Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Barbie Dolls

I never liked Barbie dolls and I have always been extremely proud of that fact. Not for me was the girlish past time of dressing dolls in the latest fashions, plaiting their hair or trying out doll makeup. No siree! I was into space ships and lego and .... a huge collection of pink equine plastic. Far more cool. Yes.

Nowadays, I reserve the term 'Barbie doll' to slam down slimmer, prettier girls than me who I dislike on sight. But there's no denying Barbie's appeal as she reaches her 50th birthday of modelling plastic feminine ideals.

Like any long-lived celebrity, she's come under a fair amount of abuse. Top of the list is Barbie's almost unobtainable figure which is perceived as a trouble spot for weight conscious teens. Allegedly, if Barbie was scaled to human size, she would be toppled by her humongous bust. A more recent report by the BBC ( suggests the situation isn't quite so bad, but Barbie's figure is unlikely to be achievable for more than 1 in 100,000 women. Additionally, she is almost always blond although one of the first version of the doll was also available as a brunette. This tiny waisted, big bosomed blond bimbo is apparently the sole cause of all teenage girls problems, from anorexia to bullying to global warming.

While in many instances I scoff in a similar fashion at Barbie dolls, I do now wonder whether we're being a bit harsh. Okay, so the girl looks like she belongs on page 3, but the thing is, Barbie isn't a naked model. Her careers include doctor, vet, jet pilot, fire fighter, astronaut, cow girl, waitress and even the US president (one of Barbie's rare appearances as a African-American doll). In fact, it would seem Barbie could be anything she desires, reguardless of what she's been before, and isn't that exactly the message we want to give to our daughters?

Barbie also seems to be practicing safe sex, since after 50 years with her on / off boyfriend Ken and brief fling with the surfer Blaine, she's remained childless, preferring to pursue her 50-odd careers instead. (Of course, this could be connected with both her and Ken being named after their founder's children, making them practically siblings). While rumours abounded about the origin of "Barbie's little sister Shelly", she should still be applauded in emphasising the choices available for young women, without resorting to a version of "abortion Barbie".

This doesn't excuse Barbie's impossible looks but, as one reader of the above BBC article commented, boys play with alien villains all the time yet there remains a relatively low take-up rate of adult plastic surgery to make them look like Predator. Although... I do now wonder if I could be given a unicorn horn...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Once there lived a franky grotesque princess

The inaccuracy of fairy tales has been bothering me of late. Take your average story, aimed at an audience primarily consisting of 6 year old girls in pink trainers. A beautiful princess is miss-treated, probably by an evil step-mother, but who overcomes all the odds to marry a handsome prince and be born away to a life of wedded bliss.

Firstly, we must ask ourselves, is this girl really likely to be attractive? In such stories, the very mention of a crown basks the owner in an unobtainable ethereal light. In fact, their uncommon beauty is a common way of identifying such royal members, even when they are undercover. The reality however, is that royalty means this wench comes from an interbred, incestuous litter rife with inherited diseases and probably considerably too few grandparents for a healthy gene pool. This can hardly be the way to produce stunning good looks. Stunted looks and retardation are far more likely, which is probably how such individuals are really identified while in hiding.

This child's grotesquely bad looks are far more likely to be the reason why her step-mother (also probably one of her cousins), despite being hideously ugly herself, decides that the girl has to go. Probably it is a cost-saving measure to reduce the number of steam-cleans the castle carpets need after the servants vomit from seeing the girl first thing in the morning.

Cast out into the wilderness (and basing the details on a popular Disney-made franchise), the only place where this vilely deformed child can find shelter is in the household of 7 vertically challenged men, whose diminutive stature enables them to avoid the full frontal of the girl's cross-eyes stare.

Being severely mentally challenged, the revolting girl draws attention to her whereabouts through her warbling singing and the stampede of wildlife that charges in to see what has destroyed their home. Her stupidity is only matched by that of her step-mother/cousin who tricks her into an enchanted sleep, rather than decapitating her deformed head.

Placed in a glass coffin as a popular horror show item, our beastly little girl is awoken by a handsome prince (but no doubt actually suffering from similar aesthetic issues) and carried away for a life of bliss.

Apart from the obvious fact this has done nothing to improve the gene pool, this benighted child is a princess. This doesn't just mean her atrocious ugliness has to be politically denoted charming, it means she's the heiress to a kingdom. She can't just ride off to a neighbouring land! She has responsibilities. Additionally, what was a prince doing there to begin with? You can't just stroll through another country as the heir apparent for a rival land. The only two options are that he was actually heading an army poised for invasion, in which case our said princess was less of a bride than a prisoner of war, or he was her brother. Given what we've already seen, either seem quite likely.