Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Girls Can Do Anything! Right, Barbie?

I’m sure you’ve heard those people who say, “I’d never let my daughter play with Barbie.” Maybe you are one of those people. If you are, I’m sure you’ve got your reasons – and, hey, that’s your prerogative -- but as someone who grew up with every inch of her room packed with Dream Houses and plastic Ferraris, let me vouch for the merits of my homegirl in pink.

There seems to be this mentality that Barbie is some kind of materialistic flake whose superficiality makes her a bad role model for little girls. Au contraire, mes amies. The way I see it, Barbie is a lady who knows what she wants and works hard to get it. How do you think she’s afforded so many cars and mansions? She’s a career woman! I mean, she’s been a nurse, a doctor, a vet, a teacher, a beauty queen, a rock star, an aerobics instructor, a chef, a news anchor…I could go on, but really, we’d be here all day. The point is, she works hard. (Doesn’t anyone remember the motto, “We girls can do anything! Right, Barbie?”) It’s not like she’s ever gotten her money from some sugar daddy. I mean, does this guy look like he’s raking in the dough?

What does Ken even do for a living? I remember him being a ballet dancer at one point, but other than that, I never saw him as much of a breadwinner. If anything, Barbie’s had to juggle all of her jobs in order to support him – not to mention Skipper, Stacie, all of those other siblings and cousins who have appeared over the years, ten dogs, a few cats and a panda. Is it so wrong if she wants a little “me” time on the weekend to hang out at her very own surf shop or hot dog stand or record store? Can you blame her for wanting a dream house with an elevator and a car with a vanity in the trunk?

Not only does Barbie teach kids that they can grow up to be whatever they want to be, but she also incites creativity. As a child, I spent hours planning out Barbie’s adventures. She would go to work (insert field of the day here), then come home and pack for her cruise with Ken, where he would ultimately propose, she would accept, they’d be elated with joy, but then – gasp! –she’d catch him making out with Midge on the top deck, and they’d be forced to break up, taking the whole cruise back home without speaking. Then she’d flirt with Derek, and Ken would have to come up with some big elaborate scheme to win her back – but sorry, Ken, it was too late. She’d moved on. Silly as it may sound, I honestly believe that the years I spent with Barbie helped me to become a more imaginative (not to mention more fashionable) person. It’s certainly helped me as a writer, only now I call it “plot.”

And it’s not as if Barbie’s lived without struggles. Can you imagine how it would feel to lose all of your shoes because they don’t fit on your feet properly? Or what if you had to climb into your car from the top because none of the doors opened?

Here’s the thing: Kids know that Barbie’s not real. But she’s fun. And she makes them imagine, and she makes them dream. When we grow up, we don’t actually think that we’re going to get forty-seven mansions and sports cars in every color and a menagerie of wild animals and hot pink businesses of every kind with our name stamped on them – but it’s fun to think about, and when you’re a little kid, it’s pretty fun to have a miniature version of all that. So I say that there’s a good reason Barbie’s been around for over fifty years. She’s simply fabulous.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see if I know anyone who can install a vanity in the back of my Volkswagen.


  1. Hit the nail right on the thing, Steph!

    Barbie DEFINITELY helped shape me creatively. She provided an outlet for all the stories going on in my head to come out before I had the ability to write them down. And once I could write them down, she helped me figure out in what order everything should go, what would be going too far, etc.

    So what if her bust-to-waist ratio was way skewed? I didn't like Barbie because of what she looked like (though it was fun to dress her); I liked Barbie because she could be whatever I wanted her to be.

    My only regret about Barbie is that I had to stop playing with her because it got creepy. Oh, and also that I ever let my brother anywhere near my Ken doll with the swivel head. When he ripped his head off, my surgery left Ken with no neck. Poor no-neck Ken . . .

  2. Ha! This is great and, once again, so very true. I think the day that you opened your Barbie Burger King might be one of the best memories of my - er, your - childhood! The ice cream shop? Forget about it. Barbie was awesome! Mico was always my fave!