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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Barbie Girl

Barbie turned 50 in 2009. According to the New York Times, all 1120 tickets to this year's celebration in July were sold out within two days after going on sale in July 2008.

Although officially born in Willows, Wisconsin, I like to think of Barbie as a New York City girl since her birthday is based on her original debut at the International Toy and Trade Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. She attended the fictional Manhattan International High School, based on renowned Stuyvesant High School.

The Barbie doll was created by Ruth Handler, the wife of a Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler (Ruth later went on to become President in 1967). Ruth was inspired by her daughter, Barbara, who preferred playing with paper dolls. The design itself was based on a German fashion doll called Bild Lilli (1955-1964), who in turn was based on the German comic-strip character Lilli.

An icon this huge will, of course, garner its share of controversy, parodies, and comedic spins. Mattel does respond and change her image. Her original physique at 1/6 scale, Barbie would have been 5' 9" with measurements estimated at 36-18-33. A 1965 Slumber Party Barbie book entitled How to Lose Weight advised, "Don't eat." This gave way to the term Barbie syndrome. In 1997, Barbie's body mold was redesigned and given a wider waist.

Barbie is multifaceted. She has had over 40 pets and has owned a wide range of vehicles, including pink Corvette convertibles, trailers, and Jeeps. She also holds a pilot's license, operates commercial airliners, and serves as a flight attendant. Barbie's life shows that women can have many careers, including Miss Astronaut Barbie (1965), Doctor Barbie (1988), Nascar Barbie (1998), and an Olympic swimmer.

In 1997, Mattel filed a defamation lawsuit against MCA Records over the bubblegum pop song Barbie Girl by Danish group Aqua. The song was a parody of Barbie and Ken with lyrics loaded with sexual innuendos such as "You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere."

Barbie does keep up with the times. In the most ironic twist ever, Mattel just released its own version of the offending song, renamed The Barbie, using the same melody and some of the same lyrics to promote Barbie Fashionistas - you can see the video here.

I met the young girl in the photo in August in Washington Square Park. She was sporting an entire Barbie-inspired wardrobe, from head to toe, including a medallion necklace with the letters "BFF" (best friend forever). Now that's a Barbie Girl :)

Barbie is also an animal rights activist. See my story - Barbie in Furs.


lizziviggi said...

Wow, thanks for the intensive Barbie post-- that must have taken a lot of time! I was never a big Barbie fan myself, but my little girl LOVES her, and therefore I have spent more hours in my adult life playing with Barbie than I ever did in my tomboyish girlhood. The Barbie girl is adorable!

BeachILike said...

Both of them look great!

My Bangkok Through My Eyes!
You got a Posty: I want to give 15 postcards :)

Thérèse said...

Such a good post. I was introduced to Barbie in 1964 in my boarding school at night... but never got one myself.

mirae said...

Hi Brian- would a fun colorful informative post.
You pointed out some mentally healthy ways of Barbie-women's liberation through highprofile various careers, and the anti fur campaign.

I have always been turned off to Barbie, personally I prefer the cuddly dolls but you dres some nice attributes.

have a beautiful day.

mirae said...

Also, I always get the feeling that I am being persuaded about something or someone in this site not through argumentation but in the your presentation of details that may easily have been overlooked by the reader and your artistic photographs ofcourse.

Mirela said...

What a great shot! I had a Barbie doll, but never quite got into the whole Barbie thing... too bad I was too old by the time they released astronaut and Nascar Barbie :-D....

Babzy said...

The girl is so cute , good portrait and thank you for the Barbie history , very interesting !