These days Barbie seems to be regarded as either a fashion icon or an anti-feminist totem — both the embodiment and destroyer of girls’ aspirations. Either that, or she’s a pricy collectible for women who — how shall we put it? — have not outgrown the sugar’n’spice dreams of their childhood.
When I was a kid, though, I had a box of Barbies, and they never went to fashion shows or held tea parties in my house. Barbie (and Midge, Scooter, and Skipper — no Kens allowed) went on western roundups or flew into space or built forts out of blocks, where they lived with my collection of trolls and a couple of Gumbys. My sister and I created elaborate scenarios for the Barbies to act out, often involving war or plane crashes, in which Barbies came to the rescue or suffered horrible fates. Because my box of Barbies included dolls who were old and missing limbs, the “horrible fate” scenarios were especially vivid. Draw blood all over them with red crayon, toss some broken model planes around, and our back yard started to look like the opening scene from “Lost.”
Ah, happy memories.
Now you see that the seeds of my twisted, thriller-loving imagination were sown early.
My daughter also played with Barbies. She and her little friends invented the sport of Barbie tossing. This involves swinging a Barbie by the hair, sort of like an Olympic hammer thrower winding up, before flinging her skyward. The kids were relentless and efficient at this, but after dozens of competitions the Barbies suffered. Their heads ripped off. Their clothes got torn from landing on the street. Their boobs and knees got scraped to smithereens. The girls solved these problems by wrapping their Barbies in duct tape. Eventually all the dolls looked like silver mummies. Or Robocop.
Man, I miss those days.
Pop quiz: What’s Barbie’s full name?