One thing that I found surprising about the two 11-minute specials in season 5, Trapped in the Dreamhouse and Perf Pool Party, were the amount of pop culture references that the target audience probably wouldn’t understand. In these two episodes, there are references to Indiana Jones movies, Star Trek, Star Wars and even Red Dwarf. While some adults who have been watching these shows, like me, might catch these references, the eight-year-old girls that this program is intended would find all of these jokes going right over their heads.
Trapped in the Dreamhouse starts out with Barbie, Midge and Summer picking out shoes in the Dreamhouse’s monstrous closet. They reveal that Teresa is having a fashion show to launch her new clothing line (because all girls dream of being clothing designers, obviously). In the diary room, Barbie says that she believes the fashion show will be perfect.
The scene cuts to Teresa who is freaking out. Ken and Nikki ask her what’s wrong. Since Teresa is really stupid, Nikki asks her if she’s forgotten how zippers work. Like most fashion designers, she might need a refresher on zippers. We all know how complicated those fuckers are. Teresa shows them her lunch and says that she asked for her free-range yogurt dressing on the side, only to find that it’s slathered all over her free-range salad. The horror, the indignity, the free-rangedness of it all!
Meanwhile, Raquelle is in her car on the phone with her twin brother, Ryan. Raquelle is telling Ryan about her plans to sabotage the fashion show. She wants to trap Barbie in the Dreamhouse, then “Barbie gets stuck here, and misses the show and I swoop in and strut my signature moves on the catwalk.” Of course, this goes with the idea that she will be able to impress Ken and lure him away from Barbie.
Ryan asks what’s in it for him and Raquelle assures him that Barbie will be so distraught after missing the fashion show that she will need a shoulder to cry on, so Ryan just has to get his pleather-clad shoulders there and then he can lure her away from Ken. I’m not going to talk about the implications of these scheming twins trying to break up the most famous Barbie couple. That will come later.
But anyway, back at the Dreamhouse, Barbie is showing the girls a pendant that she wants to wear for the show. Just then, Raquelle pops up and starts speaking nonsense. She says, “Sorry Babs, running late. Giving me a quick sec to grab some frou-frou so I can bounce bounce.” Okay, whatever. Raquelle steals away into another part of the huge closet and switches on Closet’s evil button.
Why was that button installed in the first place? Why didn’t someone deactivate it after Closet Princess 2.0? Why wasn’t there an alarm or alert system set up to warn the occupants of the Dreamhouse when the button was pressed? We may never know.
Anyway, Closet goes evil and Raquelle skips out of the closet right before he locks all of that shit down. Closet then reveal his dastardly plan for taking over the fashion world to his captives. He says that he wants to become the world’s most important fashion designer and he wants Barbie’s help to do it. He says that they can rule the fashion galaxy together. First Star Wars reference!
Closet says that he will hold the girls captive until they agree to help him. The girls look upset, but Barbie quickly tells them, “Don’t worry, guys. When we don’t show up at the runway, Ken will come rescue us.” Of course. Because what else does Ken have to do with his life? Also, why couldn’t Barbie have bothered checking the evil button or troubleshooting anything herself? Too complicated?
In the Dreamhouse hallway, Raquelle tries to take the elevator downstairs but finds that it’s out of order. She groans about it being the middle ages and takes the stairs. But when she gets into the foyer Raquelle is making a break for the door only for the front door and all of the windows to lock down and bar her egress.
At the fashion show, Ken is pondering where Barbie is as she’s never late. Ryan then enters and casually mentions that Raquelle is bringing her. Do which Nikki responds sarcastically, “Yeah, because Raquelle always has Barbie’s back.” At least someone noticed that Raquelle is not really Barbie’s friend, other than me.
Ryan then asks to see the shoes for the show and without a second thought, Teresa takes him there. Meanwhile, Ken’s Barbie sense is tingling. He announces, “I’m coming, Barbie!” and runs off to the Dreamhouse. Ken arrives at the Dreamhouse and tries the door. But everything is still locked. Just then, he gets a FaceTime from Barbie. She tells him that her and her friends are trapped in the closet. Ken quickly says that he’ll save her and he argues with Closet, allowing the girls to slip out of the closet through the air vent.
Back at the fashion show, Ryan is about to put glue into all of the model’s shoes to slow down all of the quick changes. Just then Teresa comes over and tells him that with Ken missing, she needs a male model. Ryan starts with some mock humility, but he can’t maintain it and he just takes the clothes and goes to try them on.
In the Dreamhouse, Raquelle is beating on the door, trying to get out. She cries, “I have a fashion show to ruin! I was finally, finally going to outshine Barbie! And feel good about myself for once in my entire life!” I’ll get into Raquelle’s issues in a future blog. But this admission that she doesn’t feel good about herself and feeling berated by Barbie is nothing out of character for her. Anyway, Raquelle turns to find Skipper and Stacie on the stairs, in back of her.
Raquelle straightens up and tells Skipper to open the door by doing something “computery”. Skipper accesses the Dreamhouse app on her phone and finds that Closet has taken over the entire house. Stacie laments the invention of the evil button. Then wonders why they ever installed the evil button to begin with.
Meanwhile, Barbie, Midge and Summer crawl out of the air duct and end up in the hallway. Barbie says that they need to find the Dreamhouse’s CPU. Unfortunately, the sprawling mansion is so huge that she can’t remember what room it’s in. She then says that they need to go to the “map room”. The map room has a miniature version of the Dreamhouse where they can locate this map room. Sound familiar? It’s going to be. Just wait.
Still stuck at the front door, Ken sits down and pulls out the blueprints of the Dreamhouse, which he conveniently carries with him at all times. Chelsea pops her head up and asks Ken if she can help him. Ken agrees.
In the Dreamhouse, Barbie and her friends have arrived in the map room. Barbie puts the necklace amulet into a staff and holds it up to the sun. The sun hits the amulet and lights up a room of the miniature dream house. Yes, now you know why that set up sounded familiar.
Outside of the Dreamhouse, Chelsea and Ken are looking over the blueprints. Ken is trying to figure out a way to get into the Dreamhouse other than the front door to no avail. Then Chelsea suggests that they try the thermal exhaust ports. She figures, “A precise hit on it could set off a chain reaction.” Ken agrees, but says that they’ll need proton torpedoes. We all know what we’re thinking now; Star Wars reference. And it is.
But what little kid watching this video online is going to know that they’re talking about Star Wars? Who are these jokes for? Maybe they’re planning on these kids having super cool parents who show them epic movies like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But then if the parents are so cool, why would they let their kids watch fashion-centric nonsense like this? It just doesn’t make sense.
Anyway, in the Dreamhouse’s kitchen, Raquelle, Skipper and Stacie enter. Skipper points to the fridge and says that there’s a way out through there, which is how they get their monthly sherbet deliver in. Apparently, the girls love their sherbet. Anyway, they take off into the freezer.
Barbie, meanwhile, has found the CPU room. Closet suddenly shows up, out of the dumbwaiter and tries to convince Barbie again to join him for his fashion designer takeover plan. But Closet then senses the other girls that are trying to leave through the freezer and gets distracted. He exits.
Then, for some unexplained reason, Summer picks up a potted plant and throws it, shouting, “Now’s our chance!” She promptly puts a hole in one of the walls. While Midge is pointing in the opposite direction and starting to say that the CPU is over there, Summer shoves both Barbie and Midge into the hole in the wall, then jumps in herself.
The girls land in the Dreamhouse’s industrial-sized washing machine. Which, happens to be big enough to wash furniture in it. I wonder how many little girls now believe that industrial-sized washing machines are massive things that are about two-stories high. Anyway, the water that the girls had been standing in starts to drain and suddenly they shout, “Spin cycle!” as they start to run.
At the fashion show, Ryan enters and starts making demands for his dressing room. Since he’s going to be the star male model and everything. Nikki tells him that Teresa is working on a dress and she’s busy. But Ryan ignores her and continues to list all of the various things that he wants in his dressing room. Nikki then has to restrain Teresa so that she doesn’t throttle him. Teresa gets into the diary room and says that she has forgotten how to breathe. She quickly remembers.
Meanwhile, in the freezer, Skipper, Stacie, and Raquelle are pressing on despite Arctic temperatures. They look back and realize that Raquelle has frozen in place. This puts a slight damper on their escape plans.
Back in the washing machine, Barbie suddenly remembers that she used to be an electrical engineer. She jumps up onto the door unit and pulls a green wire. The machine stops. Why it took her so long to remember this fact and use it for problem solving is never answered. Closet then reappears through a hole in the top of the washing machine’s drum and asks Barbie again if she’s ready to join his fashion empire. But Barbie bravely retorts, “A little water and suds don’t scrub away my integrity.”
Closet threatens to put all of the girls into the clothes dryer on “extra crispy”. Just then a timer goes off and Closet says that he has to go check his Crème brûlée He tells the girls not to move, but they get out of the washer and finally make it to the CPU room.
The next scene in the CPU room is an exact Barbie duplicate of this scene from the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark and one of the most easily recognizable scenes from the entire Indiana Jones franchise. But just as Indy isn’t able to get the the golden idol off of the platform, neither is Barbie. The walls start to shake and the girls rush out of the room right before a gigantic, bald Barbie head falls down from the ceiling and starts to chase them down the stairs.
Midge, Summer and Barbie meet up with Skipper, Stacie and a now frozen Raquelle that has her lower body encased in a block of ice. The girls manage to get out of the Dreamhouse before it collapses behind them. As they stare at the wreckage of the Dreamhouse, Barbie suddenly remembers the fashion show. No one things to call the fire department or the police or their insurance company to report that their house has just fallen down. They all just rush off to the fashion show.
Alrighty then. At the show, Ryan is hogging the runway. He’s dancing, singing and generally acting weird. Teresa and Nikki watch in horror as he moves around. When Barbie shows up with the rest of the cast, she quickly gives them all jobs. First, Ken pulls Ryan off of the stage with a large hook. Then the real fashion show starts and it goes off without a hitch. The night is a huge success and Teresa comes out to cheers and applause at the end.
After the fashion show, the cast returns to the destroyed Dreamhouse. The Roberts sister worry about where they’re going to live now that their home is in rubble. Then Ken comes to the rescue. Of course. He brings out a pink suitcase and opens it. Suddenly, an entirely new Dreamhouse unfolds from the suitcase. Ken tells them that this Dreamhouse has two elevators, both of them located in the foyer.
Barbie asks him about Closet. Ken is outraged, saying that Closet just tried to kill her. Of course, it was Ken who was the one that programmed Closet to being with and presumably added the evil button. But no one wants to talk about that. Barbie says that she’s forgiven Closet. Besides, it wasn’t his fault. He was set to evil. Even though Barbie admits that she knew he was set to evil, she doesn’t take any responsibility for the fact that she could have switched his evil button off and solved the problem before everyone went through all of that bullshit and wrecked the Dreamhouse.
Ken, ironically, blames the installer. But Barbie looks at him, as if to say that she knows he is the one who installed Closet. The next scene shows Ken fixing Closet, who returns his work by calling him an “ambulatory meat sack.”
In the final scene of the episode, Ryan is on a runway. He is doing an extended version of his previous modeling-interpretive dancing thing. This time, he shuffles back and forth like Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama, doing the same crab hands. If that’s a reference, I’m not sure. But I’m counting it as one because the resemblance is unmistakable.
So who are these references for, if not the target audience? Are hipsters watching Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse in record numbers and the show’s creators are trying to appease them with thinks that they might recognize? Would hipsters be old enough the understand these movies? Although Futurama is pretty recent, Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies all have a good twenty years on them. That doesn’t even start on The Godfather references that people made in Gone Glitter Gone, Part 2.
Regardless, there’s another episode that continues to make references that their under-ten viewers are not going to understand. This episode, Perf Pool Party, starts out with Barbie in the foyer, saying that something is coming. The little sisters immediately pop out to see what it is that she’s talking about. Then this exchange happens:
Skipper: My copy of Teen Angst Magazine?
Stacie: My Little Miss Stuntman Starter Kit?
Chelsea: My unicorn plushie of the month collection?
Barbie: Even better. The new pool slide arrives today!
Barbie decides to celebrate the arrival of this new slide with a perf pool party. Perf, of course, means “perfect”. Just like Barbie and friends constantly say “amaze” when she needs to say “amazing”. As in, “this day was amaze!” But beyond their annoying linguistics, Chelsea asks if the little sisters can help and soon Stacie takes charge with her handy headset and promises that Barbie’s party will be “one slamming splash fest.”
Skipper is going to DJ, Chelsea is going to whip up some of her “signature mini munchables”, Stacie is on decorating duty, all while Barbie works on the invitations. While invitations sounds like something that will take Barbie a while, she apparently just did a group text. Whatever.
Midge is the first to get her inside. She decides to bail on a poetry slam in order to go to the party. Because why do you need other interests when you can just go hang out at a pool? Ken is staring at his phone, willing it to go off, when the text comes through. In a second, he has on his trunks and a floatie and he is ready to go.
Raquelle is spray tanning her leg with a gigantic can of fake tan when the text reaches her phone. In the diary room, Raquelle claims that Barbie “ruined” her last pool party by stealing her spotlight. She claims that she would never go to her party, but then realizes that she can steal the spotlight from Barbie and give her “a taste of her own medicine.” Raquelle runs off screaming, “VENGEANCE!!!”
Nikki and Teresa are out shopping (of course) when they get their texts. Nikki says that she wants to show off her mad DJ skills. Ryan is checking himself out in a hand mirror when his phone goes off. He admits in the diary room that he’s been working on his 6-pack all winter and now he wants to show off for the girls. The main girl that he wants to impress, of course, is Barbie.
Outside at the pool, Barbie is dressed in her bathing suit. This, of course, is no small feat. Barbie regularly takes several hours to figure out what she wants to wear, so the fact that she is in her outfit for the party means that a major box on her checklist can be ticked off. Anyway, the pool hasn’t been decorated and Barbie asks Stacie about it.
The little girl says that she thought she put Tawny on it. Tawny is, of course, still a horse. The horse does a brief diary room confession where she asks how anyone can expect her to decorate when her hoof polish isn’t dry. So Stacie takes care of decorating, all by pushing one button. It’s a running gag throughout the show that so many things can be done just by pushing a button, but the character’s constant annoyance at having to push said button starts to sound like total laziness.
Anyway, the guests start to arrive and socialize with Barbie and her little sisters. Raquelle, meanwhile, is in the bushes with a pair of binoculars, spying on the party. Beside the pool, Ryan is flexing his muscles at some of the other dolls at the party. Ken walks by wearing his usual inflatable pool ring and asks him if he forgot his bikini. Ryan fires back with, “Nice ducky”.
Teresa starts trying to blow up a beach ball, but doesn’t seem to be getting very far. Then Nikki reminds her that you have to blow INTO the balloon. I have to say, it gets annoying how sometimes these kids shows have a character that is so stupid that they wouldn’t have survived up to that point in their life. Yeah, sometimes you have a friend who isn’t a genius and they make stupid comments on occasion. But Teresa can’t figure out how to blow up a beach ball, she forgets to breathe in one episode and she has apparently forgotten how zippers work before. Come on, Barbie.
Barbie then tells all of her guests that they are going to have fun and shows off the new see-through, glittery pool slide. At that same moment, Raquelle enters and tries to get everyone’s attention. But everyone is too busy admiring the pool slide to notice. Ken tries out the cake first, but he gets stuck on the end of the slide. In a second, all of the other guests slide down and get stuck as well. I have to say, all of the other guests look so non-descriptive. I know that they’re supposed to be dolls and that’s supposed to be a joke. But come on. They all look so bland and cookie cutter and there’s no variety in their body shape or type.
Moving on, Barbie worries that her party isn’t going very well and laments, “The first party of summer can’t be a flop!” Sensing that something is going wrong for her “friend”, Raquelle comes over and mocks her. Ken, naturally, volunteers to fix the slide. For all of the jobs that Barbie allegedly has had, Ken seems to be the one who always gets things done.
Barbie says to crank up the tunes while Ken works. She says that she’s going to check on the food. Skipper and Nikki find themselves at the DJ booth, both believing that they’re going to DJ. They start to argue, but one of the large buttons gets pushed and the music starts. The guests, oblivious to the power struggle that’s going on, cheer and start dancing.
While the guests are dancing, Barbie asks Stacie what the status is on the food. Stacie calls Chelsea on her walkie talkie and Chelsea responds in a weird accent, “I’m pushing the oven as hard as I can! She can’t take much more of this. I need more time!” Sound familiar? It is. This is a Star Trek reference to Scotty, the ship’s lovable drama queen. At this point in the review, I have to wonder if they’re making use of all of these references because they’re lacking in actual direction, drama, intrigue and humor on their own. Who knows?
Outside at the pool, Ryan decides that it’s time for Operation Bedazzle Barbie. He jumps off of the high board, spins in the air and smacks into the water below. Everyone, who had been watching him, goes back to talking and doing whatever they were doing first. Back in the kitchen, Chelsea has finished making enough hot dogs and cupcakes to feed a small army. She and the Dreamhouse pets start to “taste test”.
Raquelle calls Barbie over and the perky hostess ask what she can do for her. Raquelle then starts making demands and Barbie rushes to accommodate her. Barbie gets her a table with an umbrella and a lounge chair and just as Raquelle is requesting a menu, Barbie gets distracted and heads off. Raquelle attempts to adjust the umbrella herself and gets caught in it.
Meanwhile, Ryan isn’t done trying to impress Barbie. He does his high board dive again and ends with the same results. Again, Barbie doesn’t even notice. She heads over to the construction area where Ken is still building the new slide and asks Ken if he’d like anything to drink. She offers ice tea, lemonade, or gazpacho.
Gazpacho seems like such a random thing to mention. But not for a fan of Red Dwarf. Although the show hasn’t reached mainstream success in the US, there are enough fans out there to commemorate the moment on the show when Rimmer explained to Lister why his dying words were “Gazpacho soup”. Subtle, but another sci-fi reference.
Anyway, Ken says that he’s fine. In the diary room, he confesses that he’s not going to let a little dehydration or sun fever get the best of him. Because he’s a man and men aren’t human. At that moment, Raquelle tells Ken that she needs help putting lotion onto her back. Ken says that he’s busy and then accidentally drops a wrench on her head. One would think that sustaining a head injury would deter Raquelle, but I’ll get into issues with pursuit and consent later.
Skipper and Nikki are still fighting over the DJ booth. Skipper wants to play one song and Nikki wants to play another. Neither of the songs are that different. They both sound like they could be on the same album, even though they act like their tunes are complete opposites. They keep fighting until the sound system breaks.
Teresa, who had been dancing to the ever changing music, goes over to Barbie and tells her friend that she’s hungry. Barbie says that she’s going to go check on the food. Stacie calls Chelsea again and by now, Chelsea and the Dreamhouse pets have eaten everything in the entire kitchen. Chelsea says that they have hit a small snag, but before Stacie can get anymore information out of her little sister, Chelsea pretends that the walkie talkies are breaking up.
Stacie relays the information back to Barbie and advises that they call in some emergency pizzas. Raquelle is quick to pop up and just says “flop”. Meanwhile, the guests start to talk about how hungry they are. But Barbie then remembers that she has a grill! She gets out the glittery pink grill and makes burgers in a matter of seconds. The guests all devour the burgers.
Just then, Ken tells Barbie that the slide is ready. An aerial shot shows that the slide is much larger than even some amusement parks have. In the diary room he says that he finished a few hours ago but he snagged his bathing suit on a rusty nail. Of course, tetanus isn’t enough to stop him. Because he’s HAAM.
The crowd starts to admire the slide. Someone even calls it the bee’s knees. Because people still say that. Barbie is overjoyed and declares, “It looks amaze!” Midge then points out that it violates numerous building codes and zoning laws. But who cares about reality when there’s a slide to go down?
Ken volunteers to take the first trip down the slide, but Ryan beats him to the ladder. Ken warns him about the velocity on the last turn. Teresa tells him not to look down. Or up. Whichever is more scary. After realizing how high the slide is, Ryan heads down the tube and when he reaches the bottom, instead of falling into the pool, he is propelled through the air. No one else volunteers to try the slide.
It’s getting dark and the guests start to leave, all saying that they’ve had fun. Barbie announces her relief that they had just enough food. Cut to a scene of Chelsea and the pets, all sleeping in the kitchen. Barbie then recommends to Ken that he adjusts the slide for sliposity and incline. Sure, Barbie. “Sliposity” is very scientific.
Just then, Raquelle realizes that she hasn’t managed to steal Barbie’s spotlight or sabotage her party. So Raquelle sets herself up in an open clam shell and encourages everyone to look at her. Just then, Ryan returns from the mesosphere and when he hits the water, the resulting splash drenches Raquelle. Everyone left at the pool then starts applauding Ryan and Raquelle continues to be ignored. Raquelle runs off, wet and upset, and Barbie tells her thanks for coming as she runs.
Ryan comes up from the bone-dry pool telling himself that he “nailed it”. He looks around to see that Barbie has returned to the Dreamhouse and everyone else has left. So the episode ends. Throughout all of the sci-fi and adventure movie references the show makes, there’s still no indication as to why they’re doing it. It’s not fan service for their target audience, who wouldn’t get the references anyway.
Are they writing for the exhausted parents? Are they seeing what they can get away with? Are they hoping to attract Bronies and the like to watch their show? I really have no idea. There doesn’t seem to be an outright explanation for this.
To read all of the Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse articles, click here.