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Why a Barbie in honor of “Selma” director Ava DuVernay is a big deal

(Mattel)

  1. Mattel has created a Barbie in honor of Ava DuVernay, the director of the Oscar-nominated civil rights drama Selma.
  2. DuVernay's doll is one in a new set of "Shero" Barbies, described by Mattel as "female heroes who inspire girls by breaking boundaries and expanding possibilities for women everywhere."
  3. Other Sheroes include actors Emmy Rossum and Kristin Chenoweth, singer Trisha Yearwood, fashion magazine editor Eva Chen, and 5-year-old fashion designer Sydney "Mayhem" Keiser.
    (Mattel)

    (Mattel)

Why people are so excited

DuVernay isn't just any director — she's the first black woman to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. And Selma, which depicted Martin Luther King's 1965 marches from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, to fight for voting rights, is one of the most celebrated films about the African-American experience in recent memory. (Paramount Pictures announced this week that it will provide a complimentary copy of the movie to every high school in the country.)

DuVernay is also the founder of African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a program designed to provide opportunities to a diverse set of filmmakers who are underrepresented in the industry.

So DuVernay's Barbie (which has her skin tone and signature hair style, and a face that appears to be modeled after her own features) is being embraced by black parents who notoriously struggle to find dolls that look like their daughters. And along with the rest in the series, the doll is being celebrated by people of all races who reject the sexist messages sent by many of the toys that are created for girls — that the most important things in life are beauty and fashion versus achievement and service.

Sure, there are things to nitpick: the dolls don't appear to escape the old and often-criticized ridiculous Barbie body proportions, and there's the question of why they're called "Sheroes" when, well, we already have a word for heroes who happen to be women.

More disappointing to many fans is that the Barbies are not actually available for sale to the public. As the Huffington Post reports, single copies of each doll will be auctioned off to charities chosen by the women they honor.

But that's hardly putting a damper on the excitement of those who are gushing over how a doll in the image of a groundbreaking and philanthropic African-American woman would have improved their own childhoods — including DuVernay herself, who tweeted: