A black university lecturer and writer has refused to take his daughter to see the new Barbie movie – because he says the trailer was “overwhelmed with whiteness”.
Dwight Watkins, a bestselling author and HBO writer, said the promotional video for Barbie was “one of the whitest trailers I ever saw in my life”. And he said he would “do everything in my power to keep my daughter away from the ‘white is always right’ ideology”.
Watkins recalled the “sense of pride” felt in his black community when the first Black Barbie was released in 1980. But he said the 2023 movie “should be way more progressive than the company’s history”.
Watkins, writing for ‘progressive’ news and politics website Salon.com, said he was initially “beyond excited” to see the film, as he has been a fan of one of its stars, Issa Rae, “since the ‘Awkward Black Girl’ web series days”. However, while Watkins said that he genuinely believes that “artists and filmmakers can create whatever they want”, he also believes that he “must be cautious” about what he exposes his daughter to.
He wrote: “She’s too young to understand the complexities of gender, so how do you even begin to open the door to conversations about race and how movies and commercials in America act like white people have a monopoly on beauty?”
“Google ‘attractive woman’ and watch the page fill up with white faces.”
Watkins said that he will be “religiously” teaching his daughter that “Black is beautiful, even though Hollywood is only willing to show it in small doses”. And he added: “Avoiding films like “Barbie” is a part of that teaching.”
Recalling his own childhood “in the trenches” when “toys were a luxury”, Watkins said he “vividly” remembers his older sister and cousin, who was born in the late 1970s, “having white Barbie dolls”. And he remembered, a few years later, “the sense of pride” felt by black children when Black Barbie was released in the 1980s.
“Imagine living in a primarily Black neighborhood and being gifted a tall white, blonde doll with multiple outfits and career choices,” wrote Watkins.
“I also remember when my little cousin Tia, born in the ’80s like me, tore off the plastic wrap of a Black Barbie, and the sense of pride we all felt, knowing we all could be a part of the Barbie world too.
“Black Barbie looked like my sister, mom or aunt. It was amazing. I bit the head off of that Black Barbie too, as I was an equal-opportunity terrorist.”