Thursday, December 9, 2010

From the Insitute of Barbie Studies: Video Barbie as Feminism's Worst Nightmare

Oh, makers at Mattel, I know you're all really women's studies majors, mavens of cultural representation, expert scholars in gender, the gaze and embodiment. How else could you have dreamed up this latest addition to our collective commercial mythology? This goddess of (self) voyeurism? This flaxen haired cyborg idol? This siren with batteries in her legs (seriously), a lens in her chest (really), a video panel in her back (no joke), and USB port in her, er, hip (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!).

And all in a fabulous glittery zebra-striped hoodie besides! (If you don't believe me, check out this faboo video comparing the relative aspects of the Cannon 7D vs. Video Barbie)

Everything's raining down Barbie lately, so I've decided to begin the Institute for Barbie Studies over here - a semi-professional, only semi-serious organizations dedicated to the study of all things... well, you know... All from a position of irony please. Scholars without their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks need not apply.

First it was that song that got Ken all hot and bothered: I'm a Barbie girl, in a Barbie Wooorld. (Life is plastic, it's fantastic)

Then my 6yo got in the act, thinking that it would be a good idea to mix modern commercial mythology and ancient Hindu mythology by putting on a show in which Barbie rescues Ganesh from a pair of... er... scopophilic binoculars.

Then came Journalist Barbie (who I'm sure is hard at work cracking the case of Video Barbie and all her potential voyeurism: the fear that she'll be used by pornographers to lure children: ewww, Barbie, how could you?)

And of course who could forget this Orientalist nightmare - the (ancient) Japanese Barbie and Ken.  Not to mention Indian Barbie - who sometimes comes with her own  snap-on sari (I know my daughter has one and now we can't find the darn sari in the toy box any more.)

I mean REALLY, makers at Mattel, REALLY? I know it must be easy to ignore the thousands of feminist diatribes about Barbie's impossible proportions, her enormous breasts, her dental floss thin waist... But REALLY you thought it would be a great idea to make her into a video-fem-bot? It better be that you guys were making an ironic commentary on the way that society views female bodies and body parts, upholds white beauty standards (ever read The Bluest Eye? Anyone? Anyone?), and commercializes sex, gender, and bodies... Otherwise, I don't want to hear about it...

Let's just say that I look forward to the marketing of "Video-TSA-Barbie" - a doll which drinks all your liquids, wears killer shoes (all the better to make fun of the fact that you don't have any on) and shoots backscatter X-rays out of her eyes or some such bizarre horror - because it's the next logical step in this progression.  (although nothing can be as bizarre as this Pamela Anderson PETA commercial mocking - I think - the TSA... but I can't be sure of exactly what's being enacted here...)  

Sorry guys, I don't think my kid is getting Video Barbie this year for the holidays. Although I'm sorely tempted to get one myself, just so I could continue mocking her and how bizarre our notions of gender, race, and the body have become...


  1. Oh my. I don't even know what to say, other than I'd been avoiding looking at the articles/blogs online about this goofy thing. But I read yours! And I'm shaking my head...and wondering when Ken will get cameras in his eyes so he can stare at Barbie's ginormous boobs and then post the videos on YouTube.

  2. I think I was a little shell shocked by the time you got to the part about the usb port in her hip. :O

  3. Shall I pass over some (cybernetic) smelling salts to you storytreasury?:) Actually, wave some for me too! I keep trying to convince myself these are all cultural/women's studies grad students who have now "gone postal" - making ironic gorilla art through children's toys - commenting on hierarchies in society. If I don't believe that I get totally depressed!

  4. Er, "save" some for me too! (Or "wave" them under my nose...)

  5. I understood what you meant! lol

  6. Hardly know what to say. I don't know what they were thinking.

  7. Video-TSA-Barbie, how could they pass that up? (snickers) Still...really?

  8. I know - I hold on to my delusion that they are disgruntled cultural studies/women's studies grad students out to make ironic commentary on bodies, gender, surveillance... otherwise my faith in the world is crushed, and a never-fairy dies somewhere.
    I'm waiting for Video TSA Barbie - or at least some incident in an airport where a bunch of TSA agents tackle a little girl with Video Barbie in her hand because she's illegally filming their uber-top-secret and ever-so=necessary security screenings and pat downs...

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