Get real, Ken!

Published March 17, 1993|Updated Oct. 9, 2005

Some disturbing news has come to my attention.

It has to do with Ken.

You remember Ken. Barbie's main squeeze. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Doesn't say much. Usually wears tuxedos, football uniforms, that sort of thing.

At least, he used to.

The Mattel Toy Co. is quietly filling toy store shelves with "new" Kens. These include Sun Sensation Ken, who sports a gold mesh tank top and neon green Lycra shorts.

He is not to be confused with Glitter Beach Ken, who has streaked hair and wears a purple tank top and a pair of high voltage aqua/purple/hot pink shorts sprinkled with glitter. The Glitmeister also comes with a pink surfer medallion.

Oh, and due out any day now is Earring Magic Ken. Guess what he's wearing?

First, let me say that I feel for the new Kens because I know that late at night, when no one's in the store, the G.I. Joes climb out of their boxes and taunt the new Kens. Maybe even rough them up a little.

I also know that many people like the new Kens. Especially the people at Mattel.

"Ken's still a clean-cut guy," a Mattel spokeswoman explained recently. "He's just a little more contemporary. Men are wearing earrings today. It's become a mainstream phenomenon. So Ken should have an earring, why not?"

Why? I'll tell you why.

Do you know any real person who even remotely resembles the standard Ken? Dan Quayle and noted game show host Wink Martindale come close _ especially the hair. But they are taller. I think.

No, if Ken resembles anyone, it's Barbie. Cut her hair, give her some steroids and gym time, and you've got

the K-man.

As for the accessories, I have no problem with men wearing earrings, and if they want to go out in public dressed like a bad acid trip, well, that's their business.

But those names! Who spent 10 seconds thinking about this? If somebody referred to me as Glitter Beach Tom or Earring Magic Tom, I'd sue for slander and then introduce them to my new doll, Knuckle Sandwich Ken.

The point is this.

Little girls of America need to know that most of us are not and never have been like Ken. In reality, we have bad haircuts, we're a little overweight, we wear the same goofy clothes until they disintegrate, and our biggest concerns are paying the bills, growing old and wondering how we'll retrieve that hairy fork we dropped down the bathtub drain when we tried to unclog it.

In reality, most of us aren't very glamorous or flamboyant.

We don't want to be glamorous or flamboyant. We can't even spell glamorous or flamboyant.

The trouble is Ken has to be glamorous and flamboyant to sell, which is why you don't see Appliance Salesman Ken, Roofer Ken, Laid-Off Ken or (shudder) Newspaper Reporter Ken.

This has nothing to do with sexuality, although some people rush to make that connection.

"Ken's not gay; everyone knows that. It's G.I. Joe I'm not sure about," jewelry designer David Spada, the man who came up with Freedom Ring gay-pride pendants, told the Associated Press recently. "Ken just proves that wearing earrings is a completely acceptable fashion statement today. It's part of the complete '90s statement."

Not to me, bub. But to test a little girl's reaction to Glitter Beach Ken ($6), I recently presented a "new" Ken to an actual little girl _ my 5{-year-old daughter, Katie.

Her eyes lit up, and she immediately took the doll out of the box and introduced it to Barbie.

I attribute her confused reaction to a slick marketing campaign by Mattel, peer pressure, and the fact that The World Is Going To Hell In A Handbasket!

Oh, I suppose it could be worse. Actually, I know it's worse.

A French toy company, BillyBoy Toys, has introduced a pair of male dolls called Rhogit-Rhogit and Zhdrick that make Earring Magic Ken look like David Brinkley. I cannot show you the dolls because this is a family newspaper, but here's how the catalog describes the pair:

"Elegant, intellectual and extremely sexy, Rhogit-Rhogit will seduce you with his male prowess, his animal sexuality, his vision and his depth. He feels equally comfortable in butch, tough boy clothes as he does in the most avant-garde French and Italian designer clothes."

As for Zhdrick, he "devours 18th-century French literature and is, perhaps, the most sophisticated, sensual and provocatively sexual doll ever made."

Anyway, Rhogit-Rhogit and the equally debonair Zhdrick come with wigs, lassos, boots, pipes, wallets, underwear, top hats and _ get this _ condoms. The "basic stud" doll, which comes with one outfit and a condom, costs about $1,000.

(To order the catalog, write to BillyBoy Toys, 3 rue Troyon, Paris, France 75017. The telephone number is 011-33-1-42-81-00-87.)

Wait. This gets worse. Thuggie dolls should be out, presumably on parole, by Christmas.

Thuggies are juvenile delinquent dolls, the brainchildren of Carolyn Clark and Rennie Resmini, two ex-social workers from Philadelphia.

Each Thuggie doll comes boxed in a prison cell with a rap sheet and a little rehab list so the kiddies can learn how the doll broke the law and what his punishment was.

"Society is changing," Clark told a reporter recently. "Our dolls address that fact."

The dolls also have clever names, such as Tyrone Troublemaker, alias "Subway Stinker," who was apprehended for purse snatching. There's also Motorcycle Meany, Calvin Carcrook, Danny Doper, Dwight Collared Grimes (alias Mikey Milk 'em), and R.U. Insane alias "Spoily Oily" which, early reports say, looks amazingly like Saddam Hussein.

Suddenly, Earring Magic Ken doesn't seem so bad.

If they could just give him a pickup truck and some power tools. . .