Desperately Seeking Barbie


The sound of her name, alone - not to mention that funky sort of "click-clack" one hears when trying to bend any part of her disproportioned body - is enough to send some people searching for the nearest blow torch or blender.

But, the makers of one of the world's most popular toys wants to change all that and perhaps would be a little surprised to learn that there are those of us who just aren't feelng the love for Malibu Barbie, anymore.

Though, reports that the big-wig over at Mattel Toys praises Barbie as, "A Mult-media Star:"

Born as a Berlin vamp, the ultimate California girl still reigns supreme in sales, toymaker Mattel says. And Chief Executive Robert A. Eckert is making sure Mattel's impossibly blonde figurine, and its other classic brands like Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, will stay on top 21st century-style. In other words, via major media and marketing hookups.

Berlin vamp?

It seems that Mattel's Barbie got "her look" from a German doll called, Lilli:

"Lilli was a fashionable "society girl" who knew what she wanted and wasn't above using men to get it. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955. Although the doll was initially marketed to adult men in bars and tobacco shops, it eventually became popular with children, who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately. The doll was so popular, she was even exported to other countries, including the United States."

[via Wikipedia]

Mattel acquired the rights to the Lilli doll, where she was then revamped and given a new name: Barbie, after creator Handler's daughter, Barbara, and made its debut at the New York International American Toy Fair on March 9, 1959.

The rest is fashion history and (a body image e-zine: their "Feed the Model" game is sinfully delicious!) lists more interesting marketing facts about Barbie:

10 Funky Facts About Barbie

Every second, two Barbie dolls are purchased somewhere in the world.

Placed head to toe, all the Barbie dolls sold since 1959 would circle the earth more than seven times.

Barbie's full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts. She hails from Willows, Wisconsin—but she left her wallet in El Segundo, California, the home of the Mattel Corporation.

During Barbie's introductory year in 1959, Mattel sold 350,000 dolls.

Barbie is now a 1.9 billion dollar-per-year industry.

Barbie has had more than 75 careers, from registered nurse to rock star.

About one billion fashions have been produced for Barbie and her friends during the past four decades. The doll has had over a billion pairs of shoes in that time.

More than 100 million yards of fabric have gone into Barbie's outfits, making Mattel one of the largest apparel manufacturers in the world.

Barbie is marketed in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Barbie became a candidate for President in 1992. She categorically denies that she ever had sexual relations with that man, Ken.

Barbie has altered her looks many times over the years and L.A. Times' Patt Morrison is in the opinion that perhaps Barbie needs more than a makeover:

Better to euthanize the 46-year-old doll than subject us to another fanciful makeover.

...the nail in Barbie's grotesquely proportioned coffin is last winter's study by a British university about how ferociously little girls mutilate their Barbies, just for fun. They scalp them and dismember them and burn them and microwave them. Frankly, Barbie had it coming. She's just too unreal. How do you bond with something that looks like a taffy pull with a face? Stuffed animals are more flesh and blood than Barbie.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking -- besides the fact that my three girls and I have perhaps bought into Mattel's-hype, by purchasing our fair share of dolls, videos, sheets, toothbrushes, and the list goes on and on -- what is it about Barbie...why do we love/hate her so much?

Sweepea wants to know:

WTF is wrong with Barbie?

When I was younger and playing with Barbies, I just thought it was fun. I was not coveting her forever tippy-toed feet or her pencil-thin waist. I just liked to dress her up and comb her hair, and pretend that she was going out with friends or on a date. Barbie was not a figure I vicariously lived through, but a doll that did things I'd one day like to do. Besides, I had my own idol to look up to as I matured: my mother. With a beautiful, intelligent, independent, and successful woman living and breathing and interacting with me daily, when it came to looking up to someone, what did I need some plastic doll for?

And -- although I was a bit surprised -- I couldn't help but breath a sigh of relief to know that I am not the only one who's found herself lured by Barbie's charm, as was Baby Bug's mom:

i'm humored and confused as to why the heck did i buy them? in college i swore if i ever had a daughter, i'd NEVER buy her a barbie doll. i was on a rampage about the whole image and representation of barbie dolls. by the way, i never had one when i was a child. so, maybe i'm living out some unconscious desire for a barbie doll. or , maybe it was the way babybug called out for it in the isle.

Yep - she may have been born of a Berlin tramp - you've got to admit...she's come along way, Babe... Barbie has.

Let's just hope that she'll continue to grow, mature and learn through experience...along with the rest of us...and then perhaps Mattel will take reality into consideration when creating the next, new and improved icon - a BlogHer Barbie, perhaps?

Contributing Editor Elizabeth Thompson also writes for The Imperfect Parent.


[Photo credit - Fifties Web]