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A short hop from (Klaus) Barbie to (Lynndie) England?
December 19, 2005 5:44 PM   Subscribe

Barbarism begins with Barbie — the doll, that is. Research done at the University of Bath (UK) posits that prepubescents' pre-eminent plasticine plaything provokes disproportionate punishment. According to the study, which originally focused on the effects of branding on young consumers, the statuesque Mattel mini-miss seems to attract undue savagery. "The researchers had not intended to focus on Barbie, but they were taken aback by the rejection, hatred and violence she provoked when they asked the children about their feelings for the doll. Violence and torture against Barbie were repeatedly reported across age, school and gender. No other toy or brand name provoked such a negative response."
posted by rob511 (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I remember once hanging my sisters Barbie from an extension cord. I was mad at her and in a macabre phase.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on December 19, 2005


Another article on the study described some of the savagery that Barbie seems to incite: "'The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving.' Interestingly, one of the researchers "said many girls saw Barbie as an inanimate object rather than a treasured toy. 'Whilst for an adult the delight the child felt in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls is deeply disturbing, from the child's point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling,' she said."
posted by rob511 at 5:47 PM on December 19, 2005


I remember once hanging my sisters Barbie from an extension cord. I was mad at her and in a macabre phase.

How could you be mad at Barbie?

...posits that prepubescents' pre-eminent plasticine plaything provokes disproportionate punishment.

Nice. I so wish we could see more posts written with this much attention. Even in the spirit of goofiness.
posted by medialyte at 5:54 PM on December 19, 2005


This last Halloween I set the kids loose out front with some decorations. The highlight of their decorating was nice neat little row of Barbie heads impaled on stakes atop freshly dug Barbie graves (complete with little hands and feet reaching through the dirt).

I was all ready to freak out on the boys for mangling their sisters dolls when I found out it was my sweet baby girl and her best friend who started the Great Barbie Halloween Massacre of '05.

Note to self: pay more attention to what the kids watch on the Discovery channel.
posted by cedar at 5:57 PM on December 19, 2005



Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro!
posted by freebird at 6:01 PM on December 19, 2005


A google search on barbie "magnifying glass" burn gives about 15,500 hits. I won't go through them to categorize them, but I've heard that the size of the focus spot lets you control the type of disfigurement you want to create.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:32 PM on December 19, 2005


i also hung my sister's entire barbie collection at different points all over the house from the neck.

needless to say, she was not pleased.
posted by WetherMan at 6:33 PM on December 19, 2005


Yeah, I remember damaging some of my sisters' old Barbie's. Specifically cutting the hair off (although i think I might have simply been trying to give her a 'modern' haircut at the time) and then hanging it with a noose on my bulletin board.

Also, I apparently purchased my sisters first Barbie doll with my own allowance money ($8/month at the time). My mom wasn't planning on buying any for my sister as she thought they were anti-feminist. She did end up with a reasonable collection eventually, though.
posted by delmoi at 6:46 PM on December 19, 2005


they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling

Then why the focus on Barbie? Every figure or vehicle toy eventually gets old at which point it is burnt, blown up, or stabbed and chopped to pieces. That's the cycle of life.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:01 PM on December 19, 2005


It's the hair.
posted by fire&wings at 7:02 PM on December 19, 2005


The only (slightly) twisted thing I remember doing with my barbie was make them have sex with Ken. My mother was horrified to find them abandoned under the couch still naked and in awkward potions.

Oh, to be five again...
posted by piratebowling at 7:08 PM on December 19, 2005


err...positions, not potions.
posted by piratebowling at 7:10 PM on December 19, 2005


she's a bitch.
posted by quonsar at 7:15 PM on December 19, 2005


gah...too much alliteration!
posted by cgs at 7:15 PM on December 19, 2005


Every figure or vehicle toy eventually gets old at which point it is burnt, blown up, or stabbed and chopped to pieces. That's the cycle of life.

Not true.

The ones you really like break or get lost.
posted by pompomtom at 7:30 PM on December 19, 2005


Hah, I hung my sister's doll off a chair too. 'Twas not barbie, and I wasn't feeling aggressive or hostile or anything. Just put two and two together upon seeing a chair, a scarf, a doll...
posted by Firas at 7:38 PM on December 19, 2005


Most kids just grow out of their old toys, but there is a certain level of hatred they are expected by their peers to exhibit at various stages towards Barney, for example. This article seems a little overblown, though.
posted by kozad at 7:52 PM on December 19, 2005


I remember thinking that Barbie was nicely balanced and shaped to hold in one hand and use to hit things with.
posted by fshgrl at 8:06 PM on December 19, 2005


whose Barierella did you desrtoy next?
posted by longsleeves at 8:26 PM on December 19, 2005


Did they also include those little green army men in their study? Because just about every boy I know killed the shit out of those poor bastards.

I'd say in my own subjective experience the ranking of toy torture went roughly:

1.) Various and imaginative assaults Green army guys, preferably using heat or energy to destroy them.

2.) Various blade or pulling related Barbie torments.

3.) Twisting GI Joe's until their spines snapped and rubber band guts spilled out.

4.) Tying He-men to strings and either dragging them or slinging them into orbit.
posted by Jezztek at 9:04 PM on December 19, 2005


Hehehe, Barbie burns if you use the right fuel. Hehehe.
posted by fenriq at 9:12 PM on December 19, 2005


The theory of Barbie entropy is practically infallible.

All people who come into contact with Barbies will mutilate them. All Barbies will eventually be mutilated. It's practically a cliche of american pre-pubescent coming-of-age.

Classic types of torture include:posted by blasdelf at 9:34 PM on December 19, 2005


I worked at a fast food restaurant that used to give out little Barbies. If you stick the hair into a fry vat, the hair would melt into a twisted perm. The odd thing is that for the longest time you could squeeze grease out of the hair.
posted by drezdn at 10:10 PM on December 19, 2005


I liked the alliteration.
posted by sharpener at 10:57 PM on December 19, 2005


but they were taken aback by the rejection

Am I the only one to have read erection?

OK, nevermind...
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:23 PM on December 19, 2005


I always thought that Toy Story -- wonderful as it is -- had things backwards. The "nice" boy plays with corporate toys hawked by television shows, and his creativity is limited to mixing and matching toys. The "mean" boy creatively rebuilds toys in inventive ways reminiscent of Tim Burton, and could probably have a great career as an artist. And I've known plenty of "nice" boys who were "mean" to their toys.

I wonder whether kids see right through that, or if they're getting a sanitized message.
posted by dhartung at 12:51 AM on December 20, 2005


I wouldn't read too much into Toy Story. It's from the toys' perspective, remember, so naturally they'll consider a kid that destroys toys evil.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:24 AM on December 20, 2005


I infamously took toys apart to see how they worked, but I never maliciously destroyed toys the way people are discussing here. As far as I can remember, I was always vaguely disturbed by other kids' malicious destructiveness. If that type of mentality/behavior is the norm and I'm an outlier, I guess that would explain some things.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:36 AM on December 20, 2005


I remember once hanging my sisters Barbie from an extension cord. I was mad at her and in a macabre phase.

Yeah, my 20s were pretty rough, too...

in awkward potions.

Now THAT was an interesting image.

It's from the toys' perspective, remember, so naturally...

Hehehe!
posted by darkstar at 2:50 AM on December 20, 2005


I remeber Woody's girlfriend from Cheers collected Barbies. One day he discovered a closet full segmented Barbies -- just limbs, heads, and mangled torsos. "What is this?" he asked.

"Sometimes I get mad," she answered.
posted by maxsparber at 3:27 AM on December 20, 2005


Ooh shocking, kids like to destroy things!

Perhaps Barbies are just easier to break than other toys? I blame Mattel.
posted by funambulist at 4:31 AM on December 20, 2005


Smug disproportionate bitch had it coming...
posted by slimepuppy at 4:44 AM on December 20, 2005


Barbie burns if you use the right fuel

Barbies and GI Joes turn into blazing slag quite effectively if you use acetone, which makes for a pretty hot fire. It's a little disconcerting as an adult to remember watching a human-shaped doll melt into a pool of flaming plastic, but to a ten-year-old it's highly entertaining.
posted by alumshubby at 4:46 AM on December 20, 2005


It's hard to believe no one has linked to the hilarious AM Homes story yet.

(I confined my abuse to Ken, throwing his naked body from my bedroom window one afternoon; his frozen blond sexlessness just finally got too annoying to bear.)
posted by melissa may at 5:09 AM on December 20, 2005


surely this is a case of "kids will be kids" ?
posted by 13twelve at 5:50 AM on December 20, 2005


re: toy story: The Sid character was based off one of the animators who used to do that to his toys, so I think they had sympathy in real life for that sort of thing. It'd just be hard to explain to the anthropomorphic toy characters.
posted by muddylemon at 6:49 AM on December 20, 2005


Ah....my lone Barbie was a victim of such torture. However, she deserved it. We discovered that she was a spy for Cobra and therefore she had to be decapitated for treason.

Sadly, it broke Dusty's (GI Joe) heart because he really thought she liked him, but she was just using him to get important information about the Great Kitchen Raid of '85. Bitch.

She was also re-assembled at a later date and became a test pilot for the GI Joe space program. Sadly, the third batch of M-80's she was strapped to malfunctioned and she was blown to bits. Barbeque met the same fate.

Oddly enough, my GI Joe's and the one Barbie took the brunt of my childhood destruction. My Star Wars and Hot Wheels toys never got hurt intentionally.
posted by teleri025 at 8:07 AM on December 20, 2005


How could you do that to Barbecue! Dr. Mindbender I could understand, not Barbecue, he was one of our nation's heroes!
posted by drezdn at 8:30 AM on December 20, 2005


Let's not miss the opening chapter, 'The House of Smut Revealed' from "Why Girls are Weird", which features Barbie and Ken and Donny and Marie. It started out as a blog entry on pamie.com.
posted by of strange foe at 8:35 AM on December 20, 2005


Girls hate her because they'll never be like her.
Boys hate her because she'll never screw them unless they have a billion dollars.
posted by HTuttle at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2005


I thought barbarism began with circumcision, no?
posted by ParisParamus at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2005


How could you do that to Barbecue!

I hang my head in shame. In my defense it was my cousin's idea, and he thought that it would be an honor for him to die for science and his country in such a way. Barbecue did fly way better than Barbie. He made it all the way over the house before the firecrackers popped.
posted by teleri025 at 9:40 AM on December 20, 2005


When I was a manager in charge of programmers at an unnamed popular dotcom, I used to give Barbie heads as "Good job!" signifiers. The best programmers had rows of Barbie heads hanging from interesting places in their cubes.

Then, the company got bought by GiantInternetConglomoration and they hired some techno-ignorant marketing consultant who went off the rails about how sexist it was...to me...one of the few females to climb the ranks of coders to management...and she wanted to have me demoted because *I* was a sexist. Stupid cow.

Needless to say, they made me tell the gang to remove the Barbies...because we didn't want to offend the delicate sensibilities of the morons that give feminism a bad name. (I mean, jebuz...get the vapors on your own time, OK, Scarlett?) Marketing heads may be the only thing that would be more fun to display than Barbie heads.
posted by dejah420 at 2:55 PM on December 20, 2005


I thought barbarism began with circumcision, no? — ParisParamus, above

Try selling that one to Ken.
posted by rob511 at 4:17 PM on December 20, 2005


My theory: it has a lot to do with her being a naked adult. action figures can't be undressed and undressed baby dolls have no sexuallity.

Barbie and Ken, as figures, are crazy sexual fantasies renedered in tan plastic. Children know this.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:53 PM on December 20, 2005


Boys hate her because she'll never screw them unless they have a billion dollars.

She'll never screw them because she has no vagina!!!

That was the most disturbing aspect of Barbie, to me.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:12 PM on December 20, 2005


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