There are quite literally thousands of videos dedicated to the Portal games scattered across YouTube, but none of them come close to competing with this enthusiastic video blog from the one and only Barbie.
Barbie Roberts — apparently that’s the doll’s full name — has an active vlogging presence on YouTube, with dozens of episodes that have hundreds of thousands of views each. Among the topics she covers: her likes and dislikes (honey and clowns, respectively); her best friends; and, in her most shocking installment, her love of cosplay. In a video posted last June, she revealed that one of her favorite activities to do online is search for brilliant cosplay creations. Barbie even debuted her own cosplay for her thousands of fans, in an attempt to connect with her audience … which probably doesn’t have much crossover with the group of people who are enthralled with various Valve games.
Maybe we’re wrong on that front, though. The video currently has more than 650,000 views, with fans commenting that a Barbie who was into Portal was their kind of vlogger. But more exciting is the thought that Barbie is introducing a legion of tween girls to this masterpiece of puzzle game design. As Barbie dons her impressive GLaDOS costume — she dyes her hair silver and everything! — she asserts her love for both Portal and its most memorable character. She even does an inspired GLaDOS vocal impression. (It’s especially cool that one of Portal’s designers was a woman.)
She also spends some time dabbing later in the video. We … well, we’ll let you formulate your own opinion on that.
The first time around, we watched this video in an incredulous stupor. What’s Barbie doing talking about Portal? we asked. (We still can’t wrap our heads around this whole vlogging thing of hers, too.) But for Barbie and her legions of viewers, it’s no big deal that she’s into cosplay. She’s nonchalant about her love of Portal. It’s as if Barbie’s saying that, hey, it’s one of the best video games of all time; why wouldn’t she like it?
When thinking about the ramifications of Barbie pontificating on her affection for a game that may not have broken through to mainstream preteen audiences, we start to feel less baffled by it. Barbie’s not the most insightful or interesting girl, but we’ll give her props for wearing her love of cosplay with pride.
It’s a smart play on manufacturer Mattel’s part to have Barbie engage her audience on YouTube, and the video blog format is a crafty way to go about doing just that.
The first vlog was released on Jan. 2, 2000. It starred blogger Adam Kontras and focused on his cross-country move to Los Angeles. It was a way to keep his friends and family informed about his trip, which he was also simultaneously blogging about, and use emerging online platforms as a way to integrate video.
Fast forward 17 years, and vlogging is a touchstone of YouTube. Its biggest personalities, from Lilly Singh to PewDiePie, all maintain their own vlogs as a way of giving fans a look into their personal lives. It’s a way to show their audience where they live, what their day-to-day life looks like and supply them with a little bit more information about themselves.
While we don’t necessarily appreciate Barbie’s vlog, as people who are clearly not her intended audience, it’s also a perfect example of why the format works. The first Barbie doll was released in 1959. Since that fateful toy fair in New York City where she was introduced, Barbie has spawned an empire that consists of dolls, books, movies, TV shows, crossover specials and an annual convention. But as the internet became a bigger presence in our lives, essentially dominating any other type of medium, Barbie needed to adapt to her changing surroundings.
Enter Barbie’s vlog. Barbie’s first vlog was released in June 2015, and like other YouTube personalities, Barbie used the video as a way to introduce some unknown facts about herself. Just as with the cosplay video, we were caught between laughing at the concept of Barbie having a vlog in the first place and realizing that we were actually learning facts about Barbie that we never knew.
For example: Barbie moved to Malibu, California from Minnesota when she was eight and is scared of both spiders and soda. We learned that she loves to play “What If?” with her siblings and talk about the cool things they want to invent. We learned that her favorite subjects are science — particularly chemistry — and English. By the end of the five-minute video, we had learned more about Barbie than we ever had before.
For the young girls and boys growing up in the age of YouTube videos and smartphones, any information they want is at their fingertips and one URL away. Barbie’s fans today are going to be spending the majority of their time on YouTube, probably going back and forth between the California doll’s blogs and Let’s Play Minecraft videos. Vlogging, and bringing the Barbie empire to YouTube in general, isn’t just one of the smarter decisions the company could have made to keep her relevant — it was the only one.
As Barbie matures, there has been a push from publisher Mattel to focus more on what Barbie could be aside from a beautiful, blonde woman. She’s been an engineer, a firefighter, a judge and most recently, a game developer. There’s a large push for Barbie to encourage young girls to pursue STEM careers and learn about science and math in school. Connecting with kids via vlogs, and focusing on both video games and science while doing so, is just another way to continue that philosophy.
Barbie’s vlog is one of the weirdest channels on YouTube, but it’s also one of the most uplifting series available to both kids and adults.
You keep doing you, Barbie. But maybe cool it on the dabbing. (Also, take it from us: Soda is definitely not scary.)