Review: Barbie The Pearl Princess

DVD cover for Barbie The Pearl PrincessIt’s probably no great surprise that I’m not a huge fan of the Barbie movie franchise. However, the girls love them, so when we got the chance to review the new Barbie movie, Barbie The Pearl Princess, there was no way I could turn it down.

Barbie appears in this movie as Lumina, a mermaid with special powers that allow her to control pearls, making them dance and glow amongst other things. But Lumina has spent all her life hidden away from the world, living with her aunt on the outer edges of the mermaid kingdom. She dreams of one day visiting the royal palace, and when an opportunity comes up to do just that, Lumina and her seahorse friend Kuda set off on an adventure that brings Lumina more than she bargained for.

The animation in this movie was great, and a real step up from some of the previous Barbie movies I’ve seen. The music was pretty good too, particularly Mermaid Party which managed to sound like a load of recent chart hits without sounding like a rip-off of any of them. The story, though, left me a bit cold – there was no real sense of surprise or danger, and you can probably work out how things end up from the title alone.

That said, I’m not really the target audience, and the girls enjoyed it well enough. Heather gave it a solid 3 out of 5 (although I’m not sure she really understood what I was asking) and Megan has watched it several times, so clearly she enjoyed it too. Also, she got really excited about the posters and trailers we saw in the cinema at the weekend (as well as it’s DVD release, the movie has a limited run at Vue cinemas) which proves how much she liked it. What do I know?

Barbie The Pearl Princess is released on DVD on February 17th. It’s also on at Vue cinemas on February 15th/16th

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Girls and boys come out to play

Since becoming the father of two girls, it’s fair to say that I’ve become more sensitive to many gender issues than once I was. You might even say it’s brought out the feminist in me. Once upon a time I may have questioned things like “women in technology days”, crying “positive discrimination” and “where are the men in technology days?”, the older, wiser and more feminist me can see why such things are necessary, and should be encouraged.

I want my girls to live in a world that lets them be whatever it is they want to be, and doesn’t try to pigeon-hole them. Nothing should be off-limits just because they happen to be girls. And yet, in 2014, it seems the world still works that way.

Browsing the latest Argos book last night, looking for gift ideas for Megan’s upcoming birthday, I was surprised to discover that there is now a range of NERF toys specifically aimed at girls. In case you’re not aware of NERF, it’s a collection of weapons, with names like “Mega Blasters” and “Supersoakers” which fire foam darts and/or water at their victims.

Launched last year, the NERF Rebelle line is a collection of weapons aimed at girls – think crossbows in pink and purple – the not-so-subtle implication being that the girls should be leaving the bigger guns to the boys. Have a look at this page from Argos’s NERF shop, and you’ll see what I mean. The vast majority of the range is marketed with pictures of boys, and then, tacked on at the end like an afterthought, is the not quite so beefy range for girls.

Of course, whether or not our children should be running about shooting each other at all is an entirely separate debate (it looks like fun to me!) but it’s just another example of how toy companies continue to segregate boys’ and girls’ toys, building up perceptions and prejudices that can be hard to break down later.

By coincidence, I saw this morning a story shared by a friend on this very theme, that how children are encouraged to play can enforce stereotypes and limit future career choices.

Now I’m not saying my girls have to be engineers or scientists. Assuming it’s what they want to do I’d be equally happy with them pursuing a more “traditional” female career, like hairdressing or working with small children. What I don’t want, though, is for them to ever feel like anything is off-limits or just for boys.

Of course, there’s only so much Gem and I can do – our influence will diminish over time, in favour of the girls’ peers, which makes it even more important to get the message right today.

Whose idea was gender equality anyway? It seems it was so much easier in the past…

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!