Hollywood's Barbie Problem: How Will Human Actress Size Up?
(Alan Diaz/AP Photo)
Mattel and Sony Pictures have announced plans to give the popular plastic plaything her long-awaited silver-screen close-up, with glam franchise ambitions no less. Unlike immensely popular toy-to-screen franchises such as "The Lego Movie" or "Transformers," this Barbie is going to be 100 percent live-action. This means Sony needs to scare up an actress (read: a real animate woman) to portray what is decidedly an inhumanly dimensioned character.
"If the film is to appeal to a wider audience, it will clearly have to inject a sense of comic irony," Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture, tells Yahoo Movies. (Yes, it is going to be a comedy.) "I can't imagine Barbie, the live-action woman, is going to be forced into the body of the doll with Flintstones-like devices."
Animated versions of Barbie looking proportionally identical to the doll have shown up in direct-to-DVD videos like "Barbie: The Princess & the Pop Star." We also see her in Pixar's "Toy Story 3" (see video below).
But there are barriers to realizing a dimensionally faithful life-size Barbie for the big scren: Her estimated 32-16-29 measurements are thought to be shared by fewer than one in 100,000 women, according to Rehabs.com.
"If filmmakers try to remake a real person to look like Barbie she will look too absurd for anyone to concentrate on the story," observes Case Western Reserve University's Renee Sentilles, a professor of women's history.
One expert in women's and gender issues points to the film's writer, Jenny Bicks of "Sex and the City" and "The Big C" TV series, as a foreboding clue. "I expect that the image will be hyper-sexualized," says Dustin Harp of the University of Texas at Arlington.
Making "Blockbuster Barbie" to exact scale is highly unlikely, therefore adjustments will need to be made. Filmmakers could take a cue from Angelina Jolie, who had to retrofit herself (with bra padding) to achieve the look of her video game counterpart in the "Tomb Raider" series.