Harvey Weinstein’s Cameo in a Barbie Movie – The New Yorker
In the weeks since the revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predations, stories about the former Miramax chief have placed him in numerous shower stalls, a town car, various hotel suites, and a restaurant kitchen. But no one expected to find him lurking in a children’s cartoon. In 2005, Weinstein made a cameo appearance as himself in an animated feature film, starring Lindsay Lohan, called “My Scene Goes Hollywood.” The movie, part of the Barbie franchise, was distributed by Miramax’s family division and produced by Mattel, which was trying to lure back the tweens who were ditching their Barbies for a line of sexy competitor dolls called Bratz.
To keep up, Mattel produced an edgy line of dolls called My Scene. Barbie became a night-clubbing New York high schooler, with a multiethnic girl posse named after Manhattan locales: Madison, Chelsea, Delancey, Nolee (for Nolita). An animated Web series followed, with echoes of “Sex and the City” and the Gossip Girl books. Parents watched uneasily as their eleven-year-olds grooved to the My Scene theme song: “We’re going out tonight / This scene is outta sight!” After years of stagnation, Mattel’s share price turned around.
“My Scene Goes Hollywood,” which was released on DVD, was My Scene’s cultural apotheosis. It’s a friendship morality tale (Barbie and pals are cast as extras in a Lindsay Lohan movie; Madison falls for the caddish male lead, and ditches her friends). Weinstein shows up on set in the film-within-a-film. As the director yells “Cut,” an imposing show-business dude—Weinstein—hovers with a proprietary air: sunglasses, dark suit, turtleneck, hands in pockets. The dude, in Weinstein’s voice, says, “Picture looks great, Jim. I’m really excited about it.” The My Scene girls, dressed in school uniforms, recognize him and squeal.
Nolee (gasps): Talking to Jim—that’s Harvey Weinstein!
Nolee: Don’t you ever watch awards shows? He’s, like, the biggest producer in Hollywood.
Cartoon Weinstein then approaches Madison. “Good job, young lady!” he says, placing a hand on her back.
“Thanks!” Madison responds.
Nolee groans: “Perfect. Now she’ll have an even bigger head.”
Many of the accounts of Weinstein’s predatory behavior have cast him as an ogre-like beast among a raft of beauties. Last week, a parent of a former My Scene devotee found himself recalling the discomfort he felt about Weinstein’s jarring appearance in the movie. He e-mailed the clip, which is on YouTube: “This scene creeped me out when my 7-year-old daughter watched this video incessantly in 2005.” He wondered whether Weinstein’s cameo happened on his own initiative.
Reached by telephone, Nancy Bennett, one of the film’s producers, said, “Oh, yes. I did that little movie once upon a time.” Her career has included chapters at Lifetime, ABC, and Disney, where a thirteen-year-old Lindsay Lohan starred in a film Bennett helped produce, called “Life-Size,” about a doll, played by Tyra Banks, who comes to life. The filmmakers had made a Tyra Banks doll as a prop.
“Lindsay was always, like, ‘When do I get my doll?’ ” Bennett recalled. “Fast-forward a few years. Now I’m working at Mattel. We were looking to do things with the My Scene brand. We thought, Wouldn’t it be cool and aspirational if the girls got to be in a movie starring Lindsay Lohan?”
Bennett mused about My Scene. “It was for girls who’ve grown out of princesses.” The emphasis was on fashion (“The wardrobe on these girls was freaking awesome”) and life style—“Girls would look at it and go, Oh my gosh, I want to go to that club!” The producers decided to ask Weinstein to do a cameo; Bennett said they thought it would be “fun and kitschy.” Weinstein’s cartoon avatar has a defined waist and a chiselled chin; the animators drew a generic Hollywood type. “Without—well, I won’t say any more,” Bennett said. “You want to be complimentary to everybody. This is Mattel. If I were doing ‘Family Guy’ with Seth MacFarlane, it would be different.”
In retrospect, Lohan’s presence in the film sets off alarm bells, too—after the Weinstein story broke, the actress posted an Instagram video, filmed in the bathroom of her Dubai residence, woozily defending the producer. Bennett insisted that Weinstein and Lohan never interacted during the My Scene project. “It had nothing to do with Barbie and Mattel,” she said. “Leave Barbie out of it!” But she’d been unnerved by Lohan’s defense: “It’s, like, Say nothing. Shhh.” She sighed. “There’s a part of me, because I’ve known Lindsay for so long, I feel protective.”
Bennett said she was horrified by the Weinstein revelations, and “mortified” that she’d put him in a Barbie film. Over the years, she continued, “I was more worried that Lindsay was going to do something that people would associate with the brand. I never in a million years imagined it would be Harvey.” ♦