Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

In Defense of Barbie

by Stephanie Black

I’ve never been able to understand the fuss over Barbie and the worries that her unrealistic dimensions give young girls unhealthy expectations of what they should look like. I loved playing Barbies as a child, but I can’t remember ever thinking I ought to look like Barbie. What human creature actually looked like Barbie? She was a plastic toy. She had painted-on features and knees that made a weird popping noise when you bent them . . . hey, wait. Come to think of it, the older I get, the more I do have in common with Barbie.

Barbies were my favorite toys in the world. Each Christmas, a new Barbie was the centerpiece of Santa’s bounty. My sisters and I had a huge box filled with Barbie dolls, Barbie clothes (homemade, garage-sale treasures, or plain scraps of cloth) and even extra Barbie parts. You never know when an extra Barbie head might come in handy, especially if your game involves a haunting. Waste not, want not.

Barbie was the queen of our imaginations. She could do anything and be anyone, a fact sometimes sadly overlooked by the anti-Barbie faction as they condemn Barbie for her appearance. And even the pro-Barbie faction sometimes misses the point. You know on Toy Story 2 when the heroes go to the toy store and meet a bunch of Barbies and they all have these super-carbonated personalities and faces frozen in perpetual smiles as they party around the Barbie pool? Sheesh! Where did Barbie get stuck with that stereotype? Not that there’s anything wrong with a good pool party, but if there was a mystery to be solved, I don’t think Barbie would be hanging out by the pool working on her plastic tan. I’m not sure how other girls played Barbies, but our games were decidedly lacking in bubbly-ness and chlorine-green hair. We’d play Barbies for hours, creating games filled with danger, suspense, intrigue and outright strangeness. Barbie was a catalyst for creativity.

I eventually outgrew Barbie. But I didn’t outgrow the desire to create stories and vicariously experience the adventures of fictional characters. So now I write novels, which is, for me, a grown-up way of playing Barbies. If you've read my novel, you have some idea of what our Barbie games were like . . .

Long live imagination! Long live Barbie!


At 6/07/2006 9:51 PM, Blogger KB said...

Your Barbies must have been from the same factory as mine. My Barbie was an early version of Lara Croft--jumping off rooftops, climbing through the backyard jungle, getting run over by cars...And I had to laugh at the floating heads. We did those too.

At 6/07/2006 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not really anonymous—I am Stephanie’s sister, Dianna, but I don’t want to sign in.

It’s true about our Barbie games (and although Ken could be named Ken, Barbie never was Barbie. More like Miranda, Zelda or Pasty Bombasty—don’t ask).

But barbies were great and Steph always came up with the best stories. We were highly influenced by Scooby-doo and Nancy Drew. Barbie was always on the case and was brave and resourceful. And of course you cannot solve a proper mystery without the right clothes. Especially big poufy ball gowns with you hair all pinned (literally) up. And a huge house made of handtowels and matching washcloth bedspreads all over the floor.

A friend tried to play with us but all she wanted to do was go to the prom with Ken--no mystery, treasure or double-crossing involved. We were mystified by this approach. (It’s pretty safe to say that the romance market is safe from Stephanie.)

Ahh, the good old days. . .

At 6/07/2006 11:58 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

All I can say is -- wow. I've read your novel (three times) and can therefore vividly imagine all the things you must have put poor Patsy Bombasty & Co. through!

I didn't have any sisters and didn't play much with Barbies, but my dog and I had lots of adventures exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations. (Hey, at least I was a kid AFTER the days of Buck Rogers!)

At 6/08/2006 10:21 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

No doubt our Barbies sometimes wanted to flee to the nearest pool party ;)

We also loved running around outside pretending to be the Bionic Woman or ElectraWoman or Charlie's Angels. Imagination provides endless adventures!

At 6/09/2006 10:05 AM, Blogger KB said...

I was Cat Woman (a misunderstood anti-hero) or Wonder Woman. One generation before you, I guess.

Here's another memory. I had some friends who always wanted to dress up and play princesses. (gag!) There were only two other girls on my street, so if I wanted to play, I had to go along. BUT...I was always able to twist the story a bit and give the princesses an adventure--running from spies, foiling terrorists, saving the kingdom, etc.

At 6/09/2006 1:53 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

We loved Wonder Woman! We even had Wonder Woman Barbies.

My sisters and I would have loved to join in your princess/adventure games. What could be better than foiling terrorists and running from spies--while wearing princess dresses? I love it!

At 6/11/2006 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Wonder Woman Barbie in my garage right now. My mom cleaned out her basement and neither of my two sisters would claim it and told her to send it to me. I don't know what to do with it--it's too beat up to be worth any money--but I just can't bring myself to get rid of her. :)

At 6/11/2006 10:08 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Stephanie, I tried to leave a note several days ago, but it just wasn't working. I never played Barbies; I guess that reveals my age, but I had paperdolls, lots of paperdolls, courtesy of Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck. They rode horses, flew airplanes, joined posses, raced around space, explored jungles and caves, and became FBI agents. I don't suppose that was any different from my granddaughters' Barbies, except they were cheaper and took up less storage space. Forget the Ken and Barbie storyline, the pre-sale names and all that and say three cheers for the little girls with enough imagination to make up their own names and action; they might grow up to write a book. We did. I enjioyed your blog.


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