I was reading the Economist yesterday evening on the train and came accross their book review for The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for America's Youngest Consumers by Eric Clark.
According to the book:
"Several decades ago, Barbie's creator, Ruth Handler, saw a Swiss doll called Lilli, voluptuous and wearing heels. She was just what Ms Handler wanted for a blockbuster new doll. Ignoring traditional marketeers—shocked by Barbie's breasts—she began an uphill battle in California to manufacture this sexy creature, so unlike cuddly baby dolls. What she did not know was that Lilli was based on a prostitute in “a German adult cartoon aimed at men.”"
How ironic or maybe just plain sad, that the busty, blue-eyed, plastic icon of so many childhood girl's dreams is modeled on a whore?
What does that say about us, about how society views women, and the message we send our kids through our acceptance of these norms?
I remember that when I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, I really understood Pecola Breedlove's desire to be just like her blue-eyed doll because I also dreamed of growing up to look just like my sexy, blue-eyed Barbie - perfect.
But part of me, even as a child, was repulsed by my Barbie's phoney perfection, and I desired a raven-haired doll, one that captured my mother's beauty, a breathtaking, Latina infused version of Elizabeth Taylor and Lynda Carter. When I finally got a black-haired Barbie I found that sadly she just wasn't as "pretty" as my idealized white Barbie.
And, if anyone thinks this has changed today, then they should watch this:
The video was produced by a high school student.
You can watch news coverage of it here:
Toni Morrison had it right!