Come On Barbie, Let’s Go Party

A conversation Beth and I were having last night led to me looking up when they stopped making Skipper dolls, and apparently they haven’t. There have been a LOT of dolls over the years advertised as Barbie’s sisters, some of which didn’t last. Anyway, looking up Barbie on Wikipedia led to some interesting diversions, particularly concerning the Controversies section. I’d heard most of these before, but they’re interesting to revisit. I have to wonder how many girls are actually driven to eating disorders by Barbie dolls. My gut reaction would be something like, “It’s a DOLL! My favorite toy when I was a kid was Winnie-the-Pooh, but I didn’t want to BE him!”

You know, Pooh is obsessed with food, so is he a bad role model in the opposite direction?
But then, not only am I a guy, but I had a rather sheltered childhood, so I just wasn’t aware of a lot of these issues. I do remember hearing about a grown woman who got plastic surgery to look as much like Barbie as possible, but I’m sure it’s not generally that extreme.

Barbie does have utterly impossible measurements, but then she also can’t stand up and has no crotch. People seem to forget those aspects of the doll. I don’t know. I’ve talked to Beth about this before, and she said parents complaining about their weight is a much bigger problem.

We also can’t forget about the talking Barbie, who said a number of vapid and sexist things. For some reason, particular attention was paid to her saying, “Math class is tough!”, although I’m not really sure what the big deal is with that. Math class IS tough for a lot of people, and it’s not like Barbie said its being tough means it’s not worth doing. I have to wonder how much of the problem comes down to pinning down a character for a toy. In my childhood, the advertising slogan was, “We girls can do anything, right, Barbie?” and what Barbie was like was indeed largely up to the kids playing with the dolls. Sure, you COULD imagine Barbie to be a vapid society girl, and there are certainly many accessories that support that characterization; but there are also Barbies who are astronauts and doctors.

With the talking Barbie, there’s really no way to see her other than as a ditz. That was certainly the impression I got from the Simpsons episode “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy,” which satirized the doll and the resulting controversy. The bit with Lisa’s classmate having a Malibu Stacy with Spider-Man’s voice box was also a reference to a real-life event, when people would be talking Barbies, replace the voice boxes with ones from G.I. Joes, and return them to the store.

I’m pretty sure the scene is also the only speaking part for Celeste, although she looks like she could be one of Cletus’ many children. I guess she fared about as well as Tanya.

By the way, the woman who introduced Barbie to the United States (as you might well know, she was based on a German doll) named the doll after her daughter Barbara, and Barbie’s boyfriend after her son Kenneth. So, yes, the real-life Barbie and Ken were siblings, which is a little disturbing when you think about it.

This entry was posted in Advertising, Body Image, Television, The Simpsons, Toys, Winnie-the-Pooh and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Come On Barbie, Let’s Go Party

  1. barbielea says:

    Hi, liked your post. Yes I agree – people get a bit hysterical about ol Barbie. Remember that guy who had plastic surgery to look like a tiger? Nobody suggested banning cuddly tigers as a result, did they? Oh – “Math class is hard” Barbie got herself in trouble for pandering to stereotypes, as in “boys do Maths and science and girls paint and write and cook”.

    Regarding the real Barbie and Ken – to further complicate matters, Barbie’s little brother Todd and one of her other little sisters (maybe Stacie, I forget) were actually Barbie’s children in real life. And Ken was gay. And married to a woman (not his sister, though).

    • Nathan says:

      The guy who got the tiger surgery obviously demonstrates that Tigger is a bad influence on kids. :P

      I suppose Skipper wasn’t named after an actual person? I mean, even in the case of the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, that isn’t really his name.

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