If Debbie did Dallas, can Barbie do diversity?
Last month in politically correct absurdity, Barbie took front and center stage in the news, sparking social media controversy, when Mattel announced its plans to release a new line of the iconic 57 year old doll. According to media reports, the infamous doll is about to be transformed with three new bodies: petite, tall and curvy. (I can't help but wonder what sort of intensive Krispy Kreme diet an already anorexic bonerack in boots would have to undertake in order to actually attain a petite stature but hey... who am I to question the irrationality of corporate marketing strategy.) In addition to the three new body styles, the new models are available in 7 different skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 hair styles. I was extremely disappointed when, after visiting Mattel's online store at shop.mattel.com, I was unable to design a custom Barbie, tailored to my notions of true diversity: a rubenesque ebony-skinned gal with pink bunny-eyes sporting long carrot coloured Rastafarian dreadlocks. Not surprisingly, the Mattel notion of a diverse Barbie is about as far from reality as a hawk's arse is from the moon.
Although, until recently, Barbie might have been somewhat restricted in her physical appearance, she had, at her disposal, an extensive variety in both wardrobe and accessories from which to choose. Moreover, her costumes were frequently tied to an array of varied careers. The doll morphed (I dare not say evolved) from Barbie the Big-Busted Bikini Babe Fashion Model (1959) to Nurse Barbie (1961), Stewardess Barbie (1964), Cheerleader Barbie (1973), McDonald's Cashier Barbie (1983), Life Guard Barbie (1994), Firefighter Barbie (1995), Paratrooper Barbie (2000) and even an RCMP Barbie (2005). Anyone who actually gives a shit about any of the other numerous vocations the scrawny ho pursued can refer to the more comprehensive list on the Barbie's Careers Wiki page.
Changing Barbie's hair colour or style, her skin tone or body size does not make Barbie more diverse. You can put a pretty dress on a pig, but it's still a pig in a pretty dress. In other words, Barbie's sterile nature endures despite the manufacturer's modest changes to her physical appearance. Mercifully, my penchant for irreverence, or a ride on any #14 Ottawa city bus through Vanier on a Saturday night, could offer Mattel all the ideas they'd ever need for making Barbie truly diverse.
Domestic Abuse Barbie should likely appear in any serious attempt in diversifying the doll. I'm not exactly sure what sort of special concealer cream she'd need to cover up the unwarranted battery, but I'm thinking she should be equipped with far more important tools than those which address the cosmetic. A viable escape plan to evade her abuser, access to a woman's shelter or woman's support services group and, if all else fails, a revolver. Naturally, the ensemble would not be complete without a court issued restraining order. Ken, not surprisingly, would be shipped with a 12-pack of wife-beating juice. I have little doubt that legions of FemiNazi's would have me hung by the scrotum for even suggesting such a notion however, in my defence, I'd argue that if little girls were taught that they didn't have to put up with the shit that some assholes dealt out then, perhaps, the balance of men wouldn't have to bear the cross of the minority.
Fashioned on any of the multitude of entrepreneurial gals who work the Hastings Street strip of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Crackhead Barbie will be the de rigeuer doll of the inner city. Despite her marginalized appearance, Crackhead Barbie would feature voice-activated AI technology facilitating interactive voice communication. Her vocabulary is augmented to include street vernacular with expressions such as "Got any rock?", "Hey baby, looking for a date?" and "You're not five-o, are you?" Crackhead Barbie's ensemble includes tawdry wearables, pumps, coloured condoms, a crackpipe and lighter. Optional Drug Dealer Ken, Pimp Ken or Rehab Councillor Ken available separately. (Not available in Saudi Arabia, Yeman, Oman, the United Arab Emirates or the State of Utah.)
No serious attempt at Barbie diversification could be complete without introducing Islamic Barbie. Tailored to encompass a variety of cultural mores, Islamic Barbie's ensemble includes a burqa, two solid coloured niqabs and a half dozen multi-coloured hijabs. Undoubtedly, a plethora of third-party accessories reinforcing negative stereotypes (produced by independents and not sanctioned by the authentic manufacturer) will appear in the market for which there will be a modest demand. I suspect such accessories might include conspicious vests and belts with protruding wires and bulges or small bags of stones to address Barbie's indiscretions in honour. Islamic Barbie's consort will, of course, be renamed Mustafa and he will be shipped with an accompanying prayer mat.
Featuring undulating pelvic thrusts synced to the Bom Chika Wow Wow soundtrack that blast from the on-stage speakers of the accompanying titty-bar playset, Peeler Barbie represents the most spirited version of my envisioned diverse Barbies. Also included in the ensemble are a variety of thongs, lingerie, pumps, dance stool and a brass pole. Peeler Barbie may also be accompanied by DJ Ken, who spins the vinyl from the stage side sound control booth.
The very suggestion that changing Barbie's hair or eye colour, adding some skin pigmentation or putting a few pounds on her emaciated skeleton somehow makes her more diverse is absolutely absurd. Despite Mattel's objective, Barbie is still the same silver-spooned bint living in a world of sweet and light. A diverse Barbie is not a brown-eyed doctor, a full-figured doctor or an Asian doctor. She's an abused woman, an Islamic woman, an addict or an exotic dancer. She may even be a sociopath and she may live next door.
Submitted by Bob Shurunkel, 28 February 2016