Looks Great (Duh)
July 3, 2013 9:21 PM   Subscribe

"You might remember artist Nickolay Lamm for his work removing doll's makeup to show that they looked just as lovely without that extra layer. Now, as promised, he's created a "normal"-sized Barbie, made to show us more realistic proportions of American women." (also via)
posted by juliplease (49 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, Barbie looks weird.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lisa Lionhart!

Normal Barbie looks great and oddly New Zeelandy.
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, that's an attractive young woman. That doesn't mean she's also an attractive doll.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:35 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


For the record, as a young child I never understood either dolls or action figures. I have no first-hand experience playing with Barbie. I've definitely read a bit over the years about how Barbie and other dolls influence body perception. Looking at the real Barbie in the photos, the head is wildly out of proportion to the body. This becomes even more evident when compared to the modified Barbie-prime.

The original Barbie is a giant head attached to a weird, twig-like miniature body. It's all very abstract, kind of like how very young children draw people: here's a huge head with the salient features like makeup or glasses, and here are the limbs and body sticking out of the head as a kind of afterthought.

By comparison, the modified Barbie is proportioned somewhat like an adult human being. The face is smaller and less salient. Rendered in plastic, a realistically proportioned body in that state of undress is even somewhat sensuous. Instead of being a doll, the modified Barbie is more like a plastic sculpture. In the role of a plaything, I think it would be kind of creepy.
posted by Nomyte at 9:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow. That is some uncanny valley right there. I mean, I get it...but she looks weird. And I know that it's really the original Barbie who's the complete non-human freak, but she's so embedded in our cultural consciousness as to look like the 'normal' one...which is of course the entire point here. It's almost like she (the original) is some sort of...I dunno...'communal homunculus'.
Hmmm...you know what I'd like to see? The reverse of this done with a male doll like G.I. Joe...where his proportions are distorted from the human norm in the exact same way that Barbie is...skinnier waist, longer legs, wider-set eyes, etc...would he seem more 'feminine' or just elven or something? Would it seem as surreal?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:47 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now can we please get a G.I. Joe with a bit of a paunch?
posted by ShutterBun at 10:00 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


She looks weird because her proportions reflect the average American woman, but her ethnicity doesn't! If she had darker skin and hair, your brain probably wouldn't scream "uncanny valley!" so much. Dunno how it is in the US, but she actually looks Brazilian now, our ethnic mixing combined with the social reality of women trying to look whiter than they are, with bleached hair, contacts etc.
posted by Tom-B at 10:05 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember something similar being done awhile back. They called her "Ruby" the rubenesque barbie. This is the best/quickest summary I was able to find on short order.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 10:15 PM on July 3, 2013


Oh god the comments. Do Not Read The Comments. Still, "Normal Barbie" still looks super athletic and in shape to me, which certainly says something about how freakish Barbie is that anyone would be moved to call that shape "Short and stubby".
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:16 PM on July 3, 2013


I really enjoyed the detailed attention paid to ensure that every angle, hem, strap, and strand match as closely as possible between the two in each picture. And I LOVE Barbie's "real" feet!
posted by juliplease at 10:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and sexyrobot…that would look a lot like Brock Samson.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:20 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a child I would not let my female cousins look at my GI Joe naked. And they would not let me see their Barbies naked. That says a lot more about how we were raised than how the damn dolls looked.

SPOILER!

GI Joe didn't have a penis.
posted by Splunge at 10:23 PM on July 3, 2013


The doll reminds me of Harmony from Buffy/Angel, who was an evil Barbie wanna-be most of the time, so I guess that's appropriate.
posted by fleacircus at 10:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now can we please get a G.I. Joe with a bit of a paunch?

There was that time you could mail away for a limited edition William "Refrigerator" Perry G.I. Joe, does that count?
posted by radwolf76 at 10:28 PM on July 3, 2013


Original Barbie in those pictures seems to have a weird superstimulus reality distortion field. I find that if you cover up original Barbie, then "realistic Barbie" looks great.
posted by zompist at 11:08 PM on July 3, 2013


It seems that realistic adult proportions serve to sexualize the doll more than the regular doll's cartoonish ones and encourages more body comparison with actual people. Looking at these pictures makes me think that maybe Mattel hasn't been given enough credit for Barbie's proportions as a more helpful / less harmful doll amidst today's sources of body image issues. (Not to suggest a dichotomy)
posted by anonymisc at 11:20 PM on July 3, 2013


Realistic Barbie has an unrealistically amazing butt. My own research showed that your average American female butt is not nearly so fantastic (though I'll admit to a fairly small sample size).
posted by Mechashiva at 11:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, more-realistic Barbie looks great. I wish this were for sale (in many different skin tones) and I wish I'd had it growing up. Looking at her I had this sudden revelation about some of the body-image issues I've always had. I mean, that's more-or-less what I look like - my ass isn't that awesome of course - but looking at a Barbie that looks kinda like me is not an experience I've ever had, and it feels unexpectedly validating.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Mechashiva - rather than an average American female, it notes it's an average American 19-year-old female. It's still surprising, but anecdotally, to me that seems to be about the age when people's growth-spurt-driven metabolic overdrive has had maximal effect but can no-longer be taken for granted, sports/play are more likely to get put away with other childhood things, cars get purchased so bicycles collect dust, and so people start changing into a more diverse range of shapes as they enter their twenties with a metabolism more able to build weight, and more time pressure working against sports etc.
posted by anonymisc at 11:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And on the flip side (of the discussion, and the hemisphere), a radio presenter dresses up like Barbie after her 3yr old daughter said “Mummy, Look at how beautiful Barbie is. You should dress JUST like her mummy. And mummy, you’d look beautiful too. Just like Barbie”.
“The Barbie Experience” is how I’m referring to my 5 hours spent in a daze of candy pink make-up and barely there clothing which shimmered and slithered far too much for a freezing Perth afternoon. Being Barbie wasn’t fun or, to my surprise, even remotely entertaining. Being Barbie was downright humiliating and degrading. I’m not the type of chick who whinges about carrying a few extra kilo’s. I am what I am, and I’m pretty happy with my body after pushing out a kid and living on 5 hours of sleep a day for over 10 years. But, holy hell people! Wearing Barbie’s shiny short skirts and over tight tops made me feel dirty and cheap. I felt exposed as I walked the streets and I lost all confidence to look people in the eye because I felt so ashamed of the trashy clothing I was wearing. I cringed at the thought of bumping into anyone I knew, and the disgusted looks on people’s faces as I teetered past them in hot pants and electric pink stilettos reflected how I was feeling about myself. I felt disgusting.
posted by Kerasia at 12:24 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I cringed at the thought of bumping into anyone I knew, and the disgusted looks on people’s faces as I teetered past them in hot pants and electric pink stilettos reflected how I was feeling about myself. I felt disgusting.

Has she tried dressing as a Disney Princess? I think the takeaway is that, maybe, a 3-year-old's style advice doesn't work great for adults in every situation. The alternative is that the writer considers wearing hot pants and pink stilettos inherently shameful and disgusting. That's arguable, but it's also a different argument.
posted by Nomyte at 12:59 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the takeaway is that, maybe, a 3-year-old's style advice doesn't work great for adults in every situation. The alternative is that the writer considers wearing hot pants and pink stilettos inherently shameful and disgusting.

Another (accurate) alternative is that she was trying to discover what it would be like to dress up as Barbie while being, you know, an actual human being.
posted by Kerasia at 1:16 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Another (accurate) alternative is that she was trying to discover what it would be like to dress up as Barbie while being, you know, an actual human being.

She didn't exactly take official Barbie doll clothes and use an unshrink ray on them. She bought clothing, shoes, and makeup that actual people really buy and wear, completely intentionally, because they think this stuff looks good on them or they look good wearing it. The writeup sounds witheringly judgmental of people who would do such a thing.
posted by Nomyte at 1:21 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


She didn't exactly take official Barbie doll clothes and use an unshrink ray on them. She bought clothing, shoes, and makeup that actual people really buy and wear.

I see that you didn't read the words behind the link.
With the help of WA Fashion Designer Jonté, I re-created perfect replicas of three Barbie outfits to fit my exact size and for one afternoon I dressed exactly like my daughter’s Barbie Doll.
posted by Kerasia at 2:54 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see. I'm sorry for not reading your link. I still take issue with calling particular clothing, footwear, or makeup inherently trashy or shameful.
posted by Nomyte at 3:27 AM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


from Just Like Barbie:

I’m on the hunt for a nice Nanna who might sew me up some of my own Barbie outfits. Like Computer Geek Barbie, or Veterinary Barbie, or even Journalist Barbie.

I'm all for locally sourced Barbie gear, but if you really want your daughter to have Veterinary Barbie, just buy one. It feels like she's just slut shaming Barbie's clubwear and making assumptions based on clothes, which is worse for women than the doll.

I identify as a radical feminist (not to be confused with radfem) and I think Barbie hate is lazy. She's as a good of a role model as you make/buy for her. There's an undercurrent to anti-barbie stuff that comes off as a dismissal/invalidation of femininity, and that's gross. It's not the hardest thing in the world to have the conversation that Barbie doesn't look like a real person. When I was a kid as soon as I saw her feet I realized she wasn't supposed to look "real". Very few things for children are depicted realistically, but it seems like Barbie gets more shit for it because she's sexualized by adults. When I was a kid my favorite thing about Barbie was that she had her own house, horse, car, etc. I got to roleplay through her that I had the agency kids dream about, and that is an underestimated aspect of her appeal to children.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 3:46 AM on July 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


She could be Feral Cheryl's sunny, upbeat friend.
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:52 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not Original Barbie.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:36 AM on July 4, 2013


That's not Original Barbie.

Bild Lilli Doll, the origin of Barbie.

From the second link:
Lilli, however, was modeled after a sultry, almost pornographic caricature in a German comic strip; she was a far cry from the innocent, all-American image Ruth wanted to capture, and it was Mattel's job to change that. Several trips to and from Japan finally ended with a deal that changed the pursed lips, widow's peak, and heavy make-up of Lilli into an embodiment of the quintessential American teenager, created to "project every little girl's dream of the future"
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:13 AM on July 4, 2013


I was hoping to find a one-page gallery of Barbie's looks through the years, but most of them are click-baity. This comparison between a 90's and a 00's doll is interesting. And here's a look at some of Barbie's career history.
posted by juliplease at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2013


Back in 1991-ish, the Happy To Be Me doll was introduced as a "realistic" alternative to Barbie. It didn't seem to last long - Google searching turned up that NY Times article, a bunch of collector's sites/Ebay posts and some interesting Tumblr tags. According to one of those Tumblr tags the Happy To Be Me "bombed."

Maybe, as Nomyte and sexyrobot noted, an unrealistic-looking toy is somehow less creepy/Uncanny Valley? Or maybe kids just got used to Barbie. Or toys created specifically with a didactic purpose tend to bomb. Or a combination. (It sounds like Happy To Be Me had a lot of "Play with it because it's good for you" which is guaranteed to NOT win kids over. The "eat your peas" school of play.)

I think the artist here did a much better job than with the "Happy To Be Me's," anyway. Realistic!Barbie is very pretty.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:49 AM on July 4, 2013


I didn't like this nearly as much as I thought I would. I don't like the "realistic" Barbie. She looks like spoiled, obnoxious meangirls I went to high school with, not like a glamorous sweetie, if that makes sense.
posted by windykites at 7:31 AM on July 4, 2013


I'm also wondering why she's 19? Shouldn't she be around 30? She's got a career after all!
posted by windykites at 7:34 AM on July 4, 2013


i really, really like the no makeup barbies.
posted by nadawi at 7:37 AM on July 4, 2013


Wow, just read that "Being Barbie" link... um, why didn't she just get something other than beach clothes? Barbie has a shitload of outfits for every situation. She doesn't only wear short-shorts.
posted by windykites at 7:42 AM on July 4, 2013


getting kind of a mother-of-dragons vibe from realistic Barbie.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2013


On reading "Being Barbie" all I could think was that feminists don't call women skanks regardless of how they dress.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:48 AM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is it just me, or do the side and back images make it look like both Barbies have unnaturally-curved lower spines?
posted by KGMoney at 7:53 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think they could have toned down the sway-back and bubble-butt on Realistic Barbie a bit.
posted by Salamander at 8:51 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and regarding the 'Being Barbie' article: I sometimes listen to Lisa's radio show on the way to work, since she is based in my fair city. Let's just say that nobody would ever accuse her, or her co-hosts, of cutting-edge feminist intellectualism.)
posted by Salamander at 8:56 AM on July 4, 2013


As a child, I really did not understand the appeal of dolls, either. I'm not really quite sure why, perhaps it was because there were an infinite number of other things to play with (at that age, only your imagination is the limit).

However, in the early elementary school years, there was a show and tell homework assignment. I'm not quite sure if I tried to blend in or perhaps thought that the class assignment was to bring in the same object that everyone else brought in, but I brought in a barbie doll for my particular day, even though I never really played with it. I thought that the assignment was going swell - I held up the doll and showed it to the class.

Then there was a question and answer session and another little girl asked:"What is your doll's name?" I started panicking (How was I supposed to know this and why would it have a name?), but then I remembered something and carefully pulled that back of the barbie's shirt away and answered, "Hong Kong!" For the rest of the show and tell session, the teacher argued with me and insisted that the doll not possibly be named Hong Kong. The session finally ended when I stripped the doll and showed the teacher and the class that the word Hong Kong was on the back of the doll, so surely that must be the name of the doll.

So if I could invent a time machine, I would go back in time and give my younger self...not a doll that looked a certain way (I cared less what it looked like at that age) but that had a realistic name printed on the back vs. the city where it was manufactured.
posted by Wolfster at 9:35 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are definitely plenty of American women who have butts like that. We probably aren't blonde, but it's not like "omg no one could have that butt!"
posted by dame at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I was of Barbie owning age, for my birthday, a boy in my class gave me a suitcase full of handmade barbie clothes that his mother (who did not have daughters) had made. That was the greatest present EVER and I feel that I probably did not thank her enough for that gift. So, Thanks Charles' mom! you're awesome!

I suspect the more realistic Barbie would be easier to sew for. That tiny waist and huge head means you've got to do some real tailoring to get it to fit right. (although today, I guess it's all stretch fabrics.)
posted by vespabelle at 12:08 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are definitely plenty of American women who have butts like that. We probably aren't blonde...

I worked with blonde who had a butt like that. She told me the secret is to be brunette and bleach your hair, and to do butt-clenches all the time.
posted by 445supermag at 12:29 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


*Some* women have bubble butts. Sway back is optional. So are lips like a duck. There may not be makeup on that first doll, but her eyes are still bugging out.

Realistic Barbie--much better.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait wait what if prehistoric feminists also were outraged at the unrealistic body proportions of their dolls?
posted by Tom-B at 3:04 PM on July 4, 2013


> Is it just me, or do the side and back images make it look like both Barbies have unnaturally-curved lower spines?

As I was saying, that curvature is more common in the African and Latin American biotypes...
posted by Tom-B at 3:06 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those 2 body types played each other in the Wimbledon semi today. They both played great but the shorter more muscular girl won. It really was a great match.
posted by surplus at 3:17 PM on July 4, 2013


I was hoping to find a one-page gallery of Barbie's looks through the years

If you mean her "looks" body-shape-wise, here's a useful image (that's chronological but, alas, that's otherwise undated/uncontextualized).
posted by arm's-length at 6:31 AM on July 7, 2013


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