“The through line in my films is really people in moments of transformation. I think it’s the moment where we go through a dark night of the soul, and how we find the light is something that I think we all look for in our stories,” Oscar-nominated documentarian Andrea Nevins told Deadline today. “For me, that’s the hero’s journey that I like to follow.”
Certainly, this notion of transformation is at hand in Nevins’ latest effort, Hulu documentary Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie, which charts the history of the iconic Mattel doll and her evolution over the decades. In the 60 years of Barbie’s history, the doll has become a major topic of cultural conversation and a target for feminists as a representation—appropriate or not—of women in the world today. As Mattel’s doll sales declined in recent years and Barbie’s cookie-cutter image continued to be vocally criticized by those seeking more diverse representations of women in the media, the California company looked to reimagine Barbie for a new generation, simultaneously opening its doors to Nevins for her documentary.
“Working with [Mattel] was extraordinary just because it’s so rare to be inside the making of almost anything. You get to see how the sausage is made, but perhaps the most exciting moment was getting to go into the Barbie archives,” Nevins explained. “They let almost nobody in there, and they’re literally like office cabinets. You open them up and it’s the very first doll, and then all the Bob Mackie dolls. It was literally like being let into Wonderland, or being Charlie and being able to go into the chocolate factory.”
Speaking with Deadline, Nevins discussed not only the history of the Barbie brand, but also her own personal history with the doll, as she came of age. “She was not the dominant species in my toy culture. She was one among many Trolls and G.I. Joes,” the director said, “but she was definitely a strong woman who had her own voice and was not a ditz.”
To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with Tiny Shoulders director Andrea Nevins, click above.
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