Monday, March 9, 2009

AARP Welcomes It's Newest Member

Happy Birthday Barbie! Our blond bombshell turns 50 today. Fifty has never looked so fabulous and the fact that the only shoe she sports is the high heel makes her a super star fashionista in my book.

I can't think of another toy that has evoked more negative juju from parents than our fave blond.
Why? Was it the objectification of the female form? Could it be the marketing or is it her choice of footwear?

Growing up I loved my Barbies. In my creative play they lived interesting lives as they traveled the world in their fabulous footwear always well coiffed. Fast forward into the 21st century, where Barbie's play on their own laptops, have their own cell phones and sport pierced ears.

The mystic of our birthday girl has been clouded by the popular and politically correct American Girl Doll that is a perky part of girls lives due in part to the marketing merchandising which includes a matching clothing line and accessories for little girls. How does that foster individualism? Barbie provided young girls who are now Baby Boomer adults an alternative to baby dolls and their domestic overtones.

Part of Barbie's appeal is that she has always had her highly arched foot in two worlds.

While praised for representing an independent, adventurous female, she has long been targeted by feminists who say she portrays women as sex objects. Barbie's unrealistic body, damaging to young girls who might struggle with body image and self-esteem issues? I don't perennially embrace that, but then again I am still a size six....(good genetics) but assemble a group of women together and inevitably the discussion of Barbie turns into a heated argument as parental hysteria knows no bounds.

Created by Ruth Handler 14 years after she and her husband Elliot started the toy company Mattel Creations, sales of Barbie reached 300,000 the first year. Introduced at a toy fair in New York City on March 9, 1959 as a teenage fashion model, Barbie, whose full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts, cost $3. Barbie was at once an instant rage and outrage.

Not to be outdone by American Girl, Mattel has opened a six-story flagship store in my fave of all fave cities: Shanghai. House of Barbie features a restaurant, spa and runway where girls can pretend to be fashion models. Horrified? Try to relax.... know that your attitude toward Barbie is what your children will emulate. Those Bratz dolls are aptly named and okay to play with?

With the present day pop tarts Britney Spears and Paris Hilton as well as celebrity magazines and TV shows full of train wrecks as role models Barbie seems rather tame. I wonder if a marketing study might show the necessity for Burka Barbie or lap dance Barbie -would this help with political correctness? Maybe not. Nice collectible.

The funny thing about emulation is how pervasive it is, especially in our own tony enclave where peroxide pony tails rein.

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