Tag Archives: movies

Life in Plastic: Barbie and Beyond

Have you bought your tickets for the Barbie movie yet? Perhaps you’re planning on doing a Barbie-Oppenheimer (“Barbenheimer”) double feature, if you’ve got all the time in the world? I’m just as hyped as everyone else! And all this hoopla around Barbie got me thinking of The Power of the Doll in pop culture. Barbie herself has been kicking around since 1959, so she’s clearly got staying power. And over the decades there has been no shortage of thinkpieces on the iconic doll and her role in the lives of young girls. 

Dolls, being tied to girls or to the experience of being raised female, have always had a place in media and art as a way to explore that experience under various degrees of sexism. Ibsen’s A Doll’s House critiques the suffocating nature of marriage roles in the 19th century. In Valley of the Dolls, “dolls” refers to sedative drugs but also to its main characters who, while not passing any sort of feminism test, understandably operate under patriarchy in the 1960s. Even Scandinavian pop sensation Aqua’s 1997 banger “Barbie Girl” is really about the perception of women as objects. Serious stuff!  

But that all comes from adult artists who, divorced from the simple act of play, see dolls as ripe for metaphor. To kids, Barbie is simply a toy. I remember lots of handwringing about Barbie and her effect on girls’ self-esteem and body image. And recently there’s been some revival of that discourse online. But in practice, I don’t know a single person who had a bad experience with Barbie. The excitement for Barbie the movie just proves the enduring appeal of this particular doll, especially for those of us who grew up playing with her. As one of my favourite tweets on the subject goes, “I simply did not give Barbie this power over me, I controlled HER life.” I can’t speak for everyone’s experiences, but for me, Barbie and all her accoutrements were just toys. Ways to express our weird little imaginations. My Barbies were perpetually getting stuck on rollercoasters or reenacting the sinking of the Titanic. My one Ken doll was a flop whose head kept falling off, so he often had to sit these scenes out. If I coveted anything in real life, it was Barbie’s Dream House and her white Jeep Wrangler. It really was not serious.  

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Off the Tabletop and on to the Screen

The cover of Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting by Matthew Mercer

So for my last post, I wrote about TTRPG-inspired books and linked to a few rulebooks to help burgeoning GMs or players get started. What I only did once, and didn’t point out, was a link to a System Reference Document, or SRD. That was the Pathfinder link; there’s also a Pathfinder 2nd edition SRD, a D&D 5th Edition SRD, a Gumshoe SRD, and many others. These documents exist so that companies and GMs can create new adventures for existing systems or branch off these systems to develop their own games, as Pathfinder did from D&D 3.5e. They’re also an excellent place for Players and GMs to learn the rules of a game, and if all you can get hold of is a campaign book from our collection or you want to create your own adventure, these are a great, free place to start. They don’t contain all of your options and won’t have trademarked creatures in them, but they have enough to run a campaign or create a character; I know this first-hand.

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Feel Good Spring Films

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

As I write this, winter seems to have a stranglehold on our weather, though I swear I see some trees stubbornly budding. I’ve decided it doesn’t matter what the actual temperature is⁠—or the fact that we’ve still got snow⁠—it’s March! It’s spring break! And spring is sometimes a feeling more than a state, especially in Canada.

But to truly give myself (and you, dear reader) that spring-is-coming feeling, I’ve decided to compile a list of my favourite films that make me feel all hopeful and peaceful and green and blossoming. (Those are all real emotions, I promise).

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