Playing with Barbies has rarely been about fashion
October 17, 2015 7:09 PM   Subscribe

A new ad for Barbie tries to get away from the stereotypes (via kveller)
posted by jb (60 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm laughing/crying. I love this!
posted by spacewaitress at 7:39 PM on October 17, 2015


Aww, that is really cute.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:42 PM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cute. A child's imagination is a wonderful thing, and hey, distorted plastic simulacra might help with role-playing.

Kids can also have Professor Bun or Dr. Octo the Octopus Doctor. Dr. Octo never came with a Malibu dream home or separate purchase hats.

Dr. Octo did not go to Octopus Doctor School for ten years to be called Miss. Dr. Octo is behind on her school loans. Dr. Octo has a passion for community theatre and Dr. Octo really feels like's she's finally understood the driving, almost elemental forces behind alt-indie folk.

It's a nice gesture but it's just trying to hide decades of mall madness "math is hard" Barbie.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 7:46 PM on October 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


I see absolutely no reason a ~8 year old couldn't be an excellent fitness trainer. Explain them the job and do what they say for like an hour. I bet you'll get your workout in.
posted by cmoj at 7:52 PM on October 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


I want that girl to be my tour guide in the natural history museum.
posted by arcticseal at 7:56 PM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I never felt constrained by Barbies as a kid. They were a useful set of avatars for my fabulous games of pretend. And, they were a good scale to interact with some of my younger brother's toys. In particular, we would merge my Barbies and his toy dinosaurs in epic adventures. Mostly, mine were epic adventures about either escaping the Irish Potato Famine, traveling on the Titanic, or otherwise emigrating to the United States. It was easier to incorporate dinosaurs into epic adventures on the Oregon Trail, since we knew that there were (at one point in time) dinosaurs in Montana and the Dakotas, and also I had a few awesome Barbie dresses that my mother made for me out of calico for pioneer dresses that fit really nicely on my brother's velociraptors.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:05 PM on October 17, 2015 [41 favorites]


Someone should be getting a big bonus this Christmas. That was lovely. And, I'll bet it moves some toys.
posted by cleroy at 8:08 PM on October 17, 2015


In other recent Barbie news, Barbie goes AI. Somewhat relevant to the super cute ad in the link, they are definitely working to reposition Barbie as an empowering and empathetic figure:

Everyone in the room remembered the ‘‘Math class is tough’’ debacle, and nobody wanted to repeat it. Wulfeck had scripted Barbie to say ‘‘You’re beautiful’’ in a playfully smarmy tone as she greeted girls to the game show. But Braun objected. ‘‘I don’t love that the first thing you say to her is, ‘You’re beautiful. … ’ I want to hear: ‘You are smart. You are intelligent. You are awesome.’ Something other than her physical attribute.’’
posted by Miko at 8:09 PM on October 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Exactly, ChuraChura. They were a mix and match toy, with enough outfits to make them fit into any sceanario. For example, I can tell you with utter certainty that Barbie and Ken are the exact size to fit perfectly into Tonka Adventure Wagons (in part because you can bend their knees).
posted by sardonyx at 8:11 PM on October 17, 2015


My sister's Barbies mostly ended up playing out bizarre BDSM scenarios with my GI Joes. Fashion was indeed mostly left out of their adventures.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:21 PM on October 17, 2015 [31 favorites]


My sister's Barbies mostly ended up playing out bizarre BDSM scenarios with my GI Joes. Fashion was indeed mostly left out of their adventures.

I used to make what I thought were great little outfits that my Barbies would take off for fairly vanilla scenarios with my brother's GI Joes. I don't recall anyone becoming an entrepreneur.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:30 PM on October 17, 2015


One of the classic femininst pro-Barbie arguments is that because the dolls aren't juvenile-looking, they allow girls to play out sexual scenarios they may face when older. Mine certainly did.
posted by Miko at 8:33 PM on October 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


I saw this ad and really loved it. Seeing that it was a commercial for Barbies dampened the warm and fuzzies rather quickly. There was one little girl who kinda sorta looked like me which gave me a little hope. I still refuse to buy gender specific toys for little kids and this wont change that.
posted by mokeydraws at 8:38 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


My grandmother made me the most amazing Barbie costumes--Barbie as a paratrooper, Barbie as a toreador, Barbie as a Suffragette. I'd find an old illustration or a photo and she'd sew something amazing.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:58 PM on October 17, 2015 [30 favorites]


One of the classic femininst pro-Barbie arguments is that because the dolls aren't juvenile-looking, they allow girls to play out sexual scenarios they may face when older. Mine certainly did.

Hot tub orgies FTW!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:04 PM on October 17, 2015


"By finally modernizing Barbie (and in many ways, going back to Barbie’s creator’s intentions), Mattel is not only changing the way dolls will be marketed to kids as a whole, but the toy industry in general."

Kveller seems wholly ignorant of the fact that Ruth Handler bought a "racy gag gift for men" on a European trip, bought up all the patents and copyrights, and started manufacturing her own version. Her intentions all seem a bit retconned.
posted by 41swans at 9:28 PM on October 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, my Barbies were always doing some kind of separatist lesbian thing before I knew that was, like, an actual thing. We had only one male doll, an Aladdin as I recall, and while occasionally the Barbies fought over him, mostly they would shun him and marry one another and then have elaborate tea parties that I'd try to use as a pretext to get my mom to give me cakes and cookies. This never worked once. We have amazing home videos of me being like, "Well, this Barbie was married to HER, but then they got a divorce and now she's married to HER, but they all get along now and they're having a party. And they're eating TWO CARROTS AND AN APPLE at this party, what a treat," with a dirty look at my mother.
posted by town of cats at 9:32 PM on October 17, 2015 [50 favorites]


All of which is to say, none of them had jobs, they just had a lot of interpersonal drama with other women and made fun of the only man they all knew, and hung out and had snacks. I mean, it sounds kinda nice. But it's not really what I aspire to for my daughter.
posted by town of cats at 9:33 PM on October 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


Monkeydraws, this is what ChuraChura and I are arguing. They're not gender-specific toys. They're toys that both girls and boys (typically brothers and sisters) could and did use. Seriously, my brother owned Barbies (one Barbie and one Ken) precisely because they were the best option for "people" to fit in his toy trucks. He'd grab suitable pieces of wardrobe for the people, and then they'd go off to the races or to the desert or to war (or whatever adventures he was planning). To him, it made it better to have people behind the wheel than empty trucks because the people could continue the story (fix the flat tire) or take stuff out of the truck, etc.

Admittedly, I came from the generation when not everything was pink. I had Barbie accessories in orange and red and blue. Sometimes he'd borrow the Barbie camper or swimming pool. And when I needed extra dolls for whatever scenario I was playing, I'd borrow his "people." Okay, we were careful to call them "people" and not "Barbies" but that was the only concession. And when his buddies came over, they used the same "people" and trucks. (Those trucks saw a lot of playtime.)

Maybe now boys have more options when it comes to larger, poseable action figures, but at the time, Barbie and Ken were the best solution if you wanted generic looking people (i.e. not space aliens or superheroes) who could at least bend their legs. And as I said, you could turn them into anything: pilots, doctors, safari guides (so general action-adventurers), etc.

I'll admit it's probably harder to just buy a boy a Barbie out of the blue, especially if he doesn't have sisters, but if boys are exposed to them as just toys, then they quickly get past the marketing and find ways to have fun with them.

I know the rap Barbie gets for being overly sexualized or idealized for her figure, but I still think overall she's a relatively good option for girls who want play access into the adult world--a world where people can have careers (see above re uniforms and professional outfits) and friendships and relationships. And while I'm not saying every little girl should just have fun with Barbie fashions, sometimes there are girls (and boys) who like to dress up their dolls in fun clothing, and I'm betting Barbie still has the widest range of options.
posted by sardonyx at 9:38 PM on October 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I see absolutely no reason a ~8 year old couldn't be an excellent fitness trainer. Explain them the job and do what they say for like an hour. I bet you'll get your workout in.

When my kid was younger my workout was, "Follow the 4 year old around the playground and do everything she does".
She runs, you run.
She skips, you skip.
She monkey-bars, you monkey-bar.

Do that for an hour every day, I guarantee you'll be in great shape by the time she hits kindergarten.
posted by madajb at 9:52 PM on October 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


Did we have a spy Barbie post? Wireless listening device, Siri/Cortana-alike? I am certain I read an alarming article about it. If it wasn't posted here it should be. Barbie listening to children share secrets. Whoa, bad idea.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:08 PM on October 17, 2015


They were a useful set of avatars for my fabulous games of pretend

I had so much fun with my Barbies and my dad's old Erector set - I had this great game where I used the erector set to set up Barbie and the hose so that the water blast when you turned on the spigot shot her in the air, which I called Barbie at the Rodeo or Barbies Goes to Space. My dad saw this and helped me build a trebuchet. I learned so much about physics trying to catapult Barbie, enough so I played a game called Barbie Destroys Kevin (a local bully) by hiding in the cattails near his bus stop and throwing Barbie at his head. Barbie's pointy - being hit by Barbie hurts.

But where I loved Barbie the most was as a receptacle for my curiosity. I threw Barbie in the pond to see if snapping turtles would eat her (and therefore me). I remember laboriously cutting open Barbie's head so that I could look at it with my My First Microscope and being so, so disappointed there was nothing there, and then spending delicious weeks coming up with substitutes for Barbie brains. I put various chemicals from my chemistry sets on Barbie to see what would happen.

I used to hide my Barbies in the hay field to see what would happen to them when the mower and baler came by in my curiosity fueled experiments for alternate endings of the Rats of NIMH. To this day my mom swears that the decapitated head of one, eyes staring out with that "why yes, beauty queens are capable of rhino size farts" smile, platinum blond hair kind of hanging out the end of a bale, was responsible for a neighbor having a heart attack when he picked up the bale to throw it in the trailer.
posted by barchan at 10:18 PM on October 17, 2015 [35 favorites]


It was posted here five fresh fish.
posted by sardonyx at 10:35 PM on October 17, 2015


I love has so much!

My Barbie dolls also went on excellent adventures in covered wagons and spaceships, on hiking trails in the backyard, and boats in the bathtub and in the pond. I did make lots of clothes for them, but not just to sit around in.

I know I've mentioned this here before - the first plays I wrote, staged and directed; the first costumes and sets I designed and made; were all for and with my Barbie dolls. They are all things I've been paid to do in adult life.

As others mentioned above, the female to male ratio in my doll horde was always ridiculously high. I had only one Ken, like every other girl I knew. His head was prone to falling off, and the only shoes he had were swim fins. Still, the girl dolls were content to share him around. When any scenario called for more than one man, you could take one of the hollow plastic knockoff girl dolls, poke her breasts in, and cut her hair or put it under a hat. I was casting trouser roles even back then!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:47 PM on October 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thx. Well, no amount of advertising will make up for Stasi Barbie.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 PM on October 17, 2015


Although I had one Ken (Olympic Ken - Bent his arms and he flexed his biceps, which fascinated young proto-geek Samizdata). when I was adventuring on Earth, I had G.I. Joes. The giant, nappy-headed Joes. And I use the plural forms as my friends and I had a variety of them all tricked out with (what strikes me now as a morbidly) wide variety of injuries and manglings.

"Look, Joe stepped on a landmine!"

[throws dirt in the air and then swaps for the doll with no legs]

"Joe, you have to drag yourself under fire to the MASH unit!"
posted by Samizdata at 11:57 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


'Girls' don't have to imagine they can be anything. They can be.
posted by ZaneJ. at 2:26 AM on October 18, 2015


My grandmother made me the most amazing Barbie costumes

Perhaps this is a generational thing? My sister as a young girl learned the rudiments of sewing and design by outfitting neighborhood Barbies and went on to a long career on Seventh Avenue.
posted by BWA at 3:21 AM on October 18, 2015


and also I had a few awesome Barbie dresses that my mother made for me out of calico for pioneer dresses that fit really nicely on my brother's velociraptors.

ChuraChura, please tell me that this was when Science really took hold in you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:24 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just want to repeat this:

I learned so much about physics trying to catapult Barbie
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:35 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I love this. "Knees up...like a Unicorn!" is frankly the best exercise instruction ever.

Barbie - and my cousin's Ken - were definitely part of my awakening sexuality when I was a girl. Many happy hours were spent...posing them. And at 10 I got a "Day to Night" Barbie for my birthday, whose business suit turned inside out to transform it into a cocktail dress, so I was aware that women having careers was a normal thing (this was mid-80s conservative Ireland where working mothers were still the exception rather than the rule). Also my sister and my Barbies frequently stormed and conquered my brother's Castle Greyskull and commandeered his toy jeep, so Barbies were never passive to me.
posted by billiebee at 3:37 AM on October 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


The one sad part of the commercial... the adults are condescending! This is a kid's fantasy; they should be taking her completely seriously, instead of reminding us it's totally cool to think of little girls as "cute" or "silly" rather than to really listen to them.
posted by metasarah at 4:00 AM on October 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Day to Night" Barbie

I was such a sucker for the gimmicky Barbies. My favourites were Western Barbie (who could kind of blink if you pressed a large and slightly disturbing button on her back) and Twirly Curls Barbie, who came with a hair twisting device that I used to use on my own hair, which usually ended in tears because the stupid machine would get stuck in there 8/10 times. (That also happened with bubble gum, though, more often than not, who knows how.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:49 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


We had the Heart Family (in fact, the set that came with the maternity dress and the new baby), and Mr. Heart lost one of his legs early on.

So he had a bitchin' hoverchair (one of my sister's tennis shoes) and would go around taking care of the baby while being a high-paid lawyer (the only way we could explain his choice of clothing, being as he wore a blue button-down shirt with white cuffs and matching braces). Mrs. Heart wasn't quite a crime boss, but she was commanding the other Barbies, including Sweet Rose PJ and Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Princess, both of whom ended up with some pretty butch haircuts, all the better to rob banks or something.

Then my mother traded most of my Barbies away so that my sister could have a clarinet for Christmas, and I turned the few that I had left in the Endless from Sandman because I was a bored goth teenager. Mr. Heart ended up as Destiny, because the robe hid his lack of a leg.

So kids can use Barbies to imagine becoming anything they want. Sadly, however, I am not a crime boss with a high-paid lawyer husband in a hoverchair.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:53 AM on October 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am really going to make an effort to weave the phrase "Knees up ... Like a unicorn!" into my everyday conversations today.
Thanks for sharing this!
posted by bookmammal at 5:27 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see absolutely no reason a ~8 year old couldn't be an excellent fitness trainer.

Ahem.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:03 AM on October 18, 2015


One of the classic femininst pro-Barbie arguments is that because the dolls aren't juvenile-looking, they allow girls to play out sexual scenarios they may face when older. Mine certainly did.

I am still waiting to sleep with my best-friend-and-neighbor's husband, but I am ready for it, and the slap fight with my friend that will follow.
posted by tippy at 6:17 AM on October 18, 2015


I really wish I could have played Barbie with y'all. It sounds like just the best time.
posted by barchan at 8:28 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


And at 10 I got a "Day to Night" Barbie for my birthday, whose business suit turned inside out to transform it into a cocktail dress,

That was the only Barbie I ever had! My mom was a second-wave feminist, so it was mostly a Barbie-free house, but I must have been given this one by a friend or family member. I never really cared for Barbie but I was fascinated by that dress/suit.
posted by lunasol at 8:37 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had Western Barbie! Man, I loved that thing. I still try to dress like her.
posted by Miko at 10:16 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I imagine I did other things, but I mostly remember making my barbies have sex. Also, poking the boobs of one with a needle, and eventually cutting them open so I could see what boobs were inside. I was kind of disappointed to find out it was just air.
posted by stoneegg21 at 10:38 AM on October 18, 2015


A)You guys were amazingly priveleged. When I was a kid In the early 70s we had 5 babies amongst 4 girls. We pretty much had just the clothes they came in, and one was a Skipper and one was a Tammy or something, so the clothes were not all interchangeable. There were no career Barbies at our house. We kept them in a 4-drawer cardboard dresser with scarves and other toys. We regularly dumped it out, turned it on its side, and built an apartment house by stacking the draweres in a pyramid on top. We then made elegant sweeping gowns out of scarves and rubber bands, invented reasons that our Barbies were living alone with no parents in a massive doll house, and took them out to balls with an imaginary Ken doll.

B) We would never in a million years have deliberately destroyed one of them.

C) Why yes, we all live in traditionally female-defined roles now, why do you ask?
posted by SLC Mom at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of my friends apparently mummified her barbies and buried them in the yard. I think she was going through an ancient-egypt phase.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:24 AM on October 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


We have amazing home videos of me being like, "Well, this Barbie was married to HER, but then they got a divorce and now she's married to HER, but they all get along now and they're having a party. And they're eating TWO CARROTS AND AN APPLE at this party, what a treat," with a dirty look at my mother.

Oh man! PLEASE post this to the YouTubes. (If you don't want it out in the main Internet, maybe make the video private and then come back here and share the link.)
But just imagining that scene was already my best laugh of the day! Thanks!
posted by LEGO Damashii at 12:03 PM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didnt really have Barbies, but somehow I was given a Breathless Mahoney doll and that Madonna version had raised nipples and everything! What interest might have been sparked by Jessica Rabbit surely played out with that Dick Tracy movie toy.
posted by sweetmarie at 12:11 PM on October 18, 2015


Sardonyx reading other peoples experience with Barbies is really interesting and I think it's great that they weren't limiting to you in any way. I'm primarily speaking of my experience where girls were given dolls and boys were not allowed to play with "girl" toys. I have relatives who to this day would say that they would not allow their sons to play with dolls (action figures are ok). On top of that none of the dolls looked like me or my cousins.
posted by mokeydraws at 12:26 PM on October 18, 2015


My sister's Barbies mostly ended up playing out bizarre BDSM scenarios with my GI Joes. Fashion was indeed mostly left out of their adventures.

I used to borrow my brother GI Joe for dates with Barbie. But when he started borrowing my Barbie for same, it felt a little weird.
Also, I loved his phone in the camo shoulder bag.
posted by TenaciousB at 12:54 PM on October 18, 2015


That's really sad for me to hear, monkeydraws. I don't have kids, but honestly I don't understand that attitude at all.

Actually I don't even understand how that would work on a practical level. Kids know there are things they aren't supposed to touch, but they still go ahead and do it, so I can't see how you'd stop a boy from picking up a Barbie or a girl from picking up a truck if they really wanted it. If there are toys in the house, kids will figure out a way to play with them. Heck if there are pots and pans or tools or furniture kids will figure out how to turn them into play items.

Just going by my own experience it seemed like the kids with both boys and girls in their families ended up being more comfortable playing with whatever was available. I can see some boys-only siblings not being comfortable with dolls, or traditional girls' toys, but kids are pretty creative. As we all know, when toy guns and swords aren't available, sticks will work as placeholders.

I'm not saying my parents were progressive or on some agenda to break gender stereotypes, but they didn't have a problem with me owning boy toys, including toy cars, toy guns and water pistols and cowboys--admittedly, I mainly wanted the horses, ponies and animals, but equines need riders. I had Jane, not Johnny. (Barbie had horses, but the were horrible in comparison. Their joints didn't move. Of course Barbie wasn't scaled properly to ride the Best of the West animals, and her hips and legs didn't really bend properly to take the saddle.)

It's not that we had tons of toys. I think our parents just figured they'd get us the ones we were most likely to get the most amount of play value out of, and ones that could encourage us to play together increased those odds. Plus toys that were more versatile--that offered us the most options instead of just limited play were always top of the list. Barbie is a good option in those terms, because instead of getting a new doll or a new line of toys, you could just get (or make) her a new outfit, and while they certainly weren't cheap in those days, it was cheaper than buying the new latest fad which would then be thrown in the corner after we got bored of it.

Maybe it's the era, but I'm with SLC Mom. I never decapitated/melted/buried/etc. any of my toys. I knew if I did that, boy would I be in trouble, and I'd be without, because there was no replacement after wanton destruction. Heck I felt so bad and so guilty when my first Barbie's leg broke and that was just general wear and tear after years of play.

I guess I'm also odd in that I tended to have pairs (two max) of Barbie and Ken, and not unbalanced harems of Barbies.
posted by sardonyx at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2015


sardonyx, our dolls were mostly female because they were mostly not Mattell brand Barbie dolls, but the cheap hollow plastic knockoff dolls you got for a dollar at the drugstore or discount stores. They didn't make male versions of those dolls. They wore out quicker, but we got really good at frankensteining together the parts that survived.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:36 PM on October 18, 2015


One of my friends apparently mummified her barbies and buried them in the yard. I think she was going through an ancient-egypt phase.


I definitely mummified I think a Skipper doll with a friend as a project for our Ancient Egypt unit in 4th grade. Didn't bury it in the yard, though.
posted by damayanti at 1:55 PM on October 18, 2015


Real Barbies were sort of expensive; you maybe got 1-2 a year (Christmas and birthday). And maybe a piece of furniture, or in a really good year, a playhouse (oh man I loved my three-level plastic and cardboard penthouse with the yellow elevator. Best Christmas ever).

The fake ones weren't as easy to find in the 70s/80s as now, and my parents would only buy them under duress, like on a long car trip where they needed me quiet. As a result, lots of other toys got pressed into the Barbie play; souvenir dolls that I was not actually supposed to play with but did, small stuffed animals, and for me, Breyer horses, whose lives were at least as drama-filled as Barbie's. My bad-guy horse was constantly kidnapping the others. Sometimes Barbie was involved, sometimes not.

Breyers were expensive too, I was lucky to get even one a year.

As a result, deliberately breaking/destroying a toy was unthinkable; I got in trouble for giving Barbie haircuts, although not for drawing on her or having her break from wear and tear, but the burying/melting/chopping up idea was just never going to fly at my house. My parents didn't stop me from playing with toys, but would have been upset that they spent money on something and then I destroyed it. They expected me to be appreciative. It wasn't strictly about the money, per se, as about being grateful.

I didn't do "romantic drama" much with Barbie, I didn't even have (or want) a Ken, instead I pressed my Donny Osmond doll (bitchin' jumpsuit!) into service when a dude was required. Good and evil queens, magic, and flying featured in my Barbie adventures a lot. Never "real life" stuff like the videos, like college professor or vet, my brain didn't think those were interesting. Making all the other dolls bow to you and grovel, though, that was my jam.
posted by emjaybee at 2:25 PM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


My parents were going to raise me Barbie free and I'm sure that would have been totally fine, except my mom decorated cakes as a hobby/side money-making venture, including totally fabulous Barbie Cakes. It turns out that you don't use an entire barbie for a barbie cake, but instead, you use these barbie heads/torsos on a spike that you stick into the top of the skirt-shaped cake and then decorate over to make the bodice of your fancy Barbie Dress Cake. After the third or fourth time they found two year old Chura singing to a naked Barbie torso/head, they figured that while feminist parenting principles were very important, there were probably better ways to inculcate them in their daughter then having her croon to a naked Barbie torso on a spike.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:43 PM on October 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think Western Barbie was the only one I got new and it was for my 9th or 19th birthday. All the others I ever had around were hand-me-downs - the old, weird Barbies with the articulating knee that made creaky sounds when you bent them, and all their feet were chewed to nubs by past pets or toddlers.

Barbie was an important currency for girls' friendships. I remember basing plans around who had the Barbie convertible, who had the most outfits, etc.
posted by Miko at 2:48 PM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


All the others I ever had around were hand-me-downs - the old, weird Barbies with the articulating knee that made creaky sounds when you bent them

Sounds like a good way to teach kids about the facts of life and growing old.

I always thought I was going to be invincible!
posted by cynical pinnacle at 2:53 PM on October 18, 2015


On the other hand I thought I was going to grow into a six-foot blonde with a tiny waist and massive boobs. Imagine my surprise!
posted by billiebee at 3:08 PM on October 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sadly, I am not a crime boss with a high-paid lawyer husband in a hoverchair.

But you are one of the Endless, right?
posted by Paul Slade at 3:57 AM on October 19, 2015


Yeah, my Barbies were always doing some kind of separatist lesbian thing before I knew that was, like, an actual thing.

Oh, I was militantly anti-Ken. No boy dolls at all. One year somebody gave me a Ken doll for my birthday and I refused to open the package and begged my parents to return him to the store. Mainly I would just dress all my Barbies in sparkly outfits and arrange them very carefully in tableaux, except for Astronaut Barbie who was special and got to travel the galaxy. I also had a rehabilitated 1959 original Barbie from my mother's childhood that I was ridiculously proud of.

I gave all my beautifully preserved Barbies to my younger sister and she immediately destroyed them all. She would swap all their heads and do experimental surgeries and paint them and cut their hair. Then she got Ken dolls and made them all have sex. One unfortunate individual was Naked Barbie and was always stuck stealing someone's man.

(I grew up to be an autistic lesbian nerd; my sister grew up to be a boy-crazy extrovert with ADHD.)
posted by thetortoise at 5:59 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


-One of my friends apparently mummified her barbies and buried them in the yard. I think she was going through an ancient-egypt phase.


--I definitely mummified I think a Skipper doll with a friend as a project for our Ancient Egypt unit in 4th grade. Didn't bury it in the yard, though.


I also buried several of my dolls, but not Egyptian-style. I was more into elaborate, formal High Victorian style burials.

Two non-Barbie toys, which were old at the time and came to us from yard sales, were crucilal to the process: this Fisher-Price wagon and THUNDERBOLT! Johnny West's palomino.* I loved Thunderbolt like the real pony I never had! I found him MIB with all his tack, including saddle bags full of gold sacks, a frying pan, and a coffee pot. All the tack is gone now, but the horse is still *fingers crossed* in my mother's shed waiting for her to let me rummage around in there for him.

Anyway, the wagon/hearse would be draped in black and hitched up to Thunderbolt, the deceaed dressed in her best finery, and aluminum foil coins placed over her eyes. I couldn't get my hands on peach-colored modeling clay for eyelids, and I didn't dare just paint over her eyes. I still had to look my beloved Marie Osmond doll in the face after blacking her teeth out with a ballpoint pen for Halloween, assuming it would wash off. I eventually realized I could cover it up with regular applications of Wite-Out, but it just wasn't the same. And my sister's Sindy doll had never quite recovered from that food-coloring dye job; anytime we wanted her to not look like Cyndi Lauper we would take one of Mom's old mascaras and painstakingly comb it into her frazzled fuchsia locks.

There were never enough black or dark clothes to go around for the mourners, so I kept a supply or cloaks made from whatever scraps of dark cloth I could scrounge, cut into circles with holes in the middle for heads and slits for hands. I could never find or make a coffin to my satisfaction, so the corpse doll would be wound up in a shroud at the gravesite, as far away from prying adult eyes as I could get. (I had once announced my intention to bury a bag of coins and make a treasure map for digging up later, and Dad had said, "You might as well kiss 'em goodbye." I hadn't known if he'd meant I wouldn't be able to find them, or if he was going to dig them up and take them, so I didn't do it and didn't want him to know about anything else I buried.)

Gravedigger Ken would help me dig a hold twelve inches deep before he turned into Pastor Ken, I'd fill up the hole, and then top it with a rock I'd written on with a pen. Then I'd go back no later than the next day and dig her up.

The saddest funeral was for the Rosebud Baby Doll. She was buried in the white lace cover from her bassinet.

*The best thing about those knockoff dolls I mentioned upstream is that their legs opened wide at the hip, so they could ride astride no problem!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:42 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sadly, I am not a crime boss with a high-paid lawyer husband in a hoverchair.

...YET.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:43 AM on October 19, 2015


Have to admit, I had one of the first Barbies, the one in the striped strapless swim suit, and my cousin and I saved up our pennies to buy a few outfits like the gold lame evening gown, height of 1959 glamour. For us, it was about fashion, and it was fun. We also loved movie star paper dolls. Elizabeth Taylor was the best! Toys and dolls did not have to be role models or teach a lesson, just stuff kids liked.

No, I did not preserve my original Barbie in a box to be worth money someday. I played with her and made clothes for her and eventually she went to my one niece in an outfit I made, the first clothes I bought being long gone, and my sister in law made more clothes for her. But don't worry, that niece is now a professor of biology despite her fashion interests as a little girl.
posted by mermayd at 3:54 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


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