Oh, Barbie. At least HALF of the people reading this post owned one, and probably EVERYONE reading it either played with or destroyed one. (My cousin used to set his sister’s Barbies on fire in the driveway.) People either love Barbie or hate her, as author Tanya Lee Stone discovered when she was writing this fair and balanced book about the biggest doll of all time. “There is not much middle-of-the-road when it comes to Barbie…We all impose our own ideas and perceptions on the world, and Barbie may just be the ultimate scapegoat.” Starting with a forward by chick lit queen Meg Cabot that ends with, “…like Barbie, we could be anything we wanted to be.” (Well, we all know what side SHE’S on:), Stone lays out Barbie’s whole story, from her humble beginnings at Mattel toy company, where she was conceived by co-CEO Ruth Handler, to her rise as a pop culture icon, as captured by Andy Warhol’s “Barbie.” She chronicles Barbie’s uneasy and sometimes controversial changes from a Caucasian doll to an African American doll, and then a Doll of the World. Stone also addresses the whole debate about whether or not Barbie’s unrealistic body proportions are the cause of women’s dissatisfaction with their own measurements. She even humorously explores, through anecdotal interviews she conducted with kids and teens, our apparently universal and totally embarrassing compulsion to strip Barbie and Ken of their designer duds and throw them in a plastic bed together. I especially enjoyed the chapter “Barbie as Art,” where I got a huge kick out of the jewelry made by Margaux Lange. (It’s one of those times when you say to yourself—man, why didn’t I think of that??) Full disclosure? I still have several shoe boxes full of Barbies and her many accessories (including one Ken) in my adult closet that I just can’t bear to throw away. Obviously I’m not a hater, but whether you worship Barbie or loathe her, you’ll find facts that will both support and challenge your point of view in this interesting and entertaining examination of the famous doll we love to hate.
The Good, the Bad and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone