Getting a message from someone I once knew
By Marianne Aleardi

The first time someone gave a Barbie doll to one of my daughters, I was astounded that someone thought this forever-skinny blonde, whose naked feet remained molded for high heels, would be a good gift for my 3-year-old. When no one was looking, I threw it to the top of our hall closet and Barbie was never seen again.          

As Joe & I went about raising 3 daughters, I tried my best to keep Barbie out of the house. Even though my childhood was filled with Barbie – her house, her car, her beach house and airplane (I especially remember how much I loved that airplane) – I was keenly aware of what a bad role model she really was. The whole “she has fewer ribs than a real woman so her waist can be thinner” concept didn’t sit right with me. So Barbie was banned from the Aleardi house. 

I would debate this decision with many people, but it wasn’t until my nephew Matt, who was around 12 and had witnessed his younger sister play with Barbies many times, said to me, “What’s the big deal? Meaghan takes Barbie and slams her head on the table. It’s just a doll.”

So I eased my point of view, which was probably a good idea because I don’t know that I could have kept Barbie out of my house. She was gifted numerous times to each daughter. Their classmates brought cases filled with all kinds of Barbie paraphernalia on play dates. And of course, my girls eventually asked for her. So we became a house with Barbies, although we didn’t have lots of clothes or accessories. You could say we were minimalists when it came to her. (I definitely favored American Girl dolls – at least they came with some historical lessons.) I guess I cautiously crossed the Barbie line but tried not to go too far.

So we raised 3 daughters to be strong independent women, despite the Barbies in the house. Years went by, and Barbie became a memory. Until my middle daughter Maura invited me to see the new movie “Barbie” last month. I was excited to go, which surprised even me.

My thinking was a Barbie movie in 2023 had to have feminist themes. Right? This was their chance to right a lot of wrongs – negativity toward women that started when I was a kid and continued for decades. When we got to the theater, I knew nothing about what I was going to see. I hadn’t seen the trailer, and I hadn’t read anything about the movie – not even social media posts. I just wanted to see what message Barbie had for me. I think I felt like she owed me something.

On a side note, I happen to love pink. And I did know it was a thing to dress in pink (or pastels) to go to see the movie. Maura & I both did, as did everyone else in the theater – females of ALL ages – and it was awesome.

The movie was awesome too. It was fun and bright and pink, but also incredibly meaningful and deep. The movie, which came from Mattel Films, poked some fun at the company for its significant mistakes and then made up for it by presenting for all to see what life is like for women and how it could be different. There are other themes sewn throughout, including the precious relationship between mothers and daughters. (There is one line that really stuck with me: “Mothers stand still so their daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.”)

As someone who grew up in the ’70s and is now the mother of 3 daughters, I’ve known Barbie my whole life, which hasn’t always been a good thing. I’m glad I got to see her one more time, though, because she’s now someone I’m ok with. It seems the very influential Barbie has figured a few things out, which can only be good for the young girls, and boys, who will inevitably have her in their lives. Actually, if Barbie’s message becomes as popular as she is, it will be good for all of us.


Read more “Wide Awake” by Marianne Aleardi

August 2023
Related Articles

Comments are closed.


Get SJ Mag in Your Inbox

Subscribe for the latest on South Jersey dining, weekend entertainment, the Shore and much more - sent directly to your inbox.

* indicates required
Email Format
WATCH NOW: Millennials looking for Mentors