…with Barbie and all her friends because, for the most part, it manages to balance light humor at no one’s expense with slapstick and clever in-jokes. Midge as snorting, safety-obsessed introvert who talks like the 1950s also cracks me up — and she’s so cute when she appears in Smidge of Midge in greyscale!
I also really like Ken, who ultimately ends up being portrayed as just another character who happens to be Barbie’s boyfriend, rather than the major plot motor and deus ex machina of the series. He’s goofy and utterly devoted to Barbie [“Barbie sense…tingling…”] and supremely confident enough in his masculinity to invent a super-sophisticated closet for all his girlfriend’s clothes. In other words, rather than having gay panic over activities often coded as queer, Ken does IT, back-end programming for the Super Style Squad [actually saying, “Beep boop bop,” with Skipper as they hit buttons ^_^ ]. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see a cartoon where all the characters, male and female, take fashion, style, clothing, etc., etc., etc., seriously, and no one shits on it for being trivially feminine. That’s actually kind of revolutionary.
Life in the Dreamhouse would be even better if it ditched its racism and ableism. For example:
- The cast needs more POC in significant speaking roles besides Nikki.
- While we’re discussing Nikki, she needs to develop a modicum of personality beyond Sassy Black Friend. For God’s sake, she even does the head jerks and vocal fry so routinely associated with this stereotype. Everyone else has some interest or trait to differentiate them [Teresa’s monkey, Midge’s macrame, Summer’s high energy, Skipper’s use of gadgets, Ryan’s really bad songs], but Nikki has nothing.
- Furthermore, the show needs to stop using Afros as a visual shorthand for disastrous hairdos. When all characters have shiny, sleek, straight hair and curly, kinky, gravity-defying clouds of natural locks are depicted as the ridiculous punchlines to jokes, people with such curly, kinky hair are derided by extension.
- The ableism needs to go too. Any use of “lame” as an adjective meaning “bad quality, boring, uninteresting, etc.” should be scratched from the script pronto. Ditto for any appearance of “crazy” for “wild, unusual, strange, exciting” or “cray cray” for same. Just cut it out.
- In terms of additions, I think that Life in the Dreamhouse would be greatly improved by the appearance of Becky, a photographer friend of Barbie who uses a wheelchair. I mean, c’mon — if they can devote the air time to a running gag on the inadequate single elevator in the Dreamhouse, surely they can devote an episode to its upgrade and Barbie and Becky’s happiness when Becky can finally get to the second floor to see her super-awesome closet, right?