By Ben Konuch
“That’s my… my dying secret, Barbie. Whenever I’m with you, you know my life is always a dreamhouse…”
When my roommate first asked if I wanted to watch a Barbie show with him, I thought he was insane. Why would I, a 19-year-old male college student, ever want to watch something Barbie related? But after constant, persistent nagging, I finally caved in and joined a few of my hall friends for a watch party, and that day my eyes were opened.
“Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” isn’t just a show for little kids, but a genuinely funny and engaging piece of television for all ages and demographics. It is a pinnacle of animated comedy that would fascinate anyone bold enough to start an episode and could even draw praise and soften the cold heart of film legend Martin Scorsese himself.
“Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” follows Barbie Roberts and her sisters Skipper, Stacie and Chelsea who live in a mansion in Malibu, California with Barbie’s boyfriend Ken. What makes “Life in the Dreamhouse” so entertaining is that while the characters appear human-like and act like normal people, the show makes no qualms in hiding that they’re dolls and even allows the characters themselves to address their “dollness.” This gives rise to myriads of clever and well-written jokes that are self-aware and satirical about the Barbie line of products, often making one wonder if “Life in the Dreamhouse” isn’t a clever parody instead of an officially licensed adaptation.
Pairing this with how episodes are often filmed like a mock reality show, with characters having confessional moments directly to the camera in between scenes, shows how “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” uses its structure and clever writing to craft a television experience that’s not only fun for children, but genuinely funny for adults in ways that might go over children’s heads.
There is little character development in “Life in the Dreamhouse,” but that’s because it’s pretty hard to develop on what’s already perfect. Barbie is purposefully over the top in her writing, being both a fulfillment and a caricature of the “perfect” girl. Likewise, Ken is a doting, supportive, caring boyfriend who often serves as a comedic addition and support for Barbie and her sisters.
Often reappearing in multiple episodes are the guest stars Raquel and Ryan, two twins who are friends of Barbie and Ken but also serve as our antagonists in the show. Raquel is madly in love with Ken and Ryan is crushing on Barbie, and the two are classic caricatures of the “mustache-twirling villain” trope. They’re selfish and vain in the most ridiculously obvious ways and much of the conflict from episodes comes when the twins use some convoluted scheme or another to try to break up Barbie and Ken, which always seem to fail due to their own ineptitude and the genuine love between Ken, Barbie, her sisters and her other friends.
An example of an episode of “Life in the Dreamhouse” would be the episode “The Amaze Chase,” which follows a farfetched and outlandish car race across the country with Barbie and her friends. Not only does this car chase seem highly improbable but the cars themselves are ridiculous. Plenty of recurring jokes appear, such as how Barbie’s car defies the laws of space and time and connects directly to her house, or why she somehow has a labyrinthian maze of a closet in her mansion. Characters madly try to collect prizes as they compete in mini-challenges across the races, with Raquel and Ryan scheming to disrupt Barbie and Ken but failing spectacularly and comedically at every turn. But once the race is over, all our characters are able to return home as friends who’ve just enjoyed a week or month or day (time is seemingly relative in the Barbieverse) together we can put aside their differences to embrace the beauty of true friendship and love.
That being said, episodes aren’t always fun and games. “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” doesn’t shy away from tackling complex political and social themes. For example, the episode “Gone Glitter Gone” centers around a glitter shortage that cripples the doll economy. hen the youngest sister Chelsea discovers that she’s the only person in the world who still has a bottle of glitter, she unintentionally launches her sisters and Ken into a bloodthirsty and vicious series of betrayals and schemes to steal the last bottle of glitter. This is a complex and clever commentary on the state of our society, the dangers of substance abuse and the obsession with products and consumerism that we’ve allowed the American people to become completely reliant on.
In short, “Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse” isn’t just for children. It’s a surprisingly funny, occasionally deep, consistently entertaining animated show that could appeal to small children but also get some genuine laughs and investment from older watchers. It’s a triumph of children’s television, one that manages to unite all ages, genders, races, political ideologies and backgrounds for one common goal: capitalism-centered laughter through a whole lot of nepotism.
I’m honored to give “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” an 11/10, with the extra 1 point coming from today’s date of April 1. April Fools!
Author’s note: despite the comedic and satirical nature of this article, the author would like to state that “Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse” is actually surprisingly funny, and if you want some good, silly animated comedy, give it a watch – even if you think you’re too old or not the target audience. You may just be surprised!
“Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse” is now streaming on Netflix.
Ben Konuch is a sophomore Strategic Communication student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and hanging out with crazy MuKappa friends.
Images courtesy of Mattel Studios and Mattel Playground Productions