Monday, September 17, 2012

The Barbie Conundrum

For her birthday my stepmom got one of these.
Le Halloween Barbie
Now, what you need to understand is that my stepmom is not one of these:

I hope they swabbed down the boardwalk after this shot...
Which begs the question -- what does she want with a Barbie in the first place?  Now, in full disclosure, the Barbie was a gift from a childhood friend who remembered how much my stepmom loved the Barbies that they used to play with together.  

Clearly, having avoided Real-Housewife-itis, my stepmom seems to have turned out okay.  But there are so many things for girls to get hung up on as they grow up and mature.  I can only imagine what you might feel like if the model of womanhood you targeted during your formative years was a six-foot-tall blonde bombshell.

Now, given genetics, our daughter has more than a fighting chance at being tall, and she could always get blonde from a bottle, but why induct a child into that line of thinking so soon?

I remember, probably 16 years ago now, I was sitting on the couch watching television with my grandfather and Arnold Schwarzenegger came on the screen.  My grandfather turned to me and said, "you know, if you put some time in, you could look like that too."

Yup.  Totally attainable.  And I, at that age, thought this guy was getting ripped without the aid of HGH and other nefarious substances.

So why put a toy in the hand of a little girl that might make her feel compelled to look like this:

Yes.  The girl in the picture above is real(ish).  Whether there's Photoshop involved and/or vast amounts of plastic (LULZ) surgery is neither confirmed nor denied.  But in the entire world, how many people look like the girl above?  According to the local news affiliates, most people look like this:

Generic below-the-neck obese people shot.

I remember a year ago there was a story about a young woman who took the Barbie mythos and turned it on its head.  She took the proportions of a Barbie and  made them into a real life representation.  The results, besides being funny were pretty telling:

Get Real Barbie 
The young artist (pictured above with her monstrosity creation) suffered from body dysmorphia and a year-long bout with anorexia.  The doll, whose measurements come in at 6' tall, sporting a 39" bust and an 18" waist is clearly cartoonish and grotesque.  For basis of comparison, this lady -- 

Norma Jeane Mortenson
Marilyn Monroe
was 5'5", and 36-23-37.  

Now, before the nerds/contrarians in my readership come out with the "correlation is not causation" argument, I'll apply it first.

Barbie does not cause body dysmorphia or create eating disorders firsthand.  

But she doesn't exactly help.

I know I'm overthinking this.  I get it.  Just because a little girl plays with a plastic Barbie doll doesn't mean she's going to grow up with low self-esteem and dissatisfied with how she looks.

But it does make you wonder about how impressionable a child is.  Something my grandfather said to me in passing when I was barely a teen stuck with me into my thirties.  

I'd probably feel better about the whole thing if I knew for a fact that this lady had played with Barbie:

While this one

She's 26 years old, people.  Think about it.

did not.

But I'm pretty certain that's not the case.

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