Is That Barbie's Iconic Jewish Inventor In the 'Barbie' Movie Trailer? – Kveller
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Is That Barbie’s Iconic Jewish Inventor In the ‘Barbie’ Movie Trailer?

And is she played by Rhea Perlman? Inquiring (Jewish) minds want to know.


The “Barbie” trailer is here, and the Kveller team is completely obsessed with it — and also wants to remind you that Barbie is Jewish. Or Jew-ish, at the very least.

That’s because the doll’s iconic inventor, Ruth Handler, was Jewish. Handler was born in 1916 to Jewish immigrant parents. Born Ruth Mosko, she met her husband, Elliott Handler, at a Bnai Brith dance as a teen. After dropping out of college and working at Paramount pictures, Ruth, along with Elliott and business partner Harold “Matt” Matson, c0-founded Mattell in 1945. She invented Barbie in 1959. She also used her experience working at Mattel to invent her own brand of prosthetic breasts after undergoing a partial mastectomy in the ’70s.

“She did face antisemitism at Paramount Pictures, and her family fled Europe because of antisemitism,” Susan Shapiro, who wrote the book “Barbie: 60 Years of Inspiration,” told Kveller in 2019. “She made Black Barbie early on as a statement against racism, because having been a victim of discrimination herself, she wanted to fight against it.”

It turns out, Handler may be getting a tribute in the new Barbie movie. Late in the truly delightful trailer that came out last week — which features many, many Jewish actors and the music of Jewish icon Mama Cass Elliot — there is a short clip of Barbie smiling at an older woman while what surely sounds like the voice of Rhea Perlman can be heard in voiceover saying, “Humans have only one ending. Ideas live forever.” Fans quickly picked up that when you play the trailer with closed captioning on, that voice is attributed to a character named Ruth. While we don’t have confirmation that Ruth is meant to be Ruth Handler, or that the character who appears on screen is Ruth — and if that means that Rhea Perlman is donning some heavy prosthetics for the role of Ruth — the older woman does slightly look like the Barbie inventor, who died in 2002.

Many fans seem convinced that Rhea, who is in the “Barbie” movie cast, but whose role has yet to be confirmed, does play Handler, which would be a beautiful instance of authentic casting — just like Handler, Perlman, too, is the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants to America. In fact, her father, Philip Perlman, who many of us know from his role on “Cheers,” ran a doll and toy business before retiring and joining his daughter on the beloved show.

Either way, just like Ruth says in the trailer, ideas, like Handler’s Barbie, live forever, and this movie, which comes out on July 21, is a new, exciting chapter in the doll’s immortal journey. Even if Ruth isn’t there, we’re sure it will be plenty memorable, and with stars like Hari Nef (a doctor Barbie), Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ariana Greenblatt and Ana Cruz Kayne, who plays a Supreme Court Justice Barbie, maybe even a little Jewish.

Plus, the movie’s soundtrack is helmed by executive music producer and Jewish dad Mark Ronson and features music from Jewish sister band, Haim. The band shared news of their appearance on the movie’s soundtrack with the caption “jewish barbies at your service!”

We’re so excited for this movie, and would absolutely love some Haim Barbie dolls. Just sayin’.

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