A group of creative climate-change activists have seized on the current Barbie-mania gripping the world to successfully draw attention to the large carbon (and now flat) footprint that the dolls make on the planet. Actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah, working with the long-standing political prankster group the Yes Men, pulled off a pretty epic hoax at Barbie and Mattel's expense.
Hannah starred as herself in a fake commercial, purportedly from Mattel, announcing a new plastic-free line of MyCelia™ EcoWarrior Barbies, inspired by environmental activists including Greta Thunberg and Daryl Hannah. The fake commercial also featured a major pronouncement that Mattel will stop using plastic completely by 2030. None of the information in the commercial was true, and Mattel in no way had any affiliation with the stunt, but that didn't stop outlets like the Washington Times and People magazine from reporting it like it was real news (though both publications have since removed the articles).
Yahoo Entertainment! was given exclusive access to news that the ad was fake, and was first to report it on Tuesday. The activists were apparently trying to seize on the current Barbie-mania to raise awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis.
Splash actress Hannah proclaims in a press release falsely attributed to Mattel that, “I am honored to join forces with Mattel in their visionary efforts to create a better world through play. Barbie has changed in many ways since I was a girl, but under the surface, she’s still toxic. Now, when she’s done being used, instead of persisting forever as a poison Barbie will be able to return to the earth, just like all living things. I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting journey.”
The leaders of the Yes Men group, Igor Vamos and Jacques Servin (better known as their activist alter egos, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum), had a unique reaction to the hoopla and buzz created by the new Barbie movie and its feminist theme.
“This is probably the most successful PR coup of all time when it comes to people thinking that because there are surface changes in the doll that it’s changing some fundamental dynamic in our culture, which it’s not,” Vamos told Yahoo in regards to the movie, which he has not yet seen but is planning to. “Barbie is still literally made out of oil by sweatshop workers,” he added. “But we’re caught up in identity politics and losing track of what’s happening, which is the planet is being destroyed right in front of us.”
He further elaborated that, “To say the doll is feminist now when the toy is contaminating the environment that the future of all humanity and all life depends on is kind of a colossal and bizarre joke.”
Mattel didn't have much of a sense of humor about the stunt. A spokesperson for the toy company told Yahoo regarding the press release: “This release has nothing to do with Mattel. It is not a product and it is fabricated. This is false and inaccurate information.” The spokesperson also added, “It’s a hoax. Not sure if Ms. Hannah is really involved or not but this has nothing to do with Mattel.”
Daryl Hannah also weighed in on the controversy — explaining that she supports the feminist theme of the Barbie movie, but is also greatly concerned about the unaddressed plastic problem with the dolls.
“I feel like they’re separate issues,” said Hannah, who has not seen Barbie yet. Hannah has famously been arrested over the years for protesting issues from the Keystone XL pipeline to the razing of an urban farm in Los Angeles.
“I think it's a great thing, actually, that Mattel is trying to join the modern world, and that they're taking this sort of brave step to focus on changing that narrative of ‘math is hard’ … They took a big chance with a brand that's very important to them,” she added. “But nevertheless, they are a multi-billion-dollar corporation. They have the means to be able to make an impact. They're one of the largest toy companies in the world and toys don't need to be made of something that poisons children, literally, and that gets into our bodies, into our systems, into our landfills, into our waterways, into every part of our life support systems.”
Mattel executives getting trolled like this feels like something that might happen to their Will Ferrell-led counterparts in the Barbie movie. Perhaps they want to take story notes? Sounds like a potential plot for the inevitable Barbie sequel!