As It Happens6:30This Barbie is a hoax: Daryl Hannah teams up with pranksters to announce fake plastic-free doll
Life in plastic might not be so fantastic after all.
At least that’s the message the activist Barbie Liberation Organization shared this week when they posed as toymaker Mattel to release a faux eco-friendly doll.
The organization — with help of actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah and satire group the Yes Men — introduced the world to EcoWarrior Barbie in a press release that appeared to have originated from Mattel. The compostable “MyCelia” line of dolls would be made of natural materials like mushroom mycelium, according to the release, as part of Mattel’s commitments to be entirely plastic-free by 2030.
An accompanying promotional video tells a real story of an encounter Hannah had with a discarded Barbie while snorkeling years ago.
What she first thought were pink staghorn coral sticking up in the water turned out to be Barbie legs. “I pulled the Barbie out and it was covered with barnacles and coral and her hair was green with seaweed,” Hannah told As it Happens guest host Aarti Pole.
“She sort of represents to me the problem that we have with poisoning and polluting our oceans with fossil fuel products.”
Mattel told the CBC in an email that the hoax had “nothing to do” with the company.
The goal of the campaign, she said, is to seize on the excitement of the Barbie movie and make consumers “consider the real evolution that is needed — which is an evolution of what she’s actually made out of, that is poisoning our landfills, our waterways, and our bodies.”
Last year, American researchers found that a single Barbie doll generates about 660 total grams of carbon emissions, from production to transportation.
“Toy production is an example of using resources we’ll never have again to make items for short-term consumption. The lifetime of our toys exceeds our life expectancy,” Christie Klimas, associate professor at DePaul University and an author of the study, told CBC in an email.
While the EcoWarrior Barbie campaign was a parody, Klimas estimates a complete swap of plastic for an eco-friendly material would save about 1,152 tonnes of carbon — equivalent to emissions from 72 households for an entire year — from being released into the atmosphere.
At least a few news outlets were fooled by the campaign. The Washington Times, People and the Dow Jones Newswire published articles on EcoWarrior Barbie and the tricksters’ fake Mattel commitments. The stories from all three publications have since been removed.
“The article about new Barbie dolls … was based on an elaborate media hoax,” the Washington Times said Tuesday in an editor’s note. “We have removed the story from our website pending further investigation into the origins of the hoax.” They have since published a new article about the spoof.
This isn’t the first time the Barbie Liberation Organization has gone after Mattel. The group swapped the voice boxes of hundreds of Teen Talk Barbie and G.I Joe dolls in 1993. The tampered-with Barbies cried “Vengeance is mine!” while the altered Joes proclaimed “the beach is the place for the summer.”
In its email to the CBC, Mattel referenced their goal to use only recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials in both products and packaging by 2030.
But while recycling may work for glass or metal products, Hannah says plastic recycling isn’t a fantastic solution.
“[Only] nine per cent of all plastics that we spend our time separating and cleaning ever get recycled. And that process in itself is quite a chemical laden, difficult and polluting process,” said Hannah.
She added that there’s no reason Mattel shouldn’t do “everything in their power” to go completely plastic-free — and that the popular response to the EcoWarrior Barbie campaign should send a message to companies like Mattel what their customers want.
“Really, the reaction was wildly enthusiastic. No one wants symbolic gestures anymore. We don’t have time for it. We’re at the phase in the world right now where we need real, concrete solutions to the crises that we face.”