by Randall Allen Dunn
As the father of a four-year old girl, I can assure you that some Barbie movies are more watchable than others. Abby has collected several of them as presents in the last two years, and they all have some common features that are hard for a dad to sit through.
Barbie and her friends are always well-dressed, well-groomed and easygoing. It’s surprising that they usually wear casual everyday clothes, although it’s “casual” like a supermodel taking a day off. Their jobs seem more like hobbies – folk singer, ballerina, painter, etc. – or else they live in a palace somewhere with servants doing all the hard work. They treat people kindly and encourage others to have a positive outlook on life. Those parts, I can bear to watch.
The troubling parts are the male characters, who are always extremely effeminate and seem to have little purpose in life apart from dating Barbie. Far more disturbing are the pets, usually puppies, that have eyelashes and some form of make-up. They inevitably perform some strange dance number, incorporating disco, breakdancing, or some other dance form that no one wants to see a puppy do. I assume this is meant to be adorable for little girls, rather than just making their fathers ill.
When little Kelly tells Barbie she doesn’t want to attend a Christmas benefit party instead of doing her own thing, Barbie tells her about a woman who felt much the same way. In Barbie’s story, Eden Starling is a highly driven singer who runs a theatre house in Victorian England. Obsessed with success, she overworks her theatre troupe, insisting that they even rehearse through the holidays. Placing no value on Christmas, Eden grows tired of the troupe’s complaints about missing their holiday time, and threatens to fire the next person who brings up the subject of Christmas. Her best friend, costume designer Catherine, tries to get Eden to compromise, but Eden won’t hear of it.
That night, Eden is visited by the ghost of her Aunt Marie, who tells Eden she will be visited by three spirits, who will show her the true meaning of Christmas. Later, the first spirit shows Eden her childhood, revealing her upbringing with Aunt Marie. A strict taskmaster, Marie forces Eden to practice singing and playing piano almost non-stop, without even a break at Christmas. Eden is being raised to believe she must push herself harder and harder, because “in a selfish world, the selfish succeed.”
But she manages to sneak away to Catherine’s house, after Catherine invites her to “crash” their Christmas party. Inside Catherine’s home, the atmosphere is alive and warm and inviting. Everyone is happy and celebrating, and Catherine’s parents are delighted to see Eden joining them.
But Eden’s party ends abruptly when her Aunt Marie shows up at the door. Marie is highly offended that Catherine’s parents have allowed her daughter to sneak off to their party, but she is primarily angry with Eden for neglecting her music practice. She whisks Eden back home, making it clear that she and her niece have no interest in joining the Christmas party.
Eden is saddened at the memories of her rough childhood. But she insists that her Aunt Marie was right. Eden had to practice, rather than waste time celebrating with others, so that she could rise to the top.
The second spirit shows Eden that the present-day Catherine spends her Christmases donating clothes to orphans. Amazed, Eden confesses that she had no idea her best friend did this. But she still sees Christmas, and charity, as a waste.
Finally, the third spirit shows Eden a desolate future, after Eden has lost her hard-earned fame. Struggling to survive in a shabby apartment, Eden lives in the past, remembering her glory days as she peruses old posters of her performances.
She meets Catherine, who has become a rich designer, now enjoying the luxury and acclaim that Eden once had. Unfortunately, Catherine has also become arrogant and selfish, having learned from Eden that “in a selfish world, the selfish succeed.” She has no time for Eden, and no thoughts of lending a hand to her former best friend, who is now on the brink of starvation. A woman who once made clothes for orphans now seeks only to help herself.
Seeing all this, Eden learns her lesson quickly. She gives her staff time off for Christmas, and gives them gifts to celebrate. Hearing Barbie’s story, Kelly also changes her mind about attending the Christmas party.
What struck me so much about this film was its resounding gloomy theme: “In a selfish world, the selfish succeed.” … and the fact that this is actually true.
But the real truth is that every single one of us is selfish by nature. We’re born grabbing whatever we can for ourselves. It’s only through being taught how to share and think of others, and occasionally having our own conscience pricked, that we become generous.
So it should not surprise us that we live in a selfish world, made up of selfish people like ourselves. And if we pursue selfish ambitions, we will certainly succeed. As the saying goes, “It’s easy to make a lot of money if all you want to do is make a lot of money.” If you don’t care about others or about yourself, there are plenty of ways to get whatever you want by lying, cheating, and stealing whatever you can. You sacrifice friends and reputation and conscience, but what does that matter, if your only goal is to succeed? Anyone can achieve the dream of living in luxury at the expense of others.
Just remember that you will eventually wake up from that dream.
Even if you manage to stay popular and wealthy into your retirement years, how much will you enjoy your final days after casting all of your friends aside? Success alone won’t bring happiness, if there’s no one to share it with.
Some people worry that if they don’t claw their way to the top, they won’t reach their goals. Their obsession with success leads them to ignore the people around them.
But when we value other things in life besides our own ambitions – such as family, friends, peace, contentment, love – then selfish people like us can become givers. When we recognize that success is fleeting, but love is eternal, we can start to address the needs of those around us, both friends and strangers. We can listen to our friends’ concerns and encourage them. We can see the needs of strangers and lend them a hand. And by the joy and peace that comes from our generosity, the world can become a little less selfish.
In a selfish worldview, the world becomes selfish, and the selfish person feels free to justify their cold-hearted actions. In a generous world, people learn to depend on one another instead of competing with friends and neighbors. They learn to show kindness instead of grabbing everything up for themselves. And they learn to find hope and help, for a day when they might need someone to show them the same generosity.
Can you change the entire world by becoming a giver? Probably not.
But you can change the world around you.
Find more reviews of “Barbie in A Christmas Carol” at amazon.com!
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010