Ballerina Barbie, Vet Barbie, Mermaid Barbie, Tribal Beauty Barbie – since she was first introduced in 1959, the long-legged blond has been everywhere and done the lot. Now the classic figurine is inviting visitors to step inside her brand-new, life-size ‘Dreamhouse’.
Built on a slice of industrial wasteland sandwiched between a railway and communist housing blocks in north-east Berlin, the building was designed by EMS Entertainment in collaboration with Mattel, Barbie’s long-term manufacturers.
President of EMS Entertainment, Christoph Rahofer, is excited by the building’s interactive focus: “We wanted to concentrate on the interaction between the kids and Barbie’s world. A lot of things are hidden and need to be discovered; others are obvious. That, together with interactive digital games, stimulate the children’s fantasies.”
But not everyone is so eager to bake cup cakes in Barbie’s kitchen or stroll along her catwalk.
Activists groups are picketing the pink palace, arguing Barbie’s nigh-impossible physical proportions, and her unhealthy obsession with shoes make her a prime example of the sexist propaganda which dominates advertising.
‘Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse’ are one of several groups leading the charge, and as Michael Koschitzki of the same grassroots collective explains, theirs is a fight against both plush consumerism and the ‘pinkification’ of young girls: “We will come and protest at the opening day of the Barbie Dreamhouse because we think that young girls are being presented with the wrong role model. Cooking, putting on makeup and singing are presented as the goals of women’s lives. Small children are being confronted with a cult of beauty. They will have two choices here for what they can achieve in their lives, pop star or supermodel. We think that this is discriminating.”
In response to these claims, Mattel insists it has modernized the doll’s image, creating presidential candidate versions, brain surgeons, and a new Angela Merkel look-alike.
After its Berlin debut, the house will go on a tour of other European cities from the end of August.