As a tween or teen, Barbie never resonated with me. When I was fourteen, I went to a friend’s house for a sleepover. She had a collection of Barbie dolls, complete with a fantastic wardrobe, a pink plastic car, and Ken. Too old to play with dolls and bored, we whiled away the night trying to make Ken and Barbie have sex, an impossible feat. Both dolls lacked genitalia.
Barbie came into being during the cold war years in 1959. For some girls, Barbie represented who they wanted to be when they grew up. Barbie never took on mythological proportions, or became an artistic muse, nor was she respected, or taken seriously, because no one really looked like her. By the 1960s and 1970s a heightened consciousness arose when ordinary people saw the connection among consumerism, the media, and advertising. There was no denying a single incontrovertible fact: Barbie was fake.
Things are different today. We’re overwhelmed by technology and take for granted that any image we are seeing or any story we read might have been created by marketing and technology. Manipulated. Distorted. Fake. It should be easy to discern the real from the fake, but that is not the case at all. Clever marketing covertly uses technology to merge the real and fake together in a big mashup. Then the real danger is no one can agree on reality.
Barbie is the ultimate mashup of the real and the fake. The doll is decidedly fake, but brought to life in a 2023 movie, directed by Greta Gerwig. Barbie taps into the pain that is universal to all women. Barbie’s message to girls and women: You are all victims of the patriarchal culture. The core message is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator: you, all of you, are victimized by men. The message is repeated over and over and over. There is always an enemy who has caused pain, and that enemy is white men. White men have created a world that is rigged against you! Girls and women: Put on your pink pussy hats and empower yourself!
Barbie is the wet dream conjured by evil white men who want a total babe, a Stepford Wife and a baby breeder, all rolled into one. She sets forth beauty standards that are freakishly unnatural, impossible to attain, and shallow. Okay, Barbie is pink, plastic, and perfect, but women everywhere are being asked to believe her story, to give street cred to a doll, to pay to see the movie, enticing women to buy Barbie paraphernalia for their granddaughters—and that is an abomination, a sad commentary on our culture.
Mass movements are always scary. The powerful Mattel corporate machine did a fantastic job of using clever marketing to sell stuff. It is inconceivable that Barbie was nominated for Time Magazine’s 2023 Person of the Year. What is amazing is that so many women drank the Kool-Aid. If we all agreed on reality, then Barbie would be cited as the con job of the year.
Yes, Barbie tapped into a collective consciousness—women’s point of pain. It is true that women are judged for their looks. Women are harassed in the workplace, the boudoir, and board rooms. There are fewer opportunities for women at the top in law, politics, business, medicine, science, technology, and the arts, but that is the very reason why Barbie should be expelled from the real world and confined to a 1959 toy box.