Words: Andrea Zanin
Illustration: Fleur Beech

Poor Barbie. It’s tough being the harbinger of Aryan idealism and in a world that has since figured out that: 1) brunettes also have fun; 2) cone bras are only passable on Madonna circa 1990 (and even then they’re not all that passable); and 3) that Barbie’s 16-inch waist – four inches thinner than her head – only has space for half a liver and two centimetres worth of intestine, making her d.e.a.d in real life.

But Barbie’s a fighter. She’s had her nipples filed and her waist widened; her skin’s been darkened with the advent of multicultural dye and she’s allowed artists to parody the life out of her hard-earned stereotype, in the hope of making a few friends. She’s even tried to get down with the pop culture kids by bad-assing herself up with some tattoos (people hated it), ‘divorcing’ Ken in 2004 (people hated it more) and then posing for Sports Illustrated (the resulting vitriol a metaphoric lynching). It took a while but Barbie finally cottoned on to the fact that changing her appearance was not likely to derail her bombshell image or ingratiate her with anyone over the age of 12, so she thought she’d try something new, like; become a Computer Engineer.

Barbie turned out to be a pretty rubbish Computer Engineer. But she can draw puppies and have pillow fights

That’s right. A Computer Engineer. In 2010 A book called Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer was published by Random House. Finally! Something to end the incessant ranting of those pesky feminists! A chick who can test software, write code and maybe even put up some killer graphics and look hot while doing it: beauty, brains and, by default, personality. But essential to all revolutions is a little perspective; it lessens the disappointment of an implied anti-climax. Why would Barbie succeed now when she’s tried since 1959 and failed quite epically? Clearly, history repeating itself is a reality lost on she of hollow head and PVC-face.

Unsurprisingly, Barbie turned out to be a pretty rubbish Computer Engineer. As in: she can’t code and she crashes computers by inserting virus-infested flash drives into USB ports. But she can draw puppies and have pillow fights – just saying. Luckily Steven and Brian were a call away to save the day, developing Barbie’s pictures into a “real game” and rescuing Skipper’s homework and music from techno-oblivion.

People complained. So Amazon pulled the book. And rightly so but here’s an interesting after-thought: it took four years for the travesty of Barbie-the-crappy-Computer-Engineer to come to light – why? A theory: no one cares! Probably only five people bought the book in the first place and of those five people, Barbie’s lack of spine clearly ain’t no thang. So, who then is keeping the bane of Barbie alive? Marketers – in a weird ‘negative attention is better than no attention’, reverse psychology ploy? Women? Mums? Writers? Who?

According to Mattel, Barbie sales are in decline and not just a bit; a lot!  And we know which Behemoth is to blame for that; it begins with a D and ends with an Elsa and an Anna. Barbie’s a has-been. And anyway, modern society has made a concerted effort to sequester the falsity of Barbie’s plastic dimensions to the pop stars and fashion icons emulated by girls with a fever more fierce than the plasticity of any doll could ever hope to muster. While we were yabbering on about a gal who has been living in a shadow for longer than we bothered to realise, a new doll marched into town. Her name is Celebrity; she bears the proud stamp: “made by you” and she has got it goin’ on. There will always be another Barbie; we had best be sure that we attach our contempt to the right one.

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