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Barbie's Dreamhouse

Lavinia PituMay 24, 2013

Feminist protesters crucified and burned Barbie in front of her brand-new Dreamhouse in Berlin. DW's Lavinia Pitu went to find out what all the fuss was about - and came back totally underwhelmed.

Barbie doll
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

It is very temporary, but nevertheless hotly debated - and both loved and hated. "Barbie, The Dreamhouse Experience" has opened for the first time in Europe and will add some pink to Berlin's otherwise gray architecture through August 25.

In a city that loves to protest, there has been nearly as much fuss about the 2,500-square-meter life-size doll mansion, a project by EMS Entertainment and Mattel, as about the never-ending construction of Berlin's new international airport.

Barbie and her glamorous life in plastic are omnipresent. People are rattling on about her unrealistic proportions and her bad influence on young girls' dietary tendencies. There were harsh feminist protests on opening day, focused against the alleged sexist image that the 29-centimeter-tall doll has been promoting for 54 years now.

Scene in Berlin logo

Yes, she's firmly arrived in her golden years, but Barbie, it seems, is still in great shape and maintains her impeccable sense for business. With the Dreamhouse attracting about 3,000 visitors a day - fans and foes alike - she's making good money in Berlin, with entrance fees of 12 euros ($15.50) for children and 15 euros for adults.

A girl's best friends

But is all the fuss really worth it? Is our society really so endangered by a plastic doll in heels that crucifying and burning her effigy - as feminist protesters did at the opening of the Dreamhouse - would really make a difference?

To find out, I decided to see the Dreamhouse for myself. I came, I saw - and I left totally unimpressed (though partially color-blinded by the bubble gum pink interiors). Astonishingly, I exited the Barbiehouse completely void of any desire to lose weight or buy "the latest pink nail polish," as a sticky note pasted to Barbie's plastic fridge had suggested.

Protests at the opening of the Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin
Protests on opening day were intenseImage: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Disappointingly, I didn't even get to meet the lady of the house. Instead, she only greeted me from a screen in the "elevator," which was supposed to be transporting us visitors from one room to the other, inviting us to "make ourselves at home."

Well, the homey feeling was slightly difficult to get, since I only found boring pieces of furniture, a lot of drawings on the walls, computers, virtual cakes on a screen (no wonder that the world's most famous blonde is so slim), a bed made completely of plastic, and shoes that could not be touched.

And if shoes aren't a girl's best friends, then what is? Oh, diamonds? I did find diamond stickers on Barbie's wardrobe, but once again, they couldn't be touched. Spending time in my own closet is much more rewarding, I thought.

Pink plastic is the leitmotif in Barbie's world, as we all know. But I was nevertheless expecting to find a more interactive attraction in downtown Berlin, where kids could actually play the piano in her living room and taste the candies in the kitchen instead of just looking at them.

There was one exception to the boring "don't touch" rule, though: the catwalk. There girls can dress up and stroll down the runway like a celebrity. There's also a pop star stage and styling and make-up area. But since it was empty during my visit, I didn't have a chance to experiment with a new Barbie 'do.

Inside the Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin
Barbie's only appearances were on screenImage: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Barbie's two cents

But with or without Barbie, little girls will always love lipstick, high heels and pink. Even though I grew up behind the Iron Curtain, where Babushka was fat and made of wood, I used to try on my mother's shoes and dresses. Even without Barbie as a bad role model, I made my own decision at some point to wear makeup and high heels - so I cannot blame her for my occasional back aches and sore feet.

She may be disgustingly disproportionate, with her extra long legs, small feet, an unnaturally narrow waist - and horribly kitschy taste for interior design. But can anyone really blame a toy for creating unattainable illusions about a glamorous lifestyle? I don't think so.

Barbie and her Dreamhouse are just money makers, like all the other millions of marketing gags that surround us every day, on every corner of our cities. If Barbie is anything, she's a very competent businesswoman, making more money than Europe's largest infrastructure project, namely the Berlin Brandenburg International airport.

Outside the Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin
If you don't like the color pink, you're in troubleImage: Femen