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That’s So Barbie!

“I love Barbie. I hate Barbie. I fuck with Barbie. I don’t fuck with Barbie.

“I love the Warhol fantasy-reality conflict of Pop Culture in general. It’s a very provocative and decadent prologue to the Organic-Technologic virtual-reality global revolution conflict of today.” – Carlos Ferreyros

[That’s So (Brand)!Is a series dedicated to “passion” brands.]

That’s so Barbie! evokes something. That thing is clear and consistent. And, has been so, for 53 years everywhere. Because of that, even if we don’t know what the hell “That’s So Barbie!” Is about? We definitely know it’s not going to be something sad, depressing or poor. We know it’s probably something over-the-top, pink and plastic, maybe a romantic moment or a high-school bitch, a fashion model, a fantasy world.

Barbie strives to be everything and everyone.  She’s a socio-cultural chameleon, putting herself out there, but never fully commiting to anything.  She’s had 40 nationalities, 130 careers and has penetrated 45 consumer products/categories. Every year, there are150 new versions of her, reflecting every, single, solitary human and cultural condition from cancer to the Presidency.   She’s got a pretty face and hot, sexy (and unrealistic) body.  She adopts fashionable identities and moves through the culture like a well-schooled hostess.  Barbie as our friend or enemy is our ultimate people pleaser.

First there was the bridal gown – because marriage and homemaking were the main trends for women at that time.  She came with the chic fashions, mirroring Jackie O—an image that both a mother and daughter saw as the dream come true.   Then Barbie got a steady boyfriend, Ken, since another accepted dream for girls in ‘61 was male companionship.
And the years went on. Barbie advanced not just in her fashion but also in ambition and lifestyle.    In the mid to late 60’s there was a “Barbie goes to college” play-set which started Barbie down her career path.  It was an exciting time for her with new accessories that still included way more clothes than schoolbooks. During the hippie era, she got a little more daring in mini skirts, (that went perfectly with her fun, new bendy legs.)

She never went too far during this youth culture rebellion. No pot smoking or bra burning for Barbie.

During the Vietnam war, Barbie visited Ken in Saigon and went shopping and sightseeing while “Captain Ken” (who was never in combat) collected his numerous medals – although no one knows what for.

Ken and Barbie didn’t always have it easy.  They broke up for time, but then worked things out.  At one point too, Ken had tinted hair and an earing—maybe a mini-identity crisis, but always appealing to the “kitsch” consumer, who would appreciate the idea of a gay Ken doll. Some argue that Ken was always gay. Others insist that he is merely metro-sexual (like Ricky Martin).

Barbie has also had her critics with many feeling that she and her friends represent an unrealistic, over achieving ideal for girls that supports a destructive image of femininity where everything can be fixed with the change of an outfit.  If only life were as simple as that.

The band Aqua, in their song Barbie Girl, sing ‘I’m a blonde bimbo girl, in a fantasy world. Life in plastic. It’s fantastic.”

She’s always perfect – just the way(s) she is. Whether you love her or hate or just want her at your party, it’s a brand everyone has an opinion about and after all these years she’s still there for us. “It’s just so Barbie” — with everything and everyone we would ever want her to be.

6 Comments

  1. Julia Grace says:

    I’m an “I hate Barbie” kind of woman. I never bought them for my daughter, growing up in the seventies. We were a hippie sort of family, and Barbie represented everything we were trying to overcome — unnatural beauty, consumerism, superficiality. But, she does have staying power!!!

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  3. Michel says:

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  5. Meaghan says:

    I don’t think Barbie is really the enemy. A society that objectifies women and places value in unrealistic expectations for beauty is the enemy. Barbie is just a girl. She’s blonde, blue eyed, tan, and talented. If you truly believe in empowering women, building self-esteem, and respecting all body types, then you will respect Barbie for all that she is. All women deserve respect, regardless of what they look like.

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