit "Barbie Girl" (its tongue-in-plastic cheek lyrics include "You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere" and "I'm a blond bimbo girl, in a fantasy world") or Kristen Wiig's stiff-armed, squeaky-voiced impression of the doll on Saturday Night Live.
But despite all of that, for reasons I can't fully articulate, I like Barbie, and so does Diablo Cody. Barbie is cute and kitschy and fun — I'm not sure I'd be thrilled to buy one for my child, but I might consider collecting a few retro models for myself (Miss Astronaut Barbie is, not for nothing, cheaper on eBay). Producer Walter Parkes says the studio brought Cody on board because it's committed to making a film with a "legitimately contemporary tone." They're hiring Diablo Cody for her edge, because Barbie is as edgy as a sphere.
Sony Pictures hopes to milk this project for as many sequels (alternate spelling: $$$$equel$$$$) as possible, which is one reason why they're apparently looking to The LEGO Movie for inspiration. What could've been a two-hour commercial for tiny plastic bricks ended up being a genuinely great movie: I am an adult woman with no sentimental attachment to Lego whatsoever, and I cried like a baby at the end.
Personally, I'd also nominate Clueless for a place on Diablo's brainstorming mood board. Cher loves boys and fashion, but she's also smart, confident, and a wonderful friend. We can feel good about laughing both at and with her.
For this to work, Cody will have to make Barbie self-aware, self-sufficient, and possibly downright snarky, yet stay at least somewhat true to what the brand has represented since its 1959 debut. And also, you know, write an entertaining script.
It won't be easy, but we're rooting for her.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.