Barbie – A Complex American Icon Essay examples

As a young girl, I was not very interested in playing with baby dolls. I preferred playing with my many stuffed animals or the only doll I did like—Barbie. With my animals, usually I was rescuing them from some horrible disaster such as a flood or a forest fire. I was their heroic savior and benevolent protector. But with Barbie this was decidedly not the case. Sometimes my Barbie did normal Barbie things, such as get dressed up for an exciting date with Ken or go shopping with her little sister, Skipper. More often, however, I subjected Barbie to strange, sadistic acts of my imagination. Frequently Barbie, in her pink dune buggy, would have tragic head-on collisions with my brother’s dump truck, or the brakes would suddenly go out on her pink Barbie scooter, sending her careening off a steep mountain cliff. Barbie also had the unfortunate tendency to be sucked from her Barbie plane by her lovely long blonde hair while flying at 30,000 feet. Since in every other way I was a normal child, psychoanalysts might interpret my play patterns with Barbie as childlike manifestation of women’s frustrations at the disparate images popular culture presents for women. Most women I know also experience this love/hate feeling towards Barbie and the mixed messages she represents, especially when their daughters start begging for Barbies of their own. While mothers do not want to encourage the unrealistic beauty expectations that Barbie represents, they also fondly remember Barbie as their own favorite toy. These many women, and their daughters, have made Barbie the most successful toy for girls since 1959, despite Barbie’s many contradictions. Barbie embodies American popular culture’s attempt to respond to women’s changing roles in the era since…

… “Barbie is a Million-Dollar Doll,” The Saturday Evening Post, December 12, 1964, 72.

23 Douglas, 24.

24 “All’s Swell at Mattel,” Time, October 26, 1962, 90.

25 “It’s not the Doll it’s the Clothes,” Business Week, December 16, 1961, 48.

26 Cleo Shupp, “Little Girls are too Sexy too Soon,” Saturday Evening Post, June 29, 1963, 12.

27 Zinsser, 73.

28 “The Barbie-Doll Set,” Nation, April 27, 1964, 407.

29 Donovan Bess, “The Menace of the Barbie Dolls,” Ramparts, January 25, 1969, 25.

30 quoted in Bess, 26.

31 Letty Pogrebin, “Toys: Bad News/Good News,” Ms., December 1975, 60.

32 Douglas, 27.

33 Douglas, 25.

34 “Zeitgeist Barbie,” Harper’s Magazine, August 1990, 20.

35 Helen Cordes, “What a Doll!,” Utne Reader, March/April 1992, 46.

36 taken from December 2004 Toys R Us, Wal Mart, Target, and K-Mart advertisements.

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