Come on, Barbie! Let’s Geeky Party!
Welcome to WWAC Game Section’s summer Barbie series. These months are often the time that children are free from commitments, away from their friends, and ready to let their imaginations take over. For many of us that meant playing with Barbies, and over the next few weeks you’ll see the many different ways Barbies affected us. Enjoy!
I’ve never been much of a Barbie-ist. As a child, I was more excited by trying to capture the tiny flying hamburger that I was convinced lived in our apartment complex. All of my Barbie dolls were gifts or prizes, and my few forays into Barbie play were usually met with my mother’s dismay. I was forbidden from taking my Barbies into the bathroom after she discovered me playing “pool” with them on the edge of the open toilet. Real-hair Ken totally needed a hot tub!
There were also incidents of hair cutting, hair washing, tattooing, and general tomfoolery that left my gifted Barbies looking like proto-survivors from a Mad Max movie. Then there was the crocheted clothes phase. A distant relative began sending me packages of tiny, exquisitely crocheted, but shapeless doll garments. Newscaster Barbie went to her first day of work on her pink broadcast set wearing a bulky beanie, a too wide and too short garish sweater, and pastel green bell bottoms. Perfection!
While I was a really bad Barbie-ist in the traditional sense, one could say that I was really good at making that prepackaged, prescribed doll conform to my own terms. While researching Barbie dolls for this list, I was very surprised. There has been a lot more imagination jammed into the Barbie universe since I won a fancy Barbie sporting a pole on her head that facilitated elaborate up-dos at a Halloween costume contest. (I swear this existed even though the Internet doesn’t seem to think so at this moment.)
There are now enormous numbers of Barbies to commemorate various celebrities, films, TV shows, and Americana moments. However, there is still a pretty big lack of diversity overall. Newer dolls are often available in versions dubbed “African American,” “Asian,” and “Hispanic.” The lack of a “Caucasian” signifier on a white Barbie gives this gesture an icky air of tokenism. If Mattel can produce the Barbies on this list, they can surely add more meaningfully diverse dolls to their line-up!