Reese Witherspoon and her producing partner Bruna Papandrea are developing a movie about Barbie. There’s already a live-action film about the toy in the works for a 2017 release (with Diablo Cody doing some script rewrites). Witherspoon’s project will be an adaptation Robin Gerber’s book Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her . The Ruth, of course, is Ruth Handler, who became the president of the toy manufacturer Mattel Inc. and invented the iconic blonde doll in 1959. The idea for Barbie came about when Ruth watched her daughter Barbara (where Barbie gets her name) play with paper dolls and realized most children’s dolls were babies, not women. The German doll Bild Lilli also influenced Barbie’s look. From the book synopsis:
Co-founder of the Mattel Company, Ruth Handler and her husband, Elliot, turned the toy industry upside down, not only with the 1959 creation of Barbie and the subsequent introduction of boyfriend Ken but also with Hot Wheels and prescient advertising tie-ins to the Mickey Mouse Club. Yet the behind-the-scenes journey is just as fascinating as the public persona: born the tenth child of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Ruth was raised by her sister—and, early on, recognized the talent of her husband as a designer. Motherhood was not her natural state of being, though she named both dolls after her children. After being forced out of Mattel in the 1970s, Ruth then founded a second company, “Nearly Me,” producing prosthetics designed for women who had undergone mastectomies—just like her. Tragedy, unfortunately, continued to strike the family; son Ken died of AIDS in 1994, and Ruth herself lost her battle with cancer in 2002.
Barbie’s impossible measurements have been a point of contention, but a film with a focus on Handler’s achievements as a businesswoman would be welcome.