Thursday, September 24, 2009

Girl Movie Announcements!

A Barbie Movie AND a Sweet Valley High Movie announced in the same week, I do declare!

But these two franchises each tackle interesting elements of a young girls life that do deserve serious thought when taking them to the silver screen. There are elements to both properties that open them up for some serious satire, but also, really aspirational elements that young girls treat seriously.

Wanting to follow your dreams, strong friendships that can stand the test of the oft-tempestuous sea of adolescent drama, and if the author treats those seriously and doesn't talk down to girls, treats those elements with the respect that girls want to give them at their cores the movie can be classics.

While these properties don't suffer from the same challenge as other girls franchises hitting the big screen recently, i.e. Bratz. Let's look at some of the things that the creators might want to think about going forward.

Barbie's narrative properties, animation, movies, online, etc... are anthologies, like Barbie herself, they've been everywhere are rarely do the same thing twice. But as Dodai at points out, a woman who can speak 6 languages with experience doing all the things Barbie has done, who can rope a calf AND rock a runway with her bevy of multi-cultural friends, that's a character with a lot going for her. I'd love to see Barbie take advantage of the moment to take on a strong driving platform for narrative that can weave its way into the wider distribution platforms already available to Barbie, to drive that narrative in a new way, one that you see continuing on over time.

Sweet Valley High started as a series of novels, each with a specific episodic element, but essentially, following a narrative super-arc as a group of girls go through high school. It leant itself easily to a tv series and gives the author of a screenplay some rich established characters to draw from. The question I'm excited to see answered is what Diablo Cody wants to do with it. As writer and producer, she's going to have a very powerful hand in determining the direction of how the story will be told.

While you may love her or hate her, one thing Diablo Cody has is a strong voice. While she is often criticized for being too in love with her own vernacular, and her most recent opening weekend for Jennifer's Body was less than exciting, Jennifer's Body proves that she has a sense of certain elements of relationships between young girls (as evidenced by the movie's dramatic climax revolving around a specific piece of adornment, for spoiler click here) that one either relates to instinctively or one doesn't understand at all.

What the Sweet Valley High crew as a franchise might look at, if they want to keep the franchise going beyond one movie, is making sure that the themes and ideas being elocuted by Cody's film resonate with the themes and aspirations of the original books. Even if the characters are different or the setting were to change, those are the elements that bring generations of girls to those books again and again.

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