Friday, December 31, 2004

Barbie is Not a Nice Girl

Tony Woodlief, in the middle of recounting his quest to find his boys cowboy guns, has this throwaway line:

"I think boys might benefit from owning a Barbie doll; every young man should understand what an expensive proposition it is to cohabitate with a narcissistic woman built like a stripper"

It's not the build so much as the mentality, but I know what he means. Barbie, if not actually a whore (as it says on a tee-shirt I saw at Craftster recently), is definitely not the sort of girl you want your daughter to be or your son to marry.

Have you looked at Barbies lately? I found myself looking for a Barbie recently; what few I could find in the thrift stores were way too beat up, so I wound my way to Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us. Now I remembered Barbie as looking kind of trampy but in a relatively wholesome, California girl kind of way. In fact, back when the Bratz dolls came out, I remarked to my husband that it's a sad thing when the hottest-selling doll marketed to little girls looks sluttier than a doll based on an actual prostitute. Well, it's not the case anymore. The Bratz have cut into Barbie's profits deeply enough that Mattel is trying to make Barbie look more like the Bratz in some of her versions and, in others, just more like a generic cheap whore. The only Barbies I could find that weren't completely slutty and cheap-looking were a couple of ethnic "princesses"--I think it was Navajo Princess and Cambodian Princess, or something like that--and a couple of the forty-dollar-or-so character ones. (I liked the I Love Lucy doll and the LOTR movie version Galadriel is, for a Barbie, flat-out beautiful.) But I'm not paying forty dollars for a Barbie and, as I wanted the doll for a possible project related to Medieval Europe, I needed a doll that looked at least somewhat European. I ended up going with a box set of four Barbie knockoffs. These looked like Barbie back in her wide-eyed, fairly innocent-looking, jailbait days, and they were the only non-trampy knockoffs I saw.

Much as Barbie is a decades-long part of American girlhood, I can really see the case for parents banning Barbie (along with the Bratz and knockoffs of each) from their daughters' toy chests, in favor of, say, American Girls dolls, Kim Possible, baby dolls, or GI Joes.

Good luck finding her a gun to play with, though, if Tony Woodlief's experience was anything close to typical.

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