Thursday, 12 March 2009

Fifty looks good, when you're made of plastic.

From the top of her head to the tip of her toes, Barbie™ is a material girl. Plastic material, that is. Flesh-and-blood-and-silicone versions of this low and haute couture clothes mannequin, like Victoria 'Posh' Beckam, are but pale imitations.

A fixture in toy cupboards around the globe, Barbie has become more than just a doll for young girls growing up. An enduring cultural icon, she has also weathered much criticism and controversy over the years. ...

From her early swimsuit days Barbie has sported a range of fashions and styles; some which would rival the Oscars red carpet for their inventiveness and designer labels.

She has also pursued more than 100 different careers, including astronaut, gymnast, flight attendant, Unicef ambassador, and Formula One driver. Barbie even had several runs for president, including, ahead of her times perhaps, as a female African-American candidate in 2004.

There was of course that unfortunate release of the math-phobic Barbie™. Although Mattel responded to criticism, it did lead to a guerrilla underground movement, where countless Barbie™ voice microchips were replaced with .... GI Joe's?!?!? There are many who would demonize, elevate, post-modernize and re-habilitate her.

... in Mary Anne Moresco's What Hath Fifty Years of Barbie Wrought? for Catholic Exchange, she claims your wardrobe is indecent and that you're unhealthy for girls. She says Mattel is offering girls "scantily clad, toy-acquiring, self absorbed, empty-headed plastic dolls as role models, and leading girls to fall into that same vain, glamorous, over-sexed anorexic pit."

Feminist writer Camille Paglia adds in 'Pornographically Android Barbie' for that you "prefigured the destabilization of sexual identity that would lead, among other things, to an epidemic of anorexia and bulimia among white middle-class girls ..."

OK, you're thin and your neck is a little scary. ... But in your defense, you've been single and self-supporting since 1959, which is pretty cool. And you've got equally verbose supporters, who see you as empowering women. Writing in the London newspaper The Guardian, Moira Redmond dares anyone to imagine you "doing housework; sucking up to men; cowering; being bullied or intimidated; being sexually harassed."

Is there anything left to say except a belated happy birthday?


leftdog said...

The Barbie At 50 you will NEVER see on store shelves!

Beijing York said...

Barbie's creator, Ruth Handler, based her doll on the German Bild Lilli adult doll.

Wiki has a bit of the history and photo here:

The original cartoon strip featured a baby but the publisher didn't like that so the cartoonist added a pony tail and curvaceous women's body to create Bild Lilli.

One thing about Barbie that I really like is all the great, often controversial art, she inspired.

coffee said...

Happy 50th Birthday Barbie! (but who's counting?)

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