Trigger Warning: the article contains discussions of eating disorders
Whilst Barbie might be painting the town pink right now, you might not be aware of the doll’s previous starring role.
Whilst many assume the animated movies were her first foray into film, the blonde bombshell actually appeared in a film about a real-life rockstar.
Far from the upbeat films we’re used to, this now-banned film focuses on the singer, Karen Carpenter, decades-long eating disorder.
Understandably, the short film has come under major criticism over the years for its handling of the sensitive subject.
Prior to her death in 1983, Carpenter was part of the seventies supergroup, The Carpenters, with her brother, Richard.
The intense media scrutiny helped contribute to the star’s anorexia and ultimately her death in 1983 – she was just 32-years-old.
Just a few years later, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story was released by director Todd Haynes.
Though the 1987 film was sympathetic to Carpenter’s tragic story, Hayes thought it best to portray her using Barbie dolls.
A weird mix of stop-motion animation, archive footage and voice-overs, the sort-of-biopic film was only 43 minutes long but even includes clips of the Vietnam War protest.
Unsurprisingly, the film ended up causing huge controversy and it's um, eerie to say the least.
Having not obtained the Carpenter’s family permission for the story or song rights, Haynes ended up at the centre of a major lawsuit with the film essentially being banned.
He was also hit with a cease and desist that blocked Superstar’s theatrical debut.
Despite not being allowed to exhibit the film, bootleg copies are still being circulated with a version even making it to YouTube.
If that wasn't weird enough, it’s since gained an underground following and even made it into Entertainment Weekly’s Top 50 Cult Movies – back in 2003.
It seems the director has come a long way since completing the film during his MFA at Bard College in the late eighties.
If it’s all the same though, I think we’ll stick to the Greta Gerwig's Barbie.
If you've been affected by any of the issues in this article and would like to speak with someone in confidence, call the BEAT Eating Disorders helpline on 0808 801 0677. Helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays. Alternatively, you can try the one-to-one webchat.Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros./American International Video Search, Inc.