The Barbie Wanna Be

This is Cindy Jackson who has more than twenty operations in an effort to look more like a Barbie doll. The issue of plastic surgery for merely cosmetic reasons is controversial in its own right. But, the fact that Cindy herself has attributed her surgeries to her desire to imulate the "Barbie image" is what further stirs the body image controversy. Cindy of course is the extremist of extremes. But this is happening all over our nation. People are getting their noses trimmed, their thighs reduced, their lips enhanced, and their breasts enlarged. Whether it is coincedence or not, all of these alterations reflect a nearing to a particular image...and yes it is that of the Barbie doll. Is Barbie a reflection of culteral ideals, cultural ideals a reflection of Barbie? One might easily suggest it is of course the first, scoffing at any suggestion that a doll might have the power to shape a culture. But one must take into account what M.G. Lord points out in the book Forever Barbie:

Narrow of waist, slender of hip, and generous of bosom, she was the ideal of postwar feminine beauty when Mattel, Inc., introduced her in 1959-one year before the founding of Overeaters Anonymous, two years before Weight Watchers, and many years before Carol Doda pioneered in a new use for silicone.

Since this time we have not seen the reappearance of a voluptious ideal, such as Marilyn Monroe. It's been the reign of the skinny woman in magazines for a few decades now. First we had Twiggy, then a more muscular skinny like Cheryl Teigs, up to the present day waif like Kate Moss. Without further getting into a discussion of body image, I would just say that we cannot deny that Barbie has had an affect on our culture, her image being such an exalted and preimmenent one. However, the degree to which she has influenced society is certainly a contested and debatable issue. Concrete answers to such a question can never be found of course, but it certainly warrants some exploration.

Slashed Dolls

  • A reaction to an incident of doll mutalation gives a clue to how the Barbie doll is percieved.

    In 1993 Hard Copy reported on a Barbie Slasher in a small town in Ohio. A call to the FBI was made after finding 24 Barbies that had been slashed in the breasts and crotch. Hard Copy reported that there were worries that whoever is doing it could move on to real life Barbies. Adhering to their sensational reporting methods, their reporters said Some feel it's only a prank, while others feel it's their own daughters who have been violated.

    My initial reaction to this was that Hard Copy and those who felt this a great violation were overeacting. It is just a doll. I myself used to mutilate my own Barbies, though admittedly it involved only the cutting of hair, not slashing of private parts. But again, it is just a doll. Why would people assume that it means something more, some act of violence which indicates a future act against females? But then I realized that if these people could see this as such a violent act, then whoever did it might also see it this way. Barbie has come to symbolize more than a doll. She is the good, always smiling, pretty girl next door. Couldn't someone slash her breasts and crotch to symbolize a violation of something more than the doll itself if it has indeed come to represent more? How much meaning are we going to let such an act take on?

    Tissue Head Barbie

    Barbie as a doll and Barbie as representing women again gets mixed up when giant Barbie heads were turned into tissue dispensers. Judy Edelstein worked in the massage parlor where they were placed and she had a strong response to these tissue spilling heads, saying

    The doll heads were the owner's idea but Pat and I hate them. Pat says that pulling out a kleenex is like pulling a little bit of brains out of the doll's head...I think much the same about myself sometimes. I feel this job eating at me until I wonder if I'm all hollow inside.

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