Guilty pleasures. Hidden desires. Forbidden sweets. Call it however you’d like, they are things we value in secret. If I would ask you what your guilty pleasure is, as far as I am concerned, it would be something you like to do alone: an activity, a type of food, a habit you are not particularly proud of – or so you’ve been told by society. My guilty pleasures surface in the moment when no one is watching, when I get to live out my weirdest desires without any judgement. Usually, it is watching a children’s movie, singing a song from the top of my lungs, or eating up all the instant noodles in my cupboard. It is my Me time, because, in that instant, I am my own person.
Of course, guilty pleasures can also be a social activity, such as partying or smoking. Today I don’t want to talk about those habits. Even if your guilty pleasure involves other people, everyone has a preferred Me activity of their own. If while you’re reading this, you’re thinking ‘Hm, I actually don’t have any guilty pleasures. I am open book.’ I am sure that you are. But would you be comfortable showing me your browser history? No? I thought so.
Everyone has something they won’t put into the spotlight because they are, for some bullshit societal reason, ashamed of it. I also wouldn’t want to put my YouTube watch history on a silver platter for everybody to glance upon. You would find too many High School Musical clips in there. Every now and then I clear it out, just so I don’t have to worry about YouTube putting some embarrassing recommendation on there.
Isn’t this so ridiculous though? We are so afraid of being exposed that some of us go through the trouble of deleting links one by one just so people never find out you watched that Barbie movie the other night. Because… I did. And you know what? I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. My artsy student self was not completely satisfied, but that was not the goal. It is called (guilty) pleasure for a reason.
Yes, Your Honour, I am guilty as charged. So let me take the stand and confess one of my biggest personal guilty pleasures and go to trial.
Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus
Yes, you read that right. I rewatched one of my favourite childhood movies for this article and let me tell you under oath, at times, I was bored to death. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the film, but my cringe meter was definitely maxed out a couple of times. My viewing experience was… controversial and nostalgic.
Let’s start with what I like about the Barbie Cinematic Universe (BCU from now on – no, that is not a legal abbreviation). 43 Barbie movies were made between 2001 and 2017. Some of them follow the person of Barbie as an actress making movies, going on adventures with her friends, building her romance with Ken, etc… Another big chunk of the films made are actually pieces that Barbie as an actress has played in, portraying different animated characters. As an adult, I appreciate this aspect of the BCU because it is creative and allows the makers to play with Barbie’s perception of actual reality and the different roles she has played.
Another point that I think is worth mentioning is that Barbie does not always portray the usual Disney princess archetype. Although she does always look like a doll living in plastic – and, no, Barbie, that is not always fantastic – the storylines are able to demonstrate real character arcs every now and then. In Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus the story is so twisted that it forces the characters to go through almost humanlike character development. “Humanlike” refers to both the irrationality and nature of Barbie’s problems and the fact that half the cast of this movie is not human. Instead, they are Pegasus and polar bears. One of the screenplay’s biggest crimes is the polar bear, Shiver, though not speaking a word of English, having a romantically motivated subplot with Barbie’s main love interest, Aiden. Again, you read it correctly and that is still not the most mindboggling plotline.
The main story follows princess Annika who against the will of her parents loves to sneak out and ice skate next to the castle she lives in. She does so also on her birthday when an evil warlock, Wenlock (that name in itself is a criminal offense), freezes the whole town, including Annika’s parents, and blackmails Annika into marrying him. A magic Pegasus suddenly shows up and saves Annika for the time being, but Wenlock gives her three days to say yes. Otherwise, the population of her town will stay frozen. Brietta, the Pegasus takes Annika to the Cloud castle where more Pegasus and the Cloud Queen live. Annika finds out Brietta is actually her sister who Wenlock turned into a Pegasus sixteen years ago when he asked for her hand in marriage but she declined. After a sentimental reunion, the Cloud Queen tells the sisters about a so-called Wand of Light that they have to find and assemble and is the only thing that can help them defeat Wenlock. The sisters go on an adventure to find the different components for building the Wand of Light but the clock is ticking very fast. Conveniently, they stumble into a handsome smith along the way, Aiden, who can help them in the final step of assembling the wand. Naturally, he decides to join them.
Your Honour, if this amount of mindfuck was not enough, just you wait because there is more to the evidence.
In the meantime, we see Wenlock in his castle with his servant goblins who turn out to be his ex-wives. Thus, Wenlock isn’t just pedophilic when it comes to choosing his better half, but once he gets bored of his significant other, he turns her into an ugly goblin who has to serve him for the rest of eternity. A wonderful lesson for children. Now, he has three goblins… khm… ex-wives. Needless to say, Wenlock has the temper and problem-solving skills of a matchstick. In the end, they manage to build the Wand of Light, defeat Wenlock, turn the goblins back into women, Annika and Brietta reunite with their parents and it is implied that Aiden and Annika got married.
Phew. Sorry for the long storytelling session but I swear it is necessary to build this case. The overarching plot is way too overpacked. It is impossible to summarize it without sounding like an idiot but at least it is not the usual simplified children’s story we can see in some kids’ movies. Earlier I said the story is so twisted that it forces the characters to go through humanlike character development. Even though it is impossible to untangle, there are particles in this atomic mess that are genuine and mention worthy.
For once, Annika and Brietta’s newly found sisterhood develops in front of our eyes, it is not automatically given. Back in the day, Brietta left her family because she was ashamed and did not want to see her parents unhappy because their one and only daughter was turned into a Pegasus for eternity. Annika does not give up until she can turn Brietta back into her human form and can convince her to come home to the unfrozen king and queen. Her stranger sister was able to convince Brietta that she does indeed deserve a second chance. Trust is not automatically given, it has to be earned, and throughout the whole movie, Annika shows nothing but compassion towards her Pegasus sister.
Furthermore, Aiden’s backstory is an interesting one as well. He gambled away his father’s money and did not have the guts to look him in the eyes and confess, so he decided to run away. However, he realizes that that probably wasn’t the smartest way of dealing with his problems. See the parallel with kids disappointing their parents, bailing and then deciding to give themselves a second chance? It sounds very simple when rounded off but both Aiden and Brietta arrive at this realization by the end of the movie, and we can clearly see the process they went through.
Other than the aforementioned pros, unfortunately, nothing else comes to my mind. The characters have a fun dynamic and the polar bear is the cutest animal sidekick I have seen in a while (but then again, Shiver developed a disturbing crush on Aiden…). To me, Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus is a nostalgic boredom ride, which was fun to revisit. I definitely did remember this movie to have less sexually disturbing and patriarchal moments. That certainly did not help my case here.
Even though so much happened in that hour and twenty-five minutes, my attention was wandering off the screen quite a lot. I am surprised I was able to summarize the plot with such details, to be honest. So, here you have it: an honest enquiry about a guilty pleasure of mine. No matter how badly twisted this movie is and the fact that it is meant for children(!), I actually enjoyed watching it. Barbie was indeed a big part of my childhood, and I am not ashamed of that. You can’t use that against me, can you?
Objection Your Honour. Irrelevant.
Defendant pleads guilty. Case dismissed.