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Around the Bluhmin’ Town

2/10/16

Judy Bluhm

Has your body changed over the past several decades? Yes, I thought so. Mine has too. But none of us have gone through the “transformation of a lifetime” like Barbie. You know, the iconic doll, Barbie, who was fashioned after a German sex ad in the 1950s, is looking a little different these days. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “normal,” but there are four new Barbie body types and seven skin tones. It seems Barbie has gained a little weight. And it’s about time!

Millennial moms weren’t buying the “freak of nature” that Mattel created when they made a tall, slender, buxom, blonde bombshell of a doll who couldn’t even stand on her own two feet! Poor Barbie’s feet are horribly shaped to fit permanently into stilettos, not the usual footwear of busy moms or young girls. Some say Mattel is “brilliant” for this feminist rebranding. I say they are about twenty years too late! Take a look around, women are now Army Rangers and in active combat positions in the Marines. Perhaps Mattel should make a “Combat Barbie” in full military gear.

Back in the late 1950s and 1960s, ninety-nine percent of all little girls, ages three to ten had a Barbie. It was on most girls’ Christmas list. Who knew that this blonde, impossibly beautiful, slender (with a figure like a Playboy Bunny) doll would become a cultural phenomenon? How many times have we heard the references to “Barbie Doll” good looks, or the perfect couple looking like “Ken and Barbie?” Of course, the truth is that most of us never actually met anyone who looked like Barbie.

Body image is a tricky thing. Hopefully, our role-models are real people with genuine accomplishments and value. We aspire to be like them. Somehow a plastic doll has morphed into an icon, a standard for young girls to look up to. Some psychologists have claimed the “Barbie effect” has impacted entire generations of young girls who continually measure themselves against a blonde hot mess of a toy. Yikes! Is that one of the reasons why we are a looks-obsessed culture?

God made us all in different shapes and sizes! Beauty is only skin deep! Do not judge a book by its cover! It is what’s inside a person that matters! Be yourself and embrace your curves! Yes, we probably have all heard and said these messages as a counter attack on impossible beauty standards that are dangerous, unhealthy, and unreal. But then, lurking in a small girl’s bedroom is the “beauty of all time” Barbie that looks like she might be a chorus girl in Las Vegas. Hate to say it, but Barbie is a fake!

I did have a couple of Barbies. Don’t tell anyone, but I still have them, wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a box in my closet. My daughters played with them too. But something told me that they just “weren’t right” for the grand-girls. So now we have more “appropriate proportioned” Barbie dolls that will let an entire new generation of girls know that there is more to life than a 40-18-33 inch figure (real-life proportions) with platinum hair in six-inch high heels.

When my grandsons were little boys they found my secret Barbie box and looked very carefully at the precious dolls. Wondering what they would do next, it was Kevin who happily announced that if they pulled the heads off of the bodies they could play ball. Grabbing my Barbies just in the nick of time, I was reminded that to boys, these dolls were just objects. But to many little girls, they were who they wanted to become. Does life imitate art?

Shares of Mattel, Inc have gone up 12 percent since they introduced the “New Barbies.” So while oil is sinking the stock market, it might take one little old doll-baby named Barbie to save our 401ks from total destruction. Yes, four distinct body sizes, seven skin colors, and even a disabled Barbie in a wheelchair are going to conquer the (toy) world. As for the Ken doll? I hear they are making one with a pot belly and thinning hair. Sounds like a cultural revolution is coming. Yes, Dear Readers, we are changing the world…one doll at a time.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.