Mad about Barbie

I hate Barbie. I really do. I won’t allow them in my house. And, yes, I know, they’re not as whorish as they once were. I know the talking ones no longer say, “Math is hard.” I hear they’ve even got an astronaut Barbie now. Of course, she’s still got those signature triple-D breasts, the make-up of an aging Russian prostitute, and a neon pink space suit. They can make superficial changes around the periphery (“Hey, let’s have her be a blond, big-breasted computer technician this holiday season”), but the central message is still the same. Women are commodities to be painted, dressed up and sold. And it’s not a message I want anywhere near my not-so-blond, still-confident daughter. Anyway, with all that said, I think the folks at Mattel did something interesting today, when they announced that they would be issuing a limited edition series of Mad Men Barbies.

Here’s a clip from Media Bistro:

…The New York Times reports that there will be 7,000 to 10,000 copies made of each $75 doll, which together are part of Mattel’s premium-price collector’s series called Barbie Fashion Model Collection. While the Mad Men figures won’t come with the usual accoutrements like cigarettes, ashtrays or martini glasses, it’s still baffling how this grown-folks show has become so embraced by kid-focused brands…

When I first heard the news, to be honest, I was kind of impressed. I guess the business part of my brain appreciated the beauty of bringing these two complimentary, yet very different, brands together in order to separate more people from their cash. But, the more I thought about it, and discussed it with Linette, the more I realized that, at least for me, it started to make me dislike Mad Men more. It’s as though the Barbie deal kind of validated the worst elements of the show.

Mad Men has always had sexism at its core, but it was a laughable kind of sexism. And the show was able to redeem itself by showing women that were bright, quick witted, and, in most cases, able to accomplish their goals in spite of the men, who were circling them like sharks. Boiling the characters down to plastic icons, kind of puts things in perspective, though. It strips away the veneer of clever writing, and acknowledges the underlying premise – that women are little more than sex objects to be pursued… It’s as though the battle of the sexes has been fought, between the early 1960’s of Mad Men and today, and Barbie has won out.


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  1. Lacy
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I hear you on Barbie and Mad Men. But why is it Barbie hate relatively common but nobody seems to be voicing similar concerns about the equally unrealistic body stereotypes of of the molded mass of plastic men?

    I have my guesses, but no real answer. But it seems like equality has to mean addressing false body images across the gender lines. Barbie is half of the equation. Just something to chew on.

  2. Posted March 11, 2010 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Mark, thank you for saying something about Mad Men. Whenever I hear someone raving about the show, I wonder if a) they are able to overlook the rampant sexism or b) they kinda dig those “good ol’ days” when a man could fondle a woman against her will without fear of reprisal from the law. I know that some folks just like to see people drinking and smoking with abandon–and I can feel that–but the few episodes I’ve seen have made me uncomfortable in ways that I can’t explain. Maybe part of it is that I am sure that there are at least some folks in the audience who ARE watching the harassment, nodding and saying, “Right on.”
    As for Barbie, I played with Barbies as a kid–had all of the accoutrements like the Dream House, Corvette and such–and I don’t know if it affected me or not. But I will say that I was the only girl with very very dark brown hair in my class. Everyone had blond hair or lighter brown hair or red hair. Every doll had bright blond hair. And I do remember taking yellow crayons and trying to color my hair to make it yellow (dude, I was 5!). If they would just make a brunette (may I suggest one of Eastern European Jewish and Irish descent, proportioned to be about a size 10/12 and stunningly smart and gorgeous and answers to the name of Patti?) and make her normal looking, I could get on board with the whole Barbie thing. But then the question is–would girls want to play with a doll so less than perfect? More things to chew on.

  3. Steph's Dad
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 6:50 am | Permalink


    If the Ken dolls had penises, and they were hung like mules, believe me, there would be a lot more complaining from men.

  4. Meta
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Some Barbies can be alright. See the Barbie Liberation Organization:

  5. Jules
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I agree with you and Linette wholeheartedly about not having Barbies in the house. I felt the same way when Sofie was little. I had bad feelings about how Barbie made me feel about my body when I was a girl. Instead, I bought her a “Happy to Be Me” doll. Here’s a pic and a pretty good description of it.
    Thing is she was just never a doll kind of girl. Eventually, Miss Happy to Be Me was donated away.
    Though, I was more of a fan of Mad Men the first two seasons, something always felt off and unfinished about the series. Some episodes had such weirdly abrupt scene changes and endings. We watched it because we really dug the look but never really felt it was great. Not even close. But the last couple of seasons have really stunk. It really started to lose it’s appeal for me after I saw the Jon Hamm skit on SNL, where they mocked the way every woman wants to screw Don Draper the instant they see him. I realized that it was barely parody.
    Btw, Mark, have you ever watched Breaking Bad on AMC? Now, that is brilliance. Absolute breathtaking brilliance on all counts. The plot and character development are incredible. The acting is perfection, Bryan Cranston and company continually amaze me. Sam and I watched the finale from last season last night, just to get ourselves back up to speed and now, I cannot wait for next Sunday night’s season opener.

  6. Christine M
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I have wondered what people younger than myself (43) think of a show like Mad Men. Do they iconize it? What is the attraction?

  7. D
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    The Mad Men / Barbie tie-in reminded of this article
    describing the double-platinum song that eventually
    was revealed to have been *commissioned* by Wrigley.

  8. Alice
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I like to pop their heads off and smoke them. It’s intense. You just kind of balance the head on the intake of a bong, and light it up. There’s a wild purple smoke.

  9. dragon
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    My daughter Eva always loved playing with her Klaus Barbie, ‘The Butcher of Malibu’.

  10. Curt Waugh
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Mark, have you ever had to confront someone who was trying to enter your house with a Barbie? I’m honestly curious if you’ve ever had to actively enforce your ban and, if so, how it was received. (Full disclosure: We have Barbies, but would totally respect your ban.)

  11. Lacy
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Point taken, Steph’s Dad!

  12. Posted March 13, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I grew up as a boy knowing that Barbie was evil, particularly because she did not have “natural” legs and armpits and I lived in Berkeley. (Let’s all pause a moment to do the Oppressor! dance.) Then when my Clementine got a Barbie I wondered what the big deal was. I mean, I know she used to be different and that her proportions (mainly height and skinny legs) are way off but really, my daughter’s other dolls have unrealistically huge heads or giant hair. One leaks from its neck! I avoid the Barbie movies/cartoons, and find that it’s the tv cartoons featuring girls that are far more horrible than anything a plastic doll will do to my daughter.

  13. Amanda
    Posted March 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I was allowed to have Barbies once I was mature/old enough to have a real conversation about what was wrong with them and what their societal implications were… I can’t remember how old I was– I think maybe 8? I was also not allowed to watch Disney, because of the violence and sexism that’s so easily looked over. I think I find Disney more offensive than Barbie in some ways.

  14. Posted March 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    My sister and I had a ton of Barbies and her accessories as kids. I don’t remember being intimidated by them or feeling like they had much influence on how we saw ourselves. But we also used to wipe their painted faces off with nail polish remover and draw on new ones, and cut her hair so it was like a buzz cut. And our storylines revolved around things like Ken’s “brain worms” and Skipper getting kidnapped.

  15. Posted March 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I guess if there were only one kind of toy in the world, and it was Barbie, I’d consider letting Clementine have one. Fortunately, though, we live in a world where there are still some options. Still, though, I do appreciate your comments. I’ve got lots of wonderful friends that don’t see it as a big deal, and I don’t fault them for it. I just choose not to have the blond whore in my house.

  16. Posted March 13, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    I used to cut myself because I wasn’t a huge blond muscle-bound guy with a magic sword riding a green and purple tiger.

  17. Mr.SwettyBallz
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Stretch Armstrong had a forty-two inch cock. I felt so inadequate when I was in his presence. I also didn’t ooze gooey green shit from my arms when the older kids ripped them out of their sockets. But Stretch was a friendly guy, so he was OK with me. Besides, abundance is reassuring.
    I don’t watch much TV anymore, so I don’t know Mad Men, but a few days ago, I was surfing and saw Whatshername, the little blond “singer” who played Daisy Duke in the movie and who was married to Nick Lachey. She was on The View. She had a problem that can only be described as “mono breast”. Poor thing, it was like one humungous hot water bottle about two feet too high for her bellyache.
    It seems like all the young black guys I know are just crazy over the blond Barbie type girls. I’ve never been into it myself. In fact, my cousins and I back on the farm always said, “The darker the berry…”
    Studies show that redheads have more fun anyway. Rita Hayworth, now she was something.

  18. Lena
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    There should be a toy for boys with a super-giant cock, to make them feel inadequate. As there’s no getting rid of Barbie, it would at least level the playing field. It could be called something like “Big Jim” (the doll, not the cock itself), and the government should subsidize its manufacture and distribution. Maybe he could be a lumberjack, and his cock should hang to his knees, and have the circumference of 40-ounce beer bottle.

  19. Mr.SwettyBallz
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Big Jim could double as a sex toy.
    That would more than level the playing field.

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