Feeling very popular right now; I've had so many emails and messages this week from Lovin' the Alien readers.
Some congratulated me on reaching 130,000 page views. (Thank you!)
Most, however, forwarded links to news stories about a certain famous lady, and asked when (or what) I was going to write about her. Really, I haven't had this much input since a former child star put on a teddy bear teddy and twerked on live TV. (What was that about?) While I'm assuming that Miley Cyrus's bits and pieces are all genuine flesh and blood, my new subject's figure is decidedly ... plastic.
I'm talking, of course, about Mattel's Queen Bee, the one, the only, the impossible shapely Barbie. The news this week, though, is that maybe those infamous curves aren't quite so impossible anymore.
I haven't written much about Barbie (or, as I like to call her, Barbieelzebub) for a while. It's been many years since my now eighteen-year-old daughter asked for one. Just the other day, I ran into Super Stop & Shop for a few items and saw a Valentine's Day display of individual dolls packaged in pink and red. They were $12.99, which reinforced how long it had been since I actually bought one (I think I usually paid about $6 bucks). But, there appeared to progress as well. There was firefighter Barbie and a pilot Barbie and a doctor Barbie. And, all of these accomplished characters wore pants (!). Firefighter Barbie looked trim and busty, but she didn't look like a stripper at a fireman's bachelor party. And even though doctor Barbie had hot pink leggings and high heels under her lab coat, the lab coat itself looked professional and was long enough to hide most, well some, of the leggings. (Hey, if my tush looked like that, maybe I wouldn't cover it up either.) All in all, I thought these were good signs.
The news this week isn't about Barbie's professional life. It's about her body. Some quick history first, though ...
Once upon a time, years before wholesome pig-tailed American girls sent Barbie and Ken off on dream dates, there was a more mature figure named Lili. She was based on a popular character in an R-rated comic strip that ran in the newspaper Bild-Zeitung in Hamburg. Her naughty adventures were so popular that she was immortalized in plastic with heavy make-up, stiletto toes, and that figure we all know so well but rarely encounter in real life. Lili dolls were sold in bars and adult toy stores; they were popular gag gifts at stag parties.
In 1956, Ruth Handler, the co-founder of the Mattel toy company was vacationing in Germany with her daughter "Barbie" and she brought the Lili toy back. Three years later, Barbie the doll was introduced. And the rest is, shall-we-say, bodacious history.
Feminists have had issues with the divine Miss B for decades. But, Handler saw it differently, "Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into
her dream of her future. If she was going to do role playing of what she would be
like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll
that had a flat chest. So I gave it beautiful breasts." The breasts (and the infinitesimal waist and the longer than humanly possible legs) have always been part of the problem. Because, guess what Ruth? Ain't no girl gonna look like that when she's 16 or 17. No way. No how.
This week, Mattel launched an expanded selection of Barbies with more diverse (and arguably realistic) body shapes. "Girls everywhere now have infinitely more ways to play out their stories
and spark their imaginations through Barbie. Along with more overall
diversity, we proudly add three new body types to our line."
According to Mattel's website, "The 2016 Barbie® Fashionistas™
Dolls will eventually include 4
body types, 7 skin tones, 22 eye colors, 24 hairstyles, and countless
on-trend fashions and accessories."
Phew. I was worried we might run out of on-trend accessories.
Anyway, now girls can choose "Original Barbie," "Petite Barbie," "Curvy Barbie," or "Tall Barbie." Because, apparently, the original isn't curvy or tall enough. According to figures (no pun intended) released in 2013, Barbie would be 5'9" and weigh 110 pounds; the average American woman is 5'4" and weighs 166.
An unapologetic feminist, myself, I've always thought the Barbie-backlash was a little overblown. I think critics overestimate the influence of a doll and underestimate our daughters' imaginations and common sense.
Still, I think there's been progress. And, just to be sure, I did a quick reality check with my daughter.
She said, "Well, it's about time." But then, she quickly pointed out, "There's still no fat ones."
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