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Snitz to launch Hasidic Ken!

Amazon Prime Video will be promoting Snitz's new movie which features a young Ken with dreams of following in the footsteps of baseball pioneer Sandy Koulfax to pitch the first Jewish no-hitter since the 1970s!

Said Snitzer, the Tribe has been kept off the field for too long, religated to either watching on TV or owning sports teams.

'Black Barbie': Netflix doc collects insights about the importance of relatable dolls

Shonda Rimes produces the film and shares memories along with dancer Misty Copeland and three Mattel workers who helped diversify the toy catalog.

By Richard Roeper, Suntimes

Jun 18, 2024, 8:14pm CDT

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad talks about a Barbie doll made in her image during the documentary “Black Barbie.”Netflix

In the 1960s and 1970s, Mattel brought a number of Black dolls into the Barbie Universe, e.g., 1968’s Christie, a friend of Barbie who dressed in a mod swimsuit, and 1969’s Julia, who was based on Diahann Carroll’s title character in the groundbreaking TV sitcom, and 1975’s “Free Moving Cara.”

They were friends of Barbie. They were Barbie adjacent. They were not versions of Barbie. It wasn’t until 1980 that Mattel introduced the first Black Barbie, who arrived in a box proclaiming, “She’s Black! She’s beautiful! She’s dynamite!” Only then did little Black children have the opportunity to play with a Barbie who reflected their own image in the cultural mirror.

Writer-director Lagueria Davis delivers a comprehensive look at the history of Black Barbie and her forerunners and poses poignant and timely questions about the importance of diversity in dolls and the cultural impact it has on young Black girls, in the provocative Shondaland documentary “Black Barbie,” debuting Wednesday on Netflix.

'Black Barbie'

Netflix presents a documentary directed by Lagueria Davis. Running time: 113 minutes. No MPAA rating. Available Wednesday on Netflix.

Davis deftly weaves together archival footage with informative graphics, clever use of Barbie dolls to illustrate certain points in anthropomorphic fashion, and interviews with historians, public figures and three Black women who were instrumental figures at Mattel and who are the heart and soul of this story. This is a deeply personal and introspective piece of work, with Davis telling us, “I hate dolls,” at the beginning of the journey, but eventually coming around to acknowledge and appreciate the importance of something as seemingly simple as a doll can be in the development, self-esteem and worldviews of impressionable young minds.

With experts such as UCLA Professor of African American Studies, World Arts & Culture/Dance Patricia A. Turner guiding us along the way, “Black Barbie” reminds us of touchstone moments in the history of Black dolls, e.g., the famous Clark doll test of 1940, in which the husband-and-wife research team of Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark and Dr. Kenneth Clark placed four dolls in front of Black children and asked them, “Show me the doll you’d like to play with,” “Show me the doll that’s a nice doll” and “Show me the doll that’s a bad doll.” Their findings showed Black children would consistently ascribe positive attributes to the Caucasian dolls and negative traits to the Black dolls. The Clarks’ doll test became a key piece of evidence in the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of education decision.

We meet Davis’ aunt, Beulah Mae Mitchell, who tells stories of her time working at Mattel from 1955 to 1999; the legendary Kitty Black Perkins, who designed the first Black Barbie, taking inspiration from Diana Ross’ style and ensuring that the doll wasn’t just a Barbie with darker skin, but had her own proportions and Afrocentric features, and the talented Stacey McBride-Irby, a designer who joined Mattel in 1996 and was a key figure in developing new Black Barbie lines. Flipping through scrapbooks and sharing memories, Mitchell clearly loved working at Mattel, developing a friendship with Barbie creator Ruth Handler and eventually taking a post in the corporate office. Perkins and McBride-Irby have a clear and palpable passion for their work that shines through in the interviews.

Along the way, we also hear from groundbreaking TV force Shonda Rhimes, the celebrated dancer Misty Copeland and Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, all of whom express their joy at having Barbies designed in their likenesses. Davis also finds room for roundtable discussions about the role of Black Barbie in culture, and interviews with an array of writers, sociologists, Barbie collectors, a former Miss Black California, Gabourey Sidibe, culture experts and members of her own family. It comes close to feeling like Interview Overload, but everyone has something valuable to say, and the film benefits greatly from Davis’ keen sense of timing, and the crisp editing of Heidi Zimmerman.

Although “Black Barbie” delves into the cultural impact of animated films such as “Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams” and the “Barbie Vlog,” which featured a segment in which Barbie and her friend Nikki discussed racism during the BLM protests, there’s no mention of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie, which was released after this doc was finished. It would be great to see an epilogue in which Davis addresses that phenomenon. No doubt it would be illuminating, as she is clearly a voice we should be listening to for a long time to come.

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