Barbie vs. ‘Bend It Like Beckham' By Jennifer Mangan


I hope you don't mind if I write about something other than the holidays. I don't have anything profound to say except I hope and wish we all survive.

I do, however, have another life lesson learned through my job as a video writer. This one is tough to admit, and guess who taught it to me-Barbie. I resist her, roll my eyes at her and ignore her whenever I can. The truth is, I am afraid of how she makes my daughters feel about themselves. Heck, I have a hard enough time supporting my three teenage girls in loving their very different body types without Barbie and all the other media images out there.

So, what's my point? I had "Barbie of Swan Lake" sitting in my review pile for several months and resisted watching it. When I finally surrendered, I learned I might have been wrong. Do you ever resist getting to know someone thinking this person can't possibly be nice or kind because he or she is too cute, too funny, too smart, too cool, too put-together? Well, Barbie is that person, and once I got to know her, I liked her. Yet another valuable life lesson learned: Don't judge a doll by her video cover.

Here are a few suggestions for holiday viewing and holiday gifts.

BARBIE OF SWAN LAKE, rated G, 2003, $19.98 VHS, $19.98 DVD.

Video Barbie is making her niche in vintage fairy tales ("Barbie in the Nutcracker" and "Barbie as Rapunzel") and "Barbie of Swan Lake" is no exception. Reminiscent of "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast," Barbie stars as the heroine Odette who is trapped in an enchanted forest. Her experience teaches her that each of us has the power to transform the world. Well, maybe make a difference. She is kind, honest, fair and compassionate, all good characteristics to be modeled for our kids. The highlight of this video is the ballet choreographed to Tchaikovsky's music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The technology used in this video sets it apart from any I have seen. It's like a moving piece of 3-D art. I was particularly enamored with Barbie's forest friends who are animals by day and humans by night. There are a few scary characters, so watch out for those scenes. But overall, "Barbie of Swan Lake" is OK in my book.

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, rated PG-13, 2002, $16.99 VHS, $19.99 DVD; ages 13 and older.

Although "Bend It Like Beckham" isn't a holiday video, it may be a gift idea and I want parents to know what to expect.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but "Bend It Like Beckham" is not for kids, no matter how much a child loves soccer. This PG-13 movie has little to do with soccer and lots to do with a young girl and her parents not seeing eye to eye.

Jess Bhamra is an Indian girl who is recruited by a London soccer team. Her family is very conservative about Indian rules and traditions that do not include a girl playing soccer and "exposing her body," as her mother puts it. Instead of respecting her parents, Jess lies and tells them she is working so that she can attend practice and games and nurture her crush on the coach. There are many expletives, underage drinking, heavy sexual dialogue and lots of cleavage.

What bothered me most, though, is Jess' blatant disrespect for her parents. Older kids may understand and process how conflict would arise when tradition and culture are crossed with rebellion. They can also see how Jess is following her dream and how eventually she works our her differences with her parents, refuses to lie any longer out of respect and how both sides learn and come to a compromise. Young kids, however, may see only the negatives: Jess' lying, sneaking, drinking and eventually succeeding in getting her way. They can't process the mature themes. Don't think for a minute that you are missing great soccer. It's seems like the same footage repeated over and over again. It said it all when my 12-year-old soccer player left within the first half hour.

THE SANTA CLAUSE 2, rated G, 2002, $22.99 VHS, $29.99 DVD.

If you haven't seen "The Santa Clause" with Tim Allen, watch that first and then watch the sequel, "The Santa Clause 2." Whether Santa is real or make-believe, this won't spoil a thing, it's just a wonderful story that will tickle you silly. In "The Santa Clause" you learn how Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) becomes Santa and in "The Santa Clause 2," you learn what he has to do to remain Santa. It's not a lifelong position, you know. There are stipulations. For Christmas this year, I am going to ask Santa to please get busy making "The Santa Clause 3." These are the holiday stress-busters in our house.


This is a refreshing and real-life portrayal of how Robin, a young Jewish girl, tries to understand why she can't have a Christmas tree and other kids, including her Jewish friend, Sandy Goldstein, can. Sandy has a "Chanukah bush." "It's like a Christmas tree only it's for Jews," Sandy tells Robin. Surrounded by Christmas traditions at school, Robin thinks asking her parents for a Hanukkah (one holiday, so many spellings) bush is reasonable. Her mother explains how Jewish people celebrate the holiday differently and Robin's family will continue to celebrate by lighting the menorah, eating latkes and playing dreidel.

This notion moves from her head to her heart when Robin's wise, caring grandfather takes her to his company's Christmas party. Robin sits on Santa's lap (she only asks for a pair of skates while the girl in front of her has a list a mile long), helps decorate the Christmas tree and opens presents. After the party, Robin and her grandfather talk about how it's OK to enjoy other people's holidays, just as it's OK to share yours. He says, "There's a difference between celebrating something because you believe in it and helping friends celebrate something because they believe in it." I loved this video because it helps kids appreciate their own culture and traditions.

CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MOVIE, rated PG, 2003, $9.94 VHS, $14.95 DVD.

Perhaps this animated version of the Charles Dickens' classic is a good alternative to the live-action film, which can be quite scary for the little ones. I particularly like this 75-minute takeoff because of two little mice who are instrumental in changing Scrooge's ill-tempered ways. They add spunk to the plot, interpreting and mimicking all that happens around them. The cartoon is rated PG because of the scary ghosts. The celebrity voices of Nicolas Cage, Kate Winslet and Simon Callow are a plus, and the DVD features two holiday songs sung by Kate Winslet and Charlotte Church. The DVD also offers a behind-the-scenes featurette and Winslet's "What If" music video.


Jennifer Mangan is a writer who lives in the western suburbs with her husband and four children, ages 17, 16, 13 and 12.


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