Happy Birthday Barbie? Begrudgingly Giving our Nemesis Doll the Nod
Today isn’t any old day. It’s Barbie’s birthday. But before you get out the paper streamers, party hats, and blow torch, let’s pause to reflect on the controversial yet ever present plastic bit of perfection in every girl’s life. Yes, you might not play with her anymore—but you remember. The button nose. The impossible long legs. The waist as skinny as what her thigh should have looked like?
I played with Barbie as a child. I admit it. My friend Bianca and I played for hours. Days. We got together to play with Barbie after school and on weekends. She was perfect. Her clothes fit perfectly. She was everything you wanted her to be—always fresh as a daisy first thing in the morning and stayed that way into the night. And those eyes! So blue! That hair, always coiffed even after lying down in bed for a quick cat nap in the Malibu Mansion. With spending so many hours with Barbie, it’s not surprising that she becomes a mold for how we “fit” as girls into society. Of course, nothing fits a mold quite like Barbie.
Has Barbie made an impression on you? Is she forgettable? Feeling nostalgic? When it comes to girl’s body image, she’s been names a great offender. It was only last month when she received the very first “TOADY” award (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, for Mattel’s Barbie Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Doll. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. Not only do we have the impossible body proportions, but we also have the sexy outfit that you wouldn’t want your daughter playing with at age 6 let alone 16.
Poor Barbie. At age 50 she hasn’t needed to deal with gravity pulling at her plastic caboose, gray hairs, crow’s feet, or thinning lips. Of course if she did, Mattel would probably just come up with “The Plastic Surgery Ken Doll” to help her out. There’s no question that Barbie stresses beauty over brains but after all, it’s not totally her fault–she is plastic.
Aside from the TOADY incident, Barbie has had a bit of a rough year—she continues to be criticized for her better-than-perfect figure (*sob*), denigrated for her new interest in drinking and partying (sniffle) and of course there was the Bratz incident, those snarky wild children with the hip makeup and tiny mini-skirts, yanking on Barbie’s gross income and sinking sales by 21%. I know, your heart is withering just thinking about her strife.
The acquisition and suing of Bratz owners MGA Entertainment may take care of that—as well as the nip/tuck of Barbie herself. What? You thought this iconic molded doll would go untouched? She’s a demanding customer. She’s going under the knife for “a thinner jaw line, more almond-shaped eyes, fuller lips.” How’s that for the fountain of youth? And by fountain, I mean money streaming out of our daughter’s piggy banks.
So what do we do? As parents and concerned adults, how do we cope? Throw Barbie on the fire with the wood? Stuff her dress so she appears more rounded and normal? Paint on scars from hard work and wrinkles from stress so we don’t all look so harried in comparison? Your suggestions and stories are welcomed.