August 28, 2006

"Barbie is a very proper lady and she is not happy about being portrayed as something that she isn't."

"We are going to sue and we hope that this teaches people a lesson. Also, Barbie is 46 years old, she should be respected!" So said a spokesperson for Mattel, explaining why it's threatening to sue the Brazilian artist Karin Schwarz for her exhibit of photos depicting Barbie as a lesbian.

Isn't the whole point of a doll that you impose your imagination on it and play out the fantasies that are in your mind? It's inherent in the nature of dolls. How can Mattel now claim that Barbie somehow comes with restrictions? Or are they saying, do what you want in private, but don't display photographs recording how you chose to play with your dolls?

Go to Flickr and search for the tag "Barbie doll." Are you going to sue all these photographers? I'd link to some that I find especially delightful, but I'm afraid it might upset the photographer, so you'll have to explore over there on your own.

IN THE COMMENTS: Readers recommend other artistic works that use Barbie. And Michael Farris says:
This is fairly insane. Barbie and her friends have been used in sex role playing games by kids since they were invented.

What other earthly purpose does Barbie serve if not to fuel kids (half-baked and usually horribly, horribly wrong) ideas about sex?
Elizabeth says: "My childhood Barbies were oh so lesbian."

12 comments:

ignacio said...

It was either Todd Haynes or Todd Solondz who did a film featuring Barbie as Karen Carpenter...a film which was after gaining some notoriety effectively suppressed.

Sanjay said...

I would think in terms of respect, perhaps Barbie has been forced to live a lie by her corporate overlords too long....maybe they could part amicably, she following long suppressed desires, they hiring someone younger, more "edgy," to appeal to today's child...

Verification word, ucyicspf. Must be for the beach-going varieties.

Elizabeth said...

Since when is a lipstick lesbian not a "very proper lady"? The horror.

My childhood Barbies were oh so lesbian. I had some cowboys, too, and let's just say they predated Brokeback Mountain. Well, without the sex. (Do you think that will disappoint Jim?)

chuck b. said...

It was Todd Haynes and the short is called Superstar. Richard Carpenter threatened to sue for copyright infringement because Haynes used Carpenters music w/out permission in the soundtrack. Apparently you can download the film here.

Palladian said...

The dolls in "Superstar" are heavily altered. You should watch "Superstar", it's the best thing Todd Haynes has done aside from "Safe" (forget the dreadful "Velvet Goldmine" and "Far From Heaven").

Johnny Nucleo said...

Has anyone read any A.M. Homes? She has a story involving Barbie.

"The Safety of Objects," is not that good, but her novel, "Music For Torching," is. (It has a fantastic lesbian scene!)

I warn you middle-class folk out there who may buy the book just for the lesbian scene: Other than the lesbian scene, the book is very disturbing.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll reciprocate by recommending John Varley's short story, "The Barbie Murders," a tricky bit of identity politics. I love his humor and dark twists.

Michael Farris said...

This is fairly insane. Barbie and her friends have been used in sex role playing games by kids since they were invented.

What other earthly purpose does Barbie serve if not to fuel kids (half-baked and usually horribly, horribly wrong) ideas about sex?

The Mechanical Eye said...

This wouldn't be Barbie's first foray into copyright law and the fair use defense, see Mattel Inc. v. Walking Mountain Productions. Mattel is no doubt hoping it'll have better luck protecting Barbie's image in Brazil than in the 9th circuit.

Also notice the annoying PR conceit of talking about Barbie as if she were real - I believe they do the same thing for Ronald McDonald for press releases.

Sarah Louise Parry said...

I wrote a reply to this terrible story on my blog, 'Diary Of Barbie's Worst Enemy' yesterday, expressing how I feel appauled that Mattel have reacted to the 'lesbian' label as if it is a dirty word.

Whatever happened to freedom of expression, too? Is it dead and buried? Only I believe that once the customer has bought the doll, surely it is up to them once they have purchased the product over the counter how they individually perceive it?

Whoever said that Barbie was a symbol for skinny, white, male-serving, heterosexual idealism hit the sexist nail on the head!

tcd said...

Didn't Mattel restyle Ken to be a metrosexual a couple of years ago? Maybe Barbie got tired of his constant primping and preening and decided to get some satisfaction elsewhere?

Steven said...

Nah, Barbie isn't a lesbian.

She's a bisexual pedophilic zoophilic orgiast. Why else would she be in contorted positions, naked, in the toybox with Ken, her sister Skipper, and My Little Pony?