Thursday, September 11, 2008

Barbie mugshots

When I was a young girl in the 60s you were lucky to get one Barbie doll (or Midge, as in my case). And Barbies then were for "older girls"--not 3 year olds. Whose dad would've bought their daughter a Barbie for her 3rd birthday? No one's. Fast forward to the ever-increasing consumer lifestyles of the 80s. The 80s in Canada really entrenched the idea of buying too much of everything.

Barbara Kruger art

The motto "I Shop, Therefore I am" became cultural currency in the 80s. Many thought it funny -- a defining feature of their personalities -- and bought bumper stickers for their cars, or just threw the expression around like loose change, when if fact it is a pathological sickness of neoliberal capitalism that has resulted in terrible human, social and environmental costs.

Now, when my daughter was a young girl (late 80s) she had oodles of Barbies, despite that my husband and me never bought her any. But despite that we didn't approve of them, Barbies ended up scattered all over the living room floor, upstairs in our daughter's room; they were everywhere. Not only did our daughter receive a number of Barbies each birthday party, her paappa, my dad, used to buy her a Barbie just because. Especially he couldn't resist any Barbie that looked like a Princess, which was his nickname for our daughter. Further, not only did she not have to wait until she was 8 to get a Barbie, she was overloaded with Barbies at a very young age. However, she has only 3 Barbies left of her massive collection as we used to give them away to any young girl who came over. The 3 are forgotten, stuffed into an old pink Mickey Mouse suitcase in the garage.

My daughter, like other girls whose moms and dads didn't control their collection [i.e. these Barbies will never be collector's items as they are not in their original packaging, or original condition, and there are WAY TOO MANY of them, unlike the one-per-girl Barbies of the 60s], couldn't help but cut her Barbie's hair. Often her Barbies got a whole new look.

No only did she like cutting Barbie's hair, she liked trying out the application of make-up on her face. Afterwards, they looked decidedly unprincesslike.

Today Barbie has been branded to death; indeed Barbie is now a "total lifestyle brand...encompassing everything in a girl's world -- from clothing to furniture, cosmetics and electronics" . As part of their Think Pink promotion, Mattel is working hard at promoting "healthy" (Barbie stuff) lifestyles:

Seems the Mattel corp believes in girls. Believing in girls through Barbie candy rings? My daughter just bought this Think Pink junk in Duluth. Original sticker price $3.29, on sale for 25c. What a markup for sugar, corn syrup, artificial colours and artificial flavours and a plastic ring. Packaging and plastic. Made in China for Mattel. I wonder if they believe in the girls working in the factories in China, too?


Anonymous said...

Guess you don't have to be American to have the same philosophy! I have a 10 year old daughter and we are living Hanah Montana mania. I too am sick to death of the over marketing and everything being made in China. When is North America (all of it) going to wake up and stop importing crap! I was appalled to see alot of candies now being made in Asia.....geez, where are our children going to work? Good blog and great subject!

Enrique said...

Hi Taina, you pose a good question at the end, which I think the answer is pretty obvious: NO.
Thank you for dropping by Migrant Tales. I think people like yourself, who are Finnish Canadian, can contribute a lot to greater understanding between cultures.
You have a very nice blog. Did we meet in Thunder Bay?
Thanks again,

northshorewoman said...

yes, anonymous, consumer culture crosses all national boundaries! I guess the Hanah Montana mania is the "new and improved" Bratz doll mania, Spice Girls stuff, Cabbage Patch kids brouhaha and I'm sure there's a lot more "stuff" to recall - which should, btw, be recalled.

Enrique, yes we did meet in TBay. Rack your brains. I organized the lectures of Finnfling; you've got a photo of me in front of my art installation booth. Point is, you have a few "regulars" at your blog who will never budge from their narrow views. But it is too much energy to talk to ignorant people who believe themselves not only smart, but right. I prefer engagements with open minds, not closed. Good luck with opening their minds!!!