Happy Birthday, Babs
I’ve never understood the controversies that always surround Barbie. And there do seem to be myriad bizarre complaints.
In the beginning, no one seemed to be happy with her career choices -- she went from Stewardess Barbie to Pilot -- Nurse to Doctor -- Playboy bunny to Veterinarian -- it seemed she just couldn’t win.
Then there was the hullabaloo when some weirdo extrapolated this plastic doll’s measurements to real human numbers and came up with Barbie’s figure to be in the neighborhood of 42-18-34 or some such ridiculous thing. Mattel then enlarged her waist (stocked the Barbie Dream House with cheeseburgers and Snickers I guess) by 2 imaginary inches in 1992 to combat the criticism. Apparently, women would suddenly have a realistic body image after this millimeter change. As if our double X-chromosome and Calvin Klein had nothing to do with it. I did notice that such experts were not spending grant money on Stretch Armstrong’s unrealistic pectorals or speculating whether a Cabbage Patch Kids could menstruate. Um, ew.
But as a child who played with Barbie’s often, my memories don’t include any of the problems the social experts feared for me. “Pilot Barbie” was a captain for about 30 seconds in the box before my imagination put her into other exciting roles like Teacher Barbie or Queen of the Universe. The only time I was frustrated over her measurements was when I couldn’t get her sequined Jordache jeans over her hips without catching them on her plastic pelvis or keeping high heels on her feet and not in the vacuum cleaner.
And while I grew up with the same body image issues as every other female in the free world, I can honestly say I don’t believe Barbie was the cause or even a contributing factor. Neither me nor any of my well-adjusted friends painted our houses pink nor sought measurements that resembled an NHL season record. (In my pop culture recollection, there have only been a handful of such people who made the talk show circuit in the early 90’s, and I think they really just wanted to meet Sally Jessy Raphael.)
No, for me and my playmates, Barbie didn’t say all of the things the critics put into her smiling, but silent mouth. She was a toy that was defined not by her box, but by our imaginations on any given day.
You’ll now qualify for lower insurance on your Corvette.
[Photos: Times Files]