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Sybil Adelman Sage

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Mattel's Prognosis: No Chemo Barbie

Posted: 01/12/12 04:13 PM ET

Mattel, who's been manufacturing thin, shapely, obviously carb-free, Barbie for over 50 years, was recently approached by two girls who'd had cancer, urging the company to introduce, "Beautiful and Bald Barbie," with the hope that the doll will help raise awareness for children with cancer and other conditions that cause hair loss. The company responded with a form letter stating they do not accept ideas from outside.

Barbie's interpretations have ranged from stewardess to school teacher. She's been dressed in a bridal gown, graduation gown and ball gown designed by Bob Mackie. She has been made to look like Grace Kelly, Lucille Ball, Goldie Hawn and the women in "Mad Men." No, there was never a Maude Barbie or even a Gloria Steinem Barbie. Regardless of costume, most Barbies look as if they're going to grow up to marry a Republican. To be fair, Mattel did make a few bold departures, putting Barbie in a wheelchair, making her pregnant (condom-free Ken?) and another was tattooed. One Barbie comes with a video camera and water bottle (though she doesn't work for cable news and isn't going into war zones). The Barbie we know is transported in a limo, not embedded with the military. No Barbie has tenure at a major university.

Mattel's, "That's our policy," is an unsatisfying dismissal, common when a company's position is unreasonable and indefensible. Though only 11.5 inches, Barbie has sustained herself for half a century, yet the attempt to appeal to the Sustainable Green movement with Green Barbie fell flat, largely because of the amount of plastic involved in the doll and its packaging. If all the Barbies were laid end to end, they would circle the earth seven times.

The Facebook page, "Beautiful and Bald Barbie," is gaining traction. I propose that we virtually Occupy Mattel by adding our voices to this page. We can expand and suggest other images that reflect issues currently confronting women. Without pressure to create a line of Get Real Barbies, the company is likely to stay on course. We are in danger of their adding Political Barbie with hair outshining all previous versions, holding a Bible or stumping for Ken. Regardless of how many hair stylists would be employed, I doubt that anyone is designing pant suits for Hillary Clinton Barbie. And I'm similarly convinced nobody is working on a robe for Ruth Bader Ginsberg Barbie.

I hope you will add others, but here are some concepts Mattel might consider:

  • Cum Laude Barbie, complete with thesis and unpaid internship, back in her old bedroom
  • Bullied Barbie, with print-outs of online taunts from classmates
  • Bulimic Barbie, packed with several barf bags, influenced by unrealistically skinny dolls and actresses
  • Trafficked Barbie, whose passport has been taken from her
  • Food Stamp Barbie, her shopping cart filled with generic products
  • Downsized Barbie with pink slip and Cobra application
  • Fucked in Park Slope Barbie with a double stroller
 

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