Monday, January 09, 2012

Barbie Girl

First off, there is something wrong with either my hands or brain today because I keep typing letters in the incorrect order. Is it possible to become dyslexic? Anywho, I wanted to discuss a fantastic book I recently finished by Tanya Lee Stone entitled "The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie." It's a non-fiction book written for teens about the history of Barbie and her impact on society, particularly on girls and body image. I found this book fascinating for many reasons: 1) I was a Women's Studies major and thus have been forced to look at my relationship with Barbie before; 2) I had a pretty large collection of Barbies (let's not forget this awesome post), in part because my sister is six years younger and I continued playing well past acceptable Barbie-playing age, and 3) I had body image issues. Barbie has been present throughout my life, whether playing with her as a child, taking eerie photos of Barbie in odd scenarios for high school photography class (see below), or watching the brilliantly disturbing film "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story" by Todd Haynes in college (you can find it on Youtube here. His use of Barbies is legendary, and rightly so).

Here are a few of my high school photos. These aren't the final prints, but for a quick search in my house they were all I could find. The lighting, printing, and focus were a lot better in the actual prints. I hope.

This was a series. The Barbies are drinking and driving, see? There were also crash pictures.

Barbie snow angels. I don't remember taking this one.

Barbie head hunters! I made the little skirts and tops out of grocery bags.

I had another series of a funeral and wake (open casket), but I can't find those. For the best, probably. My favorite photo is of all my (and my sister's) Barbies together for a family portrait. So lifelike!

At the moment, I am not so interested in dissecting my relationship with Barbie from the body image standpoint. I am, however, fascinated by Stone's discussion of the way girls played with their Barbies. There was a hilarious section about the perverted use of Barbie and how she and Ken unromantically bumped their plastic bodies together. Of course my friends and I played that way. But how else did I play? That's where things grow foggy. The book highlights stories of grown women remembering their Barbie-playing youth, how some of them liked to do pretend weddings, while others simply changed their clothes. Others created elaborate story lines involving mystery and intrigue. So how did I play with my Barbies? And why can't I remember? The only Julie Barbie plot line that keeps coming back to me is the Beauty Pageant; but all I remember from that is laying out an elaborate array of fantastic gifts and prizes for the winner. What was I doing with my Barbies all that time? I'm hoping some of my old friends will read this and help me out. Is it bad that I blocked out my Barbie-playing periods? Is there some meaning behind that? The legacy of the doll continues...


Ronni said...

I never actually PLAYED with my Barbies, really. I loved to set up the rooms, and I loved to get her dressed and get her hair done, but that was the extent of it for me. I enjoyed the set up more than the actual making up scenarios, etc.

I still have mine! :)

The Erratic Blogger said...

I used to use my Barbies for videos. We made one that was different Greek myths. Another was Julius Caesar and featured some of the big G.I. Joe dolls they yard to sell. My Barbies used to marry my Michael Jackson doll more than ken, though.