Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Barbie Are You Grieving?

Barbie-torture is a rite of passage

New research says that many seven to 11 year-old girls maim and destroy their Barbie dolls. Duh.

Many girls thought it "cool" to mutilate Barbie because she was just a "plastic" doll, according to the Bath University study of 100 youngsters.

Dr Agnus Nairn said: "It's as though disavowing Barbie is a rite of passage."

I certainly have memories of cutting of my Barbie dolls’ hair into buzz cuts and twisting their heads and bodies into unnatural positions. I believe I even gave one a black eye with some nail polish. I never fucked with any of my other toys or dolls--just Barbie. Curious.

Any other Barbie-maimers out there?

I actually have a scene sort of like this in my teen novel. I don't want to reveal too much here, but let's just say that it produces some serious psychological dissonance for my protagonist.

Barbie shows up quite a bit in poetry too. David Lehman says:
Postmodernism and feminism seem to have converged in the figure of the Barbie doll. Barbie is the subject of a book by M. G. Lord (Forever Barbie, 1994) and of a virtual mini-genre of poems, including "Barbie's Ferrari" by Lynne McMahon and an entire sequence entitled It's My Body by Denise Duhamel.
And read about the pictured "suicide bomber Barbie" here.

What's your take on Barbie?


zp said...

Oh. You are writing a teen novel. I get it.

Then you definately need to read Caucasia if you haven't already. I left a comment on this novel under "Where the White Kids Are" . . . but it's great because it is for teens and about teens but it is paced like a mystery novel and it is an old fashioned melodrama . . . Like Nancy Drew, but about race.

Barbie: We had Barbie around until I was graduating from high school, or even after, because I've got younger sibs, both genders of which played with Barbie. But when I was in high school I tried to make a VHS movie of Mrs. Dalloway using Barbies, and this before I knew or heard anything about Todd Haynes' Karen Carpenter Story.

Crystal said...

Caucasia by Danzy Senna is one of my favorite books of all times, a true coming of age story! As far as Barbies, I mutiliated plenty of them in my girlhood, it was so fun playing with the hair especially! ;-)

juniper pearl said...

my barbies were routinely kidnapped and tortured by he-man and my extensive army of aliens and reptilian monsters, as were she-ra, rose petal and whatever else i had lying around. i think my mother cried on more than one occasion when she came home from her waitressing job and found my and my sister's dolls tied to the legs of the kitchen chairs or bound and gagged in the freezer. sometimes when the weather was nice i took them outside and buried them up to their necks in the backyard. the ground was leveled when i was in high school so my parents could put in a pool, and the sea of disembodied heads and limbs that heaved up to the surface was like a scene from a dramatic reenactment of the rapture.

i guess mommy will be comforted to hear it's common.

porkmuffin said...

never had a Barbie. always hated the bitch.

elizalou said...

I love this topic! Long ago I became a bit tired of the "Barbie's dimensions are impossible" feminist critique and became interested in the way people play with her.

It's been a few years since I read it, but I remember really enjoying Barbie's Queer Accessories by Erica Rand. I think one of the personal memories from the book is someone telling how she used to have Barbie invite Ken over to the Dream House, only to rip his head off, push him out the window, and then blaming it on aliens. Or something close to that.

I don't remember any specific plots from my Barbie playing days but apparently they must have been pretty interesting. I know my Barbies were into a lot more than shopping though.

Elyce Rae Helford said...

I had Barbies, took them pretty straightforwardly. Did not maim them. Liked to smoosh their faces together to make forhead meet chin. Sometimes exchanged Barbie's head with other dolls' heads. Didn't like that you couldn't exchange Barbie's head for Ken's, as his neck was much thicker. Still, I stole GI Joe's camper (my brother's toy) and let her go off into nature awhile. Did cut a doll's hair once, but it was a littler "Dawn" doll not Barbie.

See Marge Piercy's poem "Barbie Doll." Google and you'll find it online. Note that it doesn't overtly discuss the doll, just girls who emulate her.

femme feral said...

I like that MP poem. I also like her poem "Perfect Weather," in which Barbie and Ken play newscasters perennially predicting good weather.

thanks for sharing all the stories!

now I want to edit a book in which women write about barbie. I wonder if there is a barbie blog. there must be. I'm gonna check.

Lizzie said...

I e-mailed my mom re: Barbie mutilation and she says,

"The one thing that really sticks in my memory was your cutting the hair. Of all of your Barbies. You would just take the scissors and whack it down. You weren't violent and you didn't seem to be acting out of any animosity. You just wanted to take off her hair and all her clothes, too."

femme feral said...

I just picked up caucasia. It looks great. Thanks for the rec!