This Ken would like you to know that he is a graphic designer.
June 21, 2017 4:32 AM   Subscribe

On Tuesday, Mattel unveiled a new line of diverse Ken dolls to accompany the now diverse Barbie (previously). But who are all these Kens? R. Eric Thomas of ELLE Magazine describes All the Ken Dolls You Will Meet in Your Lifetime.
posted by Faint of Butt (123 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I laughed when I saw a picture of Man Bun Ken, but then I read his blurb. I myself am essentially Man Bun Ken. I am humbled. I do not have a man bun.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:48 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Blue-vest Ken really is gorgeous, though.

Also this man-bun Ken (h/t chococat).
posted by uncleozzy at 4:52 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Today I am humbled because I never expected to enjoy an article from Elle this much.
posted by Slothrup at 4:59 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Also, this Ken is John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:05 AM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Today I am humbled because I never expected to enjoy an article from Elle this much.
And this is where I'm supposed to carefully tone police myself and say something light and charming that will make you think about the ideas about gender contained in your assumption that nothing in a woman's magazine could be valuable, but will not make you defensive by implying in any way that you could be sexist. But I don't really have the energy, so fuck it. There is lots of good stuff in Elle. You should consider why you are surprised that there is good writing in Elle.

Anyway, I like the new Kens, and now I understand a whole bunch of tweets that I saw yesterday afternoon.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:08 AM on June 21 [64 favorites]


"...he's great at his job and his aunt is always leaving comments on his Instagram like 'You and those fancy duds!'"
posted by josephtate at 5:08 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Tag yourself!

I'm Ken.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:19 AM on June 21 [19 favorites]


I lost it at "skips leg day"
posted by schmod at 5:22 AM on June 21 [14 favorites]


This is great. Also, how long does it take to get a Ken from the drawing board to the toy store? Because lord knows I love a man bun, but I think they're going to look pretty dated in about 6 months.

(Attn: any man-bun-havers reading this, who cares if it goes out of style, please keep wearing your man bun. Thanks)
posted by lollymccatburglar at 5:37 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


A Chemex is a pour over, what's so time consuming about that?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:41 AM on June 21


Still waiting for DadBod Ken, his manly torso wrapped in an appealingly soft and pliable Stretch Armstrong rubber
posted by Auden at 5:45 AM on June 21 [28 favorites]


All the Kens have hydrocephalus, apparently.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:47 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]




They still have no penises. It's Diversity Without Dicks!
posted by jonmc at 6:09 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


I want to buy one. I am 65. There apparently is a deep need in me that was not met when I was 8.
posted by Peach at 6:12 AM on June 21 [14 favorites]


Does he want you to talk to him? Does he not want you to talk to him? Is he talking to the Keurig?

I weep in the shame of recognition.

And I'm talking to the Keurig.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:22 AM on June 21 [16 favorites]


My version of this post had the title "Not all Ken". I'm not even done reading the article and I was on my way here to post it it's that great. So arch. That one big photo with them all in it looks like the DVD-cover of the L-Word though.
posted by Iteki at 6:22 AM on June 21 [11 favorites]


Okay, this is weird, because several of my same-age friends on FB and elsewhere also would buy one and are actively budgeting money for it.
posted by Peach at 6:30 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


are actively budgeting money for it.
They're $10, so your friends probably won't have to save up for too long!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:33 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Eight year old me is having serious, serious doll envy.

YOU DON'T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU HAVE IT, EIGHT YEAR OLDS OF TODAY.
posted by lydhre at 6:33 AM on June 21 [10 favorites]


They still have no penises. It's Diversity Without Dicks!

Arguably increasing the diversity, I suppose.

The Elle descriptions are great. I'm not a person who would ever buy one of these, but the captions were funny. I would think, however, that if they are going to the extent of including a man-bun, they might have at least one with lumbersexual facial hair.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:37 AM on June 21 [11 favorites]


Augh, I should have clicked, my link was a different article, GQ Caity Weaver, who did that Rock interview.
posted by Iteki at 6:47 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


They still have no penises. It's Diversity Without Dicks!

My head canon is that they're all trans men.
posted by AFABulous at 6:47 AM on June 21 [26 favorites]


Also, this Ken is John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants.

Not to put too fine a point on it/
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet/
Make a Barbie Dream House in your soul
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:50 AM on June 21 [36 favorites]


AFABulous: "My head canon is that they're all trans men."

I was going to make a snarky comment about how nice it was that they finally gave Barbie a gay best friend, but I like this version a lot more.

I was also heartened to see that the range includes a surprising diversity of gender presentation (or at the very least represents masculinity as a spectrum rather than an absolute). Maybe I'm reading too far into the Elle article, but it really does seem like they went a lot further than "Ken, but he's black!"

I was not expecting to see the creators of Barbie to demonstrate a nuanced perspective on diversity and intersectionality, but here we are, and it's kind of great.
posted by schmod at 6:57 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]




Also, one of the Kens is actually Rachel Maddow.
posted by Peach at 7:00 AM on June 21 [19 favorites]


I have decided that they are collectively a boy band named Boyz II Ken.

Also, Totally Hair Ken was kind of terrifying.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:09 AM on June 21 [23 favorites]


An early version had a Ken with five penises. His pants fit him like a glove.
posted by dr_dank at 7:12 AM on June 21 [27 favorites]


Totally Hair Ken? He's only, like, 3% hair at most. I want my money back.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:13 AM on June 21 [8 favorites]


All the Kens skipped leg day.

They're listed in descending order of bicep size.

Missing Hot Mugshot Guy Ken.
posted by clawsoon at 7:15 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Dip Flash, according to this link there was a Shavin' fun Ken in the 2010s.
posted by peppermind at 7:34 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


They're all showing a certain Ken Doll Attitude...
posted by AJaffe at 7:35 AM on June 21


they might have at least one with lumbersexual facial hair.

Bring back Mod Hair Ken!
posted by phunniemee at 7:43 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


three out of fourteen kens have more or less my hairstyle and I don't know how I feel about that but I think I like it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:52 AM on June 21


"Every one of the new Ken Dolls is a different bartender who has ignored me"
-Mara Wilson
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:10 AM on June 21 [39 favorites]


Somebody better be getting Deray a Deray Vest Ken, I am crying with delight.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:14 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Totally Hair Ken looks like he just gave his penis a pep talk in Boogie Nights.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:14 AM on June 21


okay I'm gonna be "that girl" and say where is Wheelchair Ken? Or at least Amputee from the War Ken? I mean, pretty much all Kens become Amputee from the War Ken once you have them long enough, but maybe we could get a fancy prosthetic limb sometime?
posted by Soliloquy at 8:18 AM on June 21 [17 favorites]


I think a line of Kens/Barbies with detachable limbs/attachable badass prostheses would be...badass. Somebody do that.

Barbie has had at least one wheelchair friend, Becky.
posted by emjaybee at 8:29 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Barbie Shaving Ken Doll. It's only $90! And this guy has back tattoos!
posted by amanda at 8:30 AM on June 21


Okay, you know what, it might be impossible, given the realities and volume of nylon hair, for man-bun Ken to have rooted hair, but they should have, like, a ponytail Ken with rooted hair, or probably several with different textures to reflect different kinds of long hair. I think that ponytail Ken would probably go over bigger with doll customers - for me as a child, one reason Ken was boring was that you couldn't do anything with his hair.

Also, srsly, why does everyone hate the "man bun"? A. I am an Old, and long hair on guys was super fashionable when I was young in the nineties, and I like seeing it back in again. B. Also, the man-bun hate seems kind of...I dunno, bad gender politics? Like making fun of a guy for carrying a bag by calling it a "man purse"? C. As a transmasculine person with really thick hair, I sometimes debate growing it out; if I grew it out, I'd put it up to get it out of the way. I would prefer not to be, like, mocked for this. D. Buns are gender neutral historically speaking - many non-Us-white-people cultures have a tradition of men wearing their hair up in a bun. E. What if you have dreadlocks or braids? Or just really thick hair? It gets hot in the summer and you want to get it off your neck, you know?
posted by Frowner at 8:32 AM on June 21 [26 favorites]


I'm with you, Frowner, I have no hate for the man bun. I like seeing men doing something with their hair. I have just put man bun on pre-order. I simply must...though I'm very drawn to cornrows in a skinny-tie guy. Wow!
posted by amanda at 8:36 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Every woman I know thinks man-buns are hot.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:36 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]


Really?
posted by jonmc at 8:38 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]


I mean, I've had long hair and worn it in a pony tail, but the bun just looks weird to me for some reason.
posted by jonmc at 8:39 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]




My wife and I took a trip to Italy last month, and booked a guide to go over to Capri for a day trip.

Our guide was Italian, of course, had a man-bun, played keyboards for a local jazz-fusion group, had spent several years in grad school studying anthropology, knew everything there was to know about Capri, and he was named Sergio.

He was so perfect, it was almost like an elaborate troll. Like central casting said, "ah hell, let's name him Sergio, too".
posted by yhbc at 8:45 AM on June 21 [35 favorites]


Back in the nineties, when I was young and in my prime, every straight woman I knew liked men with long hair. I dated a man with long hair (who still has long youthful grey-less hair because apparently he is a mutant).

I like long hair on men, even (as befits my status as an Old) greying ex-hippie long hair.

Although I will say that I think part of it is the "doing something with your hair" aspect - women of my acquaintance also liked most, like, actual hairstyles more than the default short-back-and-sides. So, for instance, buzz cuts tended, even then before we all got old and had thinning hair, to be more popular.

My personal favorite Ken is striped shirt guy, partly because I have that exact outfit so we could match. All the Kens also have a strong eyebrow game going on.

"Hottie Ken" from the mid-2000s is creeeeeeeepy.
posted by Frowner at 8:46 AM on June 21 [6 favorites]


many non-Us-white-people cultures have a tradition of men wearing their hair up in a bun.

True, but it wasn't, e.g., samurai who popularized the man-bun in the US in recent years; it was young, privileged white men. So it's arguably cultural appropriation, not to mention an in-group signifier, because there are lots of ethnicities, including lots of white people, who simply can't put their hair into a bun due to its texture. When my hair was long, I tied it back with a ponytail holder, but it was really a giant puffball behind my head. Trying to form a bun would have been absurd.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:56 AM on June 21


it was really a giant puffball behind my head. Trying to form a bun would have been absurd

Tell this to the guy who runs the fancy coffee shop down the block from me.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:58 AM on June 21


> Back in the nineties, when I was young and in my prime, every straight woman I knew liked men with long hair.

Back in the nineties, when I was young and in my prime, every straight man I knew was trying to dress and look like Eddie Vedder or Chris Cornell, and that wasn't going to happen for me or my hair. Then they all started trying to dress and look like Beck, and *that* was something I could work with.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:05 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Although....my wife has me growing out my goatee so she can braid it. She's been watching a lot of Vikings.
posted by jonmc at 9:07 AM on June 21 [14 favorites]


Count me as another person who doesn't get the pile-on hate for the "man bun." It's a fucking bun. Same as women wear. It's the style that says, "I like having longer hair, but today (or in this moment) I needed it out of the way."

It's only when someone perpetually wears their hair like that that you may want to ask them "why bother?" but that's not something that you can tell about a person based on a snap judgment after you've seen them once.
posted by explosion at 9:09 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


they finally gave Barbie a gay best friend

Oh no, that was back in 1992, and I still have my Earring Magic Ken. He's gotten a little dusty but with that purple mesh shirt he still knows how to party. He was snorting tina before it was fashionable.
posted by Nelson at 9:11 AM on June 21 [12 favorites]



True, but it wasn't, e.g., samurai who popularized the man-bun in the US in recent years; it was young, privileged white men. So it's arguably cultural appropriation, not to mention an in-group signifier, because there are lots of ethnicities, including lots of white people


I dunno, I have mixed feelings about this line of reasoning.

First, because the "man-buns ew" thing is usually about gender not race, like wearing a man-bun is something that only men-who-are-somehow-ew-in-their-masculinity do. That's fucked up on gender lines, but it also ignores the fact that man-buns are, like, classically masculine elsewhere in the world. I don't totally buy the "man buns are culturally appropriative" line for reasons given below, but I think we appeal to non-US-white-people hairstyles as a way of showing that "man buns are a masculinity failure" is extremely ethnocentric.

Second, the majority of the man-buns/proto-man-buns ("proto" meaning when you have enough hair for a ponytail on top of your head, but not a bun yet) I see here in south MPLS are on non-white people, to the point where I semi-consciously think of it as primarily a not-white-people hairstyle even though this is not the case. So while it may signify whiteness in some social milieux, I don't think it's universally true enough to make a sweeping claim.

Third, I understand that cultural appropriation is complicated, and it would be really problematic if white people were like "I am going to wear my hair in a bun to imitate samurai". But the bun is like the ponytail, sort of a logical endpoint for "I have long hair and I'm going to wear it off my face and neck" - it's like patchwork or braids in that there are specific kinds of patchwork or braids that are culturally linked and subject to cultural appropriation, but patching and braiding as practices are pretty universal and there are some kinds of patchwork and braids that are everywhere.

The "man bun" doesn't really look like a samurai bun, I think and as a chronic reader of men's style blogs, the only people I've seen talking about samurai hair and their long hair have been Asian-American men, usually Japanese-American. My sense is that the trajectory was more in line with the 2010s tendency for styles to go from women to very fashionable men (like skinny pants, deep v-neck tees, the boatneck mens tees that ASOS has now, florals, etc) and that it mainly derives from the top-of-the-head bun that's been fashionable for women for years and is also the result of a slow return of nineties fashion and the fact that super-short haircuts for men started to get a little played out on men's style blogs about 2012 or so. (That is, long enough ago for lots of people to grow their hair.)

Also - and again, this is based on reading men's fashion blogs and tumblrs, so it has some basis but may not be universal - my sense is that there's been a general growing-out of hair across styles. Like, I feel as though the man-bun became a thing right around the time that I also noticed Black fashion tumblr people with very curly hair growing their hair out or putting it into longer braids (some of which get pulled up in man buns). I recognize that there's some problems with valuing long straight hair because that's so intensely racialized, but my observation is that this doesn't map simply onto "the 2010s have been a time of valuing white long-hair styles and devaluing other ways of having long hair".
posted by Frowner at 9:21 AM on June 21 [16 favorites]


There have been plenty of youth fashion and grooming trends that have come and gone since I stopped thinking of myself as "a youth." Some of them I liked, others I didn't (not that my opinion really matters; rock on, kids!)...but damn, a lot of the young dudes in Toronto sporting man buns look sharp.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:22 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Also, there were punks with man-buns in MPLS in the early/mid 90s, now that I think about it, and I know because I used to go to shows with a couple of them. There was a subset of grunge-punk which involved having long hair that you didn't do much with, a ponytail was too hippie and so you would wear it up in a bun under your watchcap, with your flannel, thermals, fatigues and combats from the army surplus. Your bun would come un-bunned during show-based flailing and bouncing, and if it was a basement show your hair would fly up and hit the ceiling.
posted by Frowner at 9:27 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]


Well argued, Frowner. You make a lot of good points. Thank you for engaging me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:30 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Every woman I know thinks man-buns are hot.

*baldingly weeps*
posted by Fizz at 9:33 AM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Well argued, Frowner. You make a lot of good points.

But I also think it's a really good point that long straight hair is overvalued! It seems pretty clear that a man with long straight hair in a man-bun is going to get far more social permission/approval than a man with long braids in a man-bun, or a guy with a long afro, and that this is completely about racism. Long hair may be having a revival across fashion subcultures but it's not treated equally by society.

*baldingly weeps*

There are more ways to be attractive than having fancy hair, though! I meet lots of fancy-haired people that I wouldn't date on a bet!!
posted by Frowner at 9:40 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]


There are more ways to be attractive than having fancy hair, though!

Hehe, indeed. I was mostly kidding. I remember a few years ago when the Hitler-youth style hair cut was all the rage and then boom man-buns exploded. Ebb and flow.
posted by Fizz at 9:43 AM on June 21


I think these dolls are great. They're missing the "pudgy balding bed-head" Ken, though, one that will finally bring my studied "look" to the world.

I admire the world of the Elle writer's bio-writing character, who has a ton of hot, decent potential partners to hang out with. Wish it was thus for everyone (really!), it's actually a really hopeful chord.
posted by maxwelton at 9:52 AM on June 21


Every woman I know thinks man-buns are hot.

I was a teenager and college student in the 90's and my needlessly added point is, no, not all women find manbuns hot. I don't know any straight women into them, so YRMV I guess. I have not ever found them attractive outside of carefully lit and tousled ad campaigns in magazines, and I refuse to start now. They're just dorky. Like goatees.
posted by Windigo at 9:55 AM on June 21 [6 favorites]


Every man bun ken joke is bad and you should feel bad
posted by The Whelk at 9:55 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Also Thom Yorke please cut your hair.
posted by Windigo at 9:58 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


man bun ken

That's the worst special move in Street Fighter.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:58 AM on June 21 [27 favorites]


I have never had much of a man-bun opinion, mostly because hair is a thing subject to change. If it signifies anything it might be "man who isn't hung up on masculinity" but that's not a given, so presence or lack of man-bun would not be a determining factor in whether I'd talk to a dude. It's just a hairstyle. I do wish people would stop getting so weird about it.

I think all of these Kens are cute but I second the call for long-hair Ken because that would be fun. Facial hair options (like maybe you could swap out a goatee/beard or something?) would also be a kick. So many accessorizing options there.
posted by emjaybee at 10:03 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


They should recall all the man bun Kens and retrofit them with fedoras. Problem solved!
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:05 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


You know what it is - it's the preponderance of unkempt manbuns. Untrimmed, unwashed, straggly, lank manbuns. It's not long hair that I don't like, or men with long hair wanting to put it up. It's just the bad grooming that makes me squawk.
posted by Windigo at 10:05 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Manbuns when part of the hair is cut close and part is left long for the bun; I hate those. There was that guy at work who was balding and had a wispy pontytail and was a major butthead; he ruined it for everybody.

Am I the only one who thinks all these Kens have small hands?
posted by theora55 at 10:19 AM on June 21


Am I the only one who thinks all these Kens have small hands?

Let's keep politics out of this thread.
posted by Fizz at 10:24 AM on June 21 [16 favorites]


Ugh, can we stop bitching about man buns? Idk if I'm crazy for reading most of these Kens as queer, but it's really leaving a weird, unpleasant taste in my mouth that in a thread about majority POC, gay vibing male dolls, we're rehashing an old argument about sneering at male grooming and derailing into rants about douchey white straight men who are too invested in personal style to be comfortably read as heteronormative. For real, it feels like we're back in 2001 and everyone's popping off about "metrosexuals". Chill out about the implications of young men doing their hair and be amazed Mattel put out an Anthony Ramos Philip/Laurens Ken.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:34 AM on June 21 [17 favorites]


I'm also interested by Mattel's approach to diversity now, compared to the 90s for example, in terms of, before they'd give Barbie "friends" with their own names? So then Barbie was the central character and if you wanted a "diverse" doll you'd be a supporting character. But now they're more willing to go, "This is Barbie and this is also Barbie."
posted by RobotHero at 10:43 AM on June 21 [10 favorites]


They read lesbian to me. This gaggle of Kens looks like a parade of my crushes and ex-girlfriends and I am delighted by it!
posted by palegirl at 10:50 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]


They all have really full lips. Can someone draw up a chart comparing Ken-doll lip-fullness over time? Thanks in advance.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 11:03 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Where is full-sleeve tattoo Ken? Heavy metal Ken (with cat)? And why all them Kens got such toothpick legs?
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:04 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


And this is where I'm supposed to carefully tone police myself and say something light and charming that will make you think about the ideas about gender contained in your assumption that nothing in a woman's magazine could be valuable, but will not make you defensive by implying in any way that you could be sexist. But I don't really have the energy, so fuck it. There is lots of good stuff in Elle. You should consider why you are surprised that there is good writing in Elle.

You know, it isn't ALWAYS a gender thing. I was surprised I liked it, because I see Elle as a fashion magazine, and I am not the biggest fan of fashionista stuff. Also, there is not enough time in the world for me to read ALL THE THINGS.
posted by Samizdata at 11:12 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]


This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
your boat shoes
made out of
peanut brittle

and which
you were probably
saving
to iron later

Forgive me
your hair is so perfect
no sweat
and so Ken
posted by chavenet at 11:15 AM on June 21 [22 favorites]


Also, I used to own a Ken. Olympic Ken. Pretty badass. You bent his arm and he flexed his biceps. Still sad I never gave into my inner mad scientist and sliced his arms open to find out how they work. (Sad to say, I prolly would have done the same to Skipper's chest.)
posted by Samizdata at 11:20 AM on June 21


Deleted prior to posting several possibly inappropriate observations pertaining to gender of dolls awareness, but do very much appreciate the discussion of "man buns", I was close to submitting an 'ask' about the seeming recent prevalence of odd micro pony tails on the top of the head. This discussion saved both my asks this week for a different query, perhaps about the bespoke tailor Trump uses to hide the lizard tail.
posted by sammyo at 11:32 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting this, I loved it and laughed out loud several times. And I had a dream that I was Donald Trump's assistant last night so I really needed that laugh.
posted by 41swans at 11:45 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


I have eaten
your boat shoes
made out of
peanut brittle


I mean, that Ken is wearing Crocs, right? Also, She's All That Ken's boots are kinda weird. Might be more appropriate to wearing to a Pennywise show or something. Plus he tucks his slacks into them, which is also weird, unless he's trying to avoid ticks in the breakroom.

I really wish all of these Kens had sweet Freddie Mercury staches.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:51 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


lollymccatburglar wrote: "Also, how long does it take to get a Ken from the drawing board to the toy store? Because lord knows I love a man bun, but I think they're going to look pretty dated in about 6 months."

The new dolls are supposed to be available immediately. This is June. The Ken dolls depicted in the article include the 2015 Hoodie Ken popular enough to still in production, through to the brand new 2017 releases that include the new slim and broad body types and the man bun Ken you speak of. A new line up of fashionista dolls comes out each year, so in six months time (if sales of the 20017 are good they will be released in time for Christmas) the 2018 fashionista Kens will be out in January and man bun Ken will be officially one of last year's dolls.... Your judgement call is therefore correct.

The biggest problem with the new line of dolls that are shown in the article is that they all have moulded plastic hair rather than hair that can be combed. Hair that you style certainly has major drawbacks if you happen to take your dolls out into the backyard to film a photo shoot of them as a Dothraki tribe discovering a pond in a jungle and they get more than a little muddy while learning to fish in your goldfish pond* and discovering how to swim in the process, not to mention wet, and covered in soot, but even so... I mean, nothing to brush carefully, to briaid and to treasure?

Soliloquy wrote: "Okay I'm gonna be "that girl" and say where is Wheelchair Ken? Or at least Amputee from the War Ken? I mean, pretty much all Kens become Amputee from the War Ken once you have them long enough, but maybe we could get a fancy prosthetic limb sometime?"

Prosthetics are never one size fits all. You cannot give a Hispanic dude with a right arm that is 29.5 inches long and a 9.25 inch stump a prosthetic arm that is built for a Nordic guy with 31.75 inch arms and a 14.25 inch stump, nor can you give it to an African American guy with a left arm that is 32.75 inches long and who has a 22.5 inch stump. You do not buy an amputee off the shelf!! Clearly, you will understand that if you want an Amputee Ken or a Wheelchair Ken you have entered the world of serious doll collecting and that you first go to Value Village or to some other Veterans Rehabilitation Centre to be interviewed by dolls who feel that you may be a prospective sponsor, and then begin the process of having the prosthetic designed and fitted to the individual. There are thousands of individuals in need of sponsors - I urge you to follow up on your interest and look into this. Make your dream happen!


*No goldfish were harmed during this photo shoot. The actual fish depicted during the grilling the fish scene came from a can of sardines.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:52 AM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Barbie's boyfriend? Didn't Barbie and Ken have a conscious uncoupling a few years back around the same time Miss Piggy and Kermit did?

Also I love these new dolls and am missing my collection of Barbie stuff very much right now.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:58 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


The diverse Ken dolls don't include an Asian Ken doll? WTF?
posted by gyc at 1:13 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]


Soliloquy wrote: "Okay I'm gonna be "that girl" and say where is Wheelchair Ken? Or at least Amputee from the War Ken? I mean, pretty much all Kens become Amputee from the War Ken once you have them long enough, but maybe we could get a fancy prosthetic limb sometime?"

I also used to have an..erm...exciting (?) variety of the old school G.I. Joes sporting battle injuries.

"Patrolling the jungle. No sign of the enemy. LAND MINE!"

young Samiz swaps in the same Joe with no legs after throwing some dirt clods in the air

"Have to get back to base!"
posted by Samizdata at 1:25 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


The diverse Ken dolls don't include an Asian Ken doll? WTF?

I was trying to figure that out too. I though maybe the Ken with the cactus shirt? I'm glad I'm not the only person who uncanny valleys on these. I think maybe two of them are straight guys? Jersey Ken is confusing because, I mean, the outfit but then also the makeup. Its like Ken and Barbie got into the makeup after a few shooters. Him and the not-pretty-eyed Ken from IT.

None seem extra good fits to my Barbie even if she hadn't been augmented with smoke grenades, an M-16 and "DEATH FROM ABOVE" on her flak. She's guarded my bar glass for over a decade: ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SECURE, HOOAH.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:34 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


They're missing the "pudgy balding bed-head" Ken, though, one that will finally bring my studied "look" to the world.

I wish there were a "Dude" Ken. That would really tie my life together.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:38 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


I should probably add that there is exactly one Barbie-branded doll in my household, and it is this one.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:42 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I clicked that link and saw the Andy Warhol Barbies and thought "Oh God, if there's a Candy Darling Barbie I am buying it right now." Sadly, no Candy Darling Barbie.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:55 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I would like a Ken with a springy rubber boner you could twang with your finger. He would come dressed in a towel.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:23 PM on June 21 [8 favorites]


Or at least Amputee from the War Ken?

Was never that into dolls of any sort but this is a problem with quite a simple resolution, frequent resolution even from my modest experience.
posted by sammyo at 2:34 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


No beards
No 'staches.
No really long hair. (Is a bun the best Mattel can do?)
No baldies.
No premature gray.
You call that a "dad bod"? Ha!

Now I understand why people think Barbies promote poor self-image among girls.
posted by CCBC at 2:35 PM on June 21


Fwiw I'm also surprised when I read something from GQ which is good; count me with Samizdata. I don't think of GQ or Elle as publications folks peruse for the articles.
posted by booooooze at 3:12 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Has Ken ever not been a douche bag?

As far as the man bun goes, why would you indulge a luxurious mane of hair only to tie it up in a bun, unless you were working and needed to keep it from getting in the way? None of these Kens look like they work in any meaningful way.

I guess Kenbro memes are a thing now.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:28 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed Autostraddle's response as well: 75 Ken Dolls Ranked By Lesbianism.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 8:49 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


I think Cactus Shirt Ken and Black & Yellow Flannel Ken are Asian.
posted by zompist at 9:00 PM on June 21


You know what it is - it's the preponderance of unkempt manbuns. Untrimmed, unwashed, straggly, lank manbuns. It's not long hair that I don't like, or men with long hair wanting to put it up. It's just the bad grooming that makes me squawk.

YES! Jesus Christ, brush that shit and smooth it out. Don't walk around looking like a haystack about to fall over.
posted by MissySedai at 9:04 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I disdain the man-bun as fashion statement only because to me it's purely utilitarian; all it does it get your hair up and out of the way. Great. And after the heavy lifting and sweating and whatever is done? Fucking do something with it.

Personally, I pull my hair up into a ponytail/top knot. And I explicitly engage in samurai cultural appropriation by telling people it's so that if my head is taken in battle to be presented as a trophy, I don't wanna be carried around by the jaw. That's undignified.

A big, hairy nugget to grab is barely an improvement on a jaw-grip. No man buns.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:46 PM on June 21


So this post prompted me to check out the Wiki article for Ken dolls, and, well...
In October 2009, Mattel announced a new Palm Beach line which included a Sugar Daddy Ken doll aimed for adult collectors. The said line officially debuted in the spring of 2010. The line proved to be controversial, because of Ken's suggestive-sounding name. The doll had a more mature appearance and came with a West Highland Terrier puppy. Mattel defended the doll's name, saying that the puppy's name is "Sugar", thus making Ken "Sugar's Daddy".
whut.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:33 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


That guy looks like such an asshole.
posted by amanda at 5:24 AM on June 22


Kenbro sounds like a martial art.
posted by jonmc at 6:15 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


They read lesbian to me.
I think maybe two of them are straight guys?
75 Ken Dolls Ranked By Lesbianism.

Ya'll are going to have to explain this to me. The implication that gender nonconformity or certain body/facial features = gay is like, really not cool?
posted by picklenickle at 6:41 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


Explanation: Queer people, especially trans men and lesbians, who feel like they are represented by an children's icon of what it means to be a man can make jokes about that irony. Others are on less solid ground.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:54 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]


More explanation: Different registers and different venues. Admittedly, the internet complicates this, because what would previously have been a joke within a fairly restricted circle now gets spread around to people who don't have the context and who have very different experiences of gender.

I admit that I both thought the Autostraddle article was hilarious/right on and thought that some of the straight-people lols about it were sort of disturbing. Like, I have a straight friend who sometimes makes what they clearly feel are friendly, in-group jokes about butch women's culture, fashion, etc, and that discomfits me precisely because my friend doesn't have the fine-grained experience of being queer and/or gender non-conforming, so the jokes tend to be kind of off.

There's something a bit double-edged about this kind of humor in the internet age, because it migrates audiences. A queer audience isn't going to think "well, a fashionably dressed guy with a friendly expression is obviously gay! Or trans! Or both!" because we have lots and lots of experience of being queer in a straight world and we have really intimate, detailed experience of people seeming straight but being queer, having certain common queer traits but being straight, being not-obviously any particular sexuality, the ways in which culture and generation moderate what gets read as queer, etc. We experience this piece as humor and recognition. A non-queer audience (like any outside audience for an in-group thing) may think that they're getting a "truth" about queer experiences and that you can actually definitely tell someone's sexual orientation by, like, facial expression.

For me, some of the reception of the Autostraddle piece dovetailed in a weird way with comments that one sometimes gets from straight/cis people to the effect that butch women and trans men are the "nicer, cuddlier, safer" version of straight cis guys.

But at the same time, I was like "this is totally it, now I see almost all the Ken dolls as women!" I enjoyed the way it reminded me that a lot of what we see as "natural" features of gender are really imposed by our own efforts and perspective.

I think that it's possible to lift the Autostraddle piece out of its context and read it as "this is insider information about queerness, so now I know how to identify queer and trans people by facial expression and fashion!!!" and that this is a bad reading which is naive at best. To me, the only solution that doesn't involve "everyone from marginalized groups must avoid any kind of humor, lest it be used against us" is for people of good will to work to be better and more informed readers, and to situate what they read in its proper context. (Like, Autostraddle, for instance.)
posted by Frowner at 7:13 AM on June 22 [12 favorites]


Frowner: having certain common queer traits but being straight

The gay guys in protective custody in jail thought I was gay, too, because I smiled at them.
posted by clawsoon at 7:17 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


My favorite part of the Autostraddle piece was when the commentators said "Oh crap, I'm wearing that exact outfit right now," and then posted photos to prove it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:49 AM on June 22


I'm thinking more along the lines of, how do gender-nonconforming men feel when they see jokes from lesbians about how much they look like lesbians? It's like when my queer friends would joke about how Cassandra from Dragon Age should have been a lesbian because of her butchness and I'm here thinking "well, she's not? The femme girl is. So, deal with it the same way you need to deal with me, a gender-nonconforming woman, not accepting your advances and not adhering to your assumptions about me." Queer people are not immune to jokes that hurt other queer people. You can make those jokes but that's how I'll feel when I see them.
posted by picklenickle at 8:32 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


But we're talking about dolls, not people. It's pretty rude to be all "yeah, this dude [who I don't know, and therefore don't know whether he'd think it was funny or think it was hurtful] totally looks like a lesbian". To me, when you're looking at an image that has been crafted by a marketer to send messages about gender, saying "this image is said to look like a man, but it really also looks like women, and here are some photos" is not the same thing at all.

For me - to bring in the challenge of dueling lived experiences! - I enjoy it because I'm gender-ambiguous a lot of the time. In dim light, in a heavy coat, on my bike or from someone's peripheral vision, I get bro'd, occasionally cruised by gay men with low standards, etc. In bright light, when I'm wearing a tight t-shirt or from the front, I am usually read as a butch woman. Sometimes, whatever the light, people just get confused and have a lil' freak out. (Boston is particularly bad for this for some reason.) Basically, almost no one is ever reading me "correctly", so I'm really familiar with the idea that in some settings people read me as a lesbian, in some settings people think I'm a cis man, in some settings people think I'm a trans man, etc. The idea that a trick of the light can move my brightly patterned shirt and cut-offs from "queer lady at pride" to "chubby gay man" is very normal to me.
posted by Frowner at 8:43 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


I don't really think it's reconcilable to say they're just dolls and not people, otherwise why is there a demand for a diverse selection of Barbie and Ken dolls? Clearly representation of people as dolls matters. Should the Kens not be allowed to remain as all the ways a man can be? I'd rather see a butch barbie than appropriate effeminate Kens as being a representation of women. It just reinforces the abysmally tiny box that men are left with.

Also being effectively told "it doesn't bother me so it shouldn't bother you" is not great. It bothers me, ok? I probably come off as a huge stick in the mud, but it just does on a rather personal level.
posted by picklenickle at 10:34 AM on June 22


But the thing is, dolls are representations, not people, which means they can be many things at once. A person has a particular identity, and while it may flex based on situation, it's still something tied to that person. An image can be read many ways, with all the readings valid. A doll can be read as a straight dude doll in some situations or as a queer woman doll in others, and those readings don't cancel each other out. A doll doesn't have interiority.

To me the whole "it's so awful to say that this presentation of cis male masculinity is also a representation of female masculinity or transmasculinity" line seems to hinge on the idea that masculinity becomes polluted if it's not attached to a cis man. We have to have unambiguous representations of cis straight masculinity that are attached to cis straight men only, and no one can point out any ambiguity, because even suggesting that there's crossover between queer female masculinity and straight masculinity takes something away from men.

One of the reasons I've encountered hostility from men who read me as a butch lesbian is precisely this - if I'm masculine, they think I'm trying to take something that is theirs. If they can be said to "look like me", it's insulting, because their masculinity should be the foundational one.

Why can't a dude look at a Ken doll and recognize that it's, like, capable of representing multiple identities? If two people have more or less the same haircut, more or less the same outfit and similar builds but one is a queer woman and one is a straight man, why can't the same image be said to look like both of them?
posted by Frowner at 11:10 AM on June 22 [6 favorites]


For the record, my earlier comment about trans men was solely a riff on the earlier comment that the dolls are dickless (and some trans guys DO have dicks via surgery). I don't think the dolls actually "resemble" trans men, whatever that means. We're quite diverse in gender presentation. I rankle at the comparison to butch lesbians, which many of us are often mistaken for, and which we are often accused of being by TERFs. I guess these dolls are a Rorschach test.

I would loooove a trans Ken, a trans Barbie, and openly queer versions of both, but there is no way to tell any of the above solely based on what they look like.
posted by AFABulous at 11:19 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]


all of these are trans men: femme, androgynous, masculine
posted by AFABulous at 11:24 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]


To me the whole "it's so awful to say that this presentation of cis male masculinity is also a representation of female masculinity or transmasculinity" line seems to hinge on the idea that masculinity becomes polluted if it's not attached to a cis man. We have to have unambiguous representations of cis straight masculinity that are attached to cis straight men only, and no one can point out any ambiguity, because even suggesting that there's crossover between queer female masculinity and straight masculinity takes something away from men

That isn't at all what I'm getting at. It has nothing to do with gender nonconforming women "stealing" a look (I AM a gender nonconforming woman for gods sake), but to look at representations of nonconforming men and say "they totally look like lesbians" or "they don't look straight" either seriously or as a joke. And I'm super uncomfortable with grouping nonconforming women and trans men together--when I stress the importance of Ken representing a diversity of men, I'm talking about both cis and trans men. There are ZERO implicative "cis"s in all my comments.
posted by picklenickle at 12:53 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


I guess the complaint here isn't clear to me. Is it that there is a space where the styles of certain men and certain lesbian women overlap? Is it that someone has pointed that out in an attempt at humor? Is it that Mattel seems to have only made Kens who look like the kind of man who's style overlaps with the style of a certain kind of lesbian woman? I'm not getting what's at stake here.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:34 PM on June 22


I think it's not surprising that Ken or "Ken" has features which are not hyper-masculine in the way our culture defines it. Women, but most especially young women/girls actually prefer feminine features on men. What else explains Justin Bieber and the entire oeuvre of Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and wherever kids these days find their new heartthrob? Johnny Depp. Brad Pitt and his full lips circa Thelma & Louise. Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Mattel knows this.
posted by amanda at 7:46 PM on June 22 [3 favorites]


octobersurprise, I think what bugs me about the humor that Ken looks "lesbian" or "gay" is it's implying that a straight man is not allowed to have feminine features. And if he does, he is cast into the "other" bucket because there is something shameful about it. I think amanda has a point that the feminine features were a conscious marketing tool, but those shouldn't imply gayness or womanhood. We also shouldn't promulgate the message that you can tell who's gay based on how they look, because that's what leads to gay-bashing (same concept for trans people). These dudes are gay, but they're not at very high risk of bashing by strangers.I couldn't find a great corresponding image of feminine gay men before coffee, but we all know what they look like because those are the stereotype.
posted by AFABulous at 6:26 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I think there's definitely something in the Rorschach aspect of this that's worth considering. I was really taken aback by Clawsoon's remark upthread about gay men thinking he was gay, too, because he smiled at them. I have had a lot of weird interactions that now make sense in that light. You see, I tend to smile at random strangers I meet because I am really bad at faces and they may be someone I know. But perhaps this explains the guys who insisted on accompanying me when I was walking somewhere, and standing well within my personal space? So by implication, I guess a neutral or scowling expression is more heterosexually normative? I have to say that the Kens look super friendly, and it does look a bit weird to me.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:34 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Today I am humbled because I never expected to enjoy an article from Elle this much.

And this is where I'm supposed to carefully tone police myself and say something light and charming that will make you think about the ideas about gender contained in your assumption that nothing in a woman's magazine could be valuable, but will not make you defensive by implying in any way that you could be sexist. But I don't really have the energy, so fuck it. There is lots of good stuff in Elle. You should consider why you are surprised that there is good writing in Elle.


This rather harsh response itself makes assumptions about what may have simply been an innocuous comment. I read it a few days ago and yet I still find it disheartening. Further, the high number of favorites it received, seem to verify that piling on has become all the rage at MeFi. FTR, here is a link to the Elle website.
posted by fairmettle at 4:13 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I'm with Frowner on this, although I do take the point. If we're to have anything we're going to have to share imagery. Counterpoint is if I am to wait for a list with 75 lesbian anythings on it I'll be dead waiting, so I am gonna take my in-group-giggles at this list and be grateful for Autostraddle.
posted by Iteki at 8:14 AM on June 25


amanda: I think it's not surprising that Ken or "Ken" has features which are not hyper-masculine in the way our culture defines it. Women, but most especially young women/girls actually prefer feminine features on men. What else explains Justin Bieber and the entire oeuvre of Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and wherever kids these days find their new heartthrob? Johnny Depp. Brad Pitt and his full lips circa Thelma & Louise. Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Aye. In defining (hyper-)masculinity, women's desires are at best incidental and at worst dangerous. If GI Joe can beat up Ken but Barbie still chooses Ken anyway, mere anarchy has been loosed upon the world.
posted by clawsoon at 7:02 PM on June 26


Comedian Cameron Esposito has been posting pictures of herself dressed as the new Kens with items from her closet.
posted by gladly at 6:06 AM on June 28 [4 favorites]


« Older tick tock tock tock   |   It wasn’t about what we thought. It was about the... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments