Wednesday, January 13, 2010

DAMage Report - When Barbie Was Bad

With eternally perky plastic breasts, a waspish waist, long blonde hair (usually) and no genitalia, she has been the iconic representation of perfect beauty and femininity for fifty years. But little miss perfect Barbie keeps getting her tight, silicon bootie in hot water. Located, ironically enoug h, near Silicon Valley, the One Of A Kind Barbies gallery has stirred up controversy over its displays of barbie sculptures. The gallery features the fashion doll and similar action figures in various works of art including ones with religious themes and ones with sexual overtones. Due to community outrage over seeing Barbie's nipple-less breasts and va-jay-jay-free groin bared in public display windows, the more potentially objectionable pieces are now displayed inside separate areas within LaVonne Sallee's new studio. 

In 2002 Barbie lost her lawsuit against another artist that outed her secret bondage fetish, when he created modified barbies in BDSM scenarios. The judge in the lawsuit rules that "The sale or display of `adult' dolls does not appear to be a use Mattel would likely develop or license others to develop," she said. The parody appears to pose no threat to sales of Barbie dolls and thus does not seem to violate the company's copyright, the judge concluded."

That pretty much made the doll fair game for creative parodies and use in artistic pieces - everything from barbie enchiladas to lesbian barbie vignettes to barbie threesomes. The unveiling of her secret slutty life was attacked with glee by an army of artists worldwide. 

The reason she is vilified, toyed with (heh) and manipulated by so many is because she has represented the ridiculous female stereotype of perfection  and repressed female sexuality for as long as she has been in existence. And that stereotype is alive and well in toy stores and homes across the globe.  (Ironic considering her prototype was inspired by a german hooker doll named Lilli.) 

The blonde, blue-eyed babe still symbolizes perfect beauty in the U.S. and many parts of the world. Go into any toy store and over 80% of the barbies on the shelves will be blonde. There are the smattering of token ethnic dolls - but they are such a minority that its hard to believe we're in 2010. And it isn't just ethnic dolls that are the minority.  I and several friends spent the month before christmas searching for a barbie with red hair. I had planned to make some gag gifts for friends... but none of us were able to locate a single redhead barbie in stores or online. (The exception being a very pricey collectible Mackey doll on auction.) It highlighted for me that the barbie icon is still kicking up her heels. 

Artists tend to be the myth-breakers, stereotype-busters and icon-smashers in society. Declare something taboo or sacred and you will find artists pouncing on it to use in their creative explorations. The sexless, anatomically incorrect barbie must die! Because in reality, every woman that once owned Miss Perky Boobs will tell you that barbie is a closet slut and has made out with not only GI Joe and Ken, but all her barbie girlfriends as well. Art destroys the facade of perfection and lays bare the truth - ain't nothing sacred in art or barbies. And you really, REALLY have to worry about people who are offended by nudity in dolls.

Reference News Story:

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