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...

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