Barbie turns 50– and suddenly, I care!

3380420363_a656b1031aNot Bad For Fifty

Not Bad For Fifty

 "I never cared for this sport until I got a load of what they wear at Wimbledon"

"I never cared for this sport until I got a load of what they wear at Wimbledon"

I despise Barbie, but am fascinated with her popularity. Trolls were my doll of choice.  My stingy parents seemed to regard toys as  controlled substances, and Dad’s  stern rationale stiill echoes in the playroom of my mind: “That doll is a demeaning, hypersexualized plaything. Besides, it costs twenty dollars.” Dysfunctional family nostalgia: my mendacious  brother Lew used to win– even while losing– bets, by claiming he’d said  “doll-hairs“, not  “dollars”… Trolls had a lot of them. Back to Barbie-thing, which is just a scoch younger than I. Now I agree with my dad (about the message the doll embodies) and overjoyed when  artists switched the voice boxes on Barbie and G.I. Joe, then replacing them on the toy store shelves to be sold to unsuspecting shoppers….and other wicked creators retooled the dolls into scary trailer park Barbies (“Daddy says I’m the Best Kisser In Town!”)  and other hitherto unimagined playthings.

The recent story in NYT about this fashion icon led to an internet treasure hunt.. Turns out she was actually a  mid-1950’s German novelty (for men) that cost about $150 in today’s dollars. The Mattel toy co. owner bought a couple in Europe at the insistence of her sixteen year old daughter.

Mattel copied the doll almost exactly in 1959. Note the sly, scheming look and the high, intelligent forehead. Within a couple of years these would be replaced with a  forward-gazing affectless zombie.

The German doll’s name was “Bild Lilli” and she was more or less modeled after a sexy babe cartoon in “Bild” (a daily newspaper) that had gone ‘visceral’. I am using this word instead of ‘viral’ owing to the pathogenic sound of the latter….on the other hand, maybe Bild Lilli had an effect on the virility of the men that purchased her. I then delved further, and learned that fashion dolls have existed a long time, and currently they look, er…very current!

Odile Gilbert says fashion is all about seduction. I wonder if the  toy industry used Barbie dolls to  seduce girls into becoming dolls…for the fashion industry, which is linked to the banks & capitalizm. I will be pondering this as I continue to explore my  career as  a 54 year old supermodel aiming to entertain and inspire  that significant ‘niche’: grown women. It’s said  that women over a certain age become invisible.
This can help me go ‘undie-tected’ on  single-track trails….

~ by jacquiephelan on March 31, 2009.

2 Responses to “Barbie turns 50– and suddenly, I care!”

  1. I really love your take on things. Keep it up:) And thanks!

  2. Within months of my learning how to sew, my Barbies and GI Joes were wearing Colonial period dress, down to the frilly aprons, long dresses, greatcoats and tricorn hats. I have nothing but fond memories of a doll whose impossible feet I loved to poke fun at. Happy birthday, Barbie…

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