Come on, Barbie, Light My Fire

Born March 9, 1959, the same year that graced us with Stephen Patrick Morrissey, another fantastical cultural icon,  the toy everyone loves to hate came into being. I have to admit, as a young girl, I was an avid Barbie enthusiast . I loved my Barbie Miko doll, the Hawaiian counterpart to our mainstream Euro Am heroine. Blessed enough to have the Barbie Doll Townhouse with pulley elevator, I fashioned a custom-built bay window for Miko’s living room, complete with a nook to sit and read in cushioned comfort. My Townhouse had an extended kitchen with a mini fridge and a regular-sized Barbie fridge. Miko and her friends enjoyed evenings in the Barbie hand-pumped spa, where I was once horrified to find a huge, grotesque beetle of palm-sized proportion. Sometimes my Barbies enjoyed a little California sun and fresh air in the cul-de-sac outside my house when Miko and Ken went out for a drive in Miko’s battery-powered convertible Corvette.

Yes, Barbie perpetuates an unrealistic and therefore dangerous image for young girls. Yes, she’s the Satanness of consumer culture and Diva of Mall Rats from Malibu to Macon. Because of Barbie we have Forever 21 and BeBe and anorexia, and bulemia. This afternoon, NPR aired an engaging segment on the founder of Barbie and the origin of our infamous and ire-raising toy. Ruth Handler, credited as the creator of Barbie, insisted that little girls like to play like they’re big girls. Though toy-makers, at the time, were concerned that mothers wouldn’t want to purchase for their daughter’s a doll so well endowed with buxom breasts.

Despite all the anatomical uproar from the start about Barbie’s controversial figure, she was borne fully formed like Venus from the sea, and in the mid-80’s, I spent countless hours entranced and immersed in her world–which was, in truth, my world. I was the creator, the storyteller and master mind. And from my dolls, I learned how to weave narrative, provoke conflict, and rake desire. My parents might have spent a pretty penny granting my Christmas list year after childhood year with Barbie accouterments, but I squeezed every enjoyable, fantasy-filled minute that I could. As a storyteller, Miko and her friends were just another elaborate canvas for me to play act and dream, and I don’t regret a minute of the Barbie-inspired fuel that ignited my childhood imagination.

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