I Hate Barbie

Always have, no doubt always will. The wretched simulacrum of a fashionable woman was launched, or inflicted on the world about the same time that I started kindergarten, so you would have thought that I would have been one of the first generation of girls to have played with the grotesque thing – but I never felt the appeal, and it probably just wasn’t because Dad was a grad student living on a GI Bill stipend and supporting a wife and two small children at the time. But I had indulgent grandparents – and if I had truly wanted a Barbie doll, I am certain that one would have appeared at Christmas, or among birthday presents. But I never really wanted one, even though many of my friends had Barbies, their endless accoutrements and accessories, the Ken doll and all of Barbie’s friends. The one doll that I envied helplessly and wished that I did have was possessed by the girl my age who lived next door.

Her grandparents had brought it for her from England; a nicely sized twenty- or twenty-four-inch doll, with realistic if modest proportions who had a lavishly complete trousseau; not just a trunk full of pretty clothes, including the wedding dress and tiara with veil, but even a wee engagement ring with a tiny rhinestone diamond … and a fur jacket, of grey chinchilla fur as soft as feathers. Compared to that lovely imported and realistically womanly doll, Barbie looked cheap, low-rent and vaguely sleazy. This was before Barbie became a career woman, of many, many careers. Starting out, she was just a fashionable clotheshorse of no stated profession, living a leisurely Sexless-in-the-City doll life with a bulging closet of fashionably flashy clothes and accessories.

I did have a fashion doll, though, later on – about the size of Barbie, but with much more normal female proportions, and an eighteen or twenty-inch version which was much easier to construct elaborate period costumes for. This brings up the other reason for hating Barbie; she was of a size which was a pain in the ass for making clothes for, either by hand or god help us, on a sewing machine. No, it was frustratingly difficult to make clothes and costumes for Barbie. When in the fullness of time I had a daughter, who did want a Barbie, I made a few clothes for the wretched thing, but had no fun doing so – and having fun making doll clothes or building miniatures or toys, or any other kind of crafting is the whole purpose of the thing.

No, I never liked Barbie. And I never thought I Love Lucy was funny, either. Talk about apostasy … Anyway, I hear that there is some kind of movie in theaters now (or at least for the near future) about Barbie and Ken and all their friends in Barbie-land. The marketing for it must really have been impressive, for Barbie pink and Barbie mentions are everywhere, even (I swear I am not making this up) even on the highway warning signs that give notice about missing children, wandering elders, traffic accidents and road work up ahead. It had something to do with putting down the phone when you are driving, I think. There hasn’t been marketing this determined and comprehensive since Star Wars – The Phantom Menace, and that movie was everywhere, except possibly in animal husbandry publications. Anyway, they made it out to be a fun, fluffy pink cotton-candy summer escape movie, (the sets and concept looked amazing and fun in stills and the trailer, though) but according to sources like The Critical Drinker, at the core it’s a sour and tedious uber-woke feminist lecture on how awful men are, so I’m going to skip it, even when it goes to streaming. It looks as if Hollywood is committing seppuku anyway, and there is so much good old and foreign stuff out there on streaming services anyway.. Discuss as you feel moved.

18 thoughts on “I Hate Barbie”

  1. The appeal of Barbie was that she could do whatever she wanted, and no one could tell her not to. You would think this would appeal to any little girl, but I noticed even as a boy – though I could not have articulated a word of it – that there was a kind of girl who liked Barbie, and a kind who didn’t. Only in retrospect could I see at least a bit of what that was.

    I don’t think she was a cause, she was a litmus test.

  2. Sounds like you were more of a Sindy girl? Never heard of her? She was the British equivalent to Barbie – and there is a deep gulf between the Barbie and Sindy adherents.

    Yes, even a gulf between mothers and daughters!


    As for me, I still laugh when I think of that Barbie bumper sticker that was circulating a few years ago.

    “When I grow up, I want to be like Barbie. That bit*h has everything!

  3. GI Joe was my action figure.
    Never made clothes for him, didn’t have any spare camo around.
    Did make some outfits for my niece when I had no money, she had little but a Cabbage Patch kid and I had access to a sewing machine. I am no expert, but can follow directions and a pattern. It went well and I think she appreciated my effort.
    Barbie is for girls who expect to be taken care of.

  4. I knew there was a reason we’re friends!
    My dolls were all either baby or toddler. Mostly I enjoyed making them clothes and fixing the toddlers’ hair.
    I guess the equivalent of Barbie was paper dolls. having been introduced to the concept, but never having seen a “real” one, I drew my own and their clothes for the adventures I invented for them. They were usually fantasy characters. And fantasy or SF adventures. So, the clothes were fun.

  5. The first issue to address is Barbie’s shape, as adults, not 13 year old boys. Any engineer that’s done something like hydrodynamic modeling knows that some features of the real world don’t scale linearly. In this case, the way cloth drapes and flows. In keeping with the era of her birth, Barbie was never to be seen less than fully clothed in fairly elaborate outfits, preferably with a tasteful string of pearls. If her proportions had been scaled faithfully from a real model, especially considering the rather attenuated proportions of fashion models even then, with clothes, she would have looked like a cloth wrapped stick rather than a miniature woman. Twiggy rather than June Cleaver.

    Without the personal experience to have a preference, Barbie doesn’t seem to be any less a vehicle for a child’s imagination than a baby doll, just at a different life point. Mostly a matter of personal preference.

    Mostly, I think of the little girls going into the theater, expecting to see a fun movie and instead having to sit through some sort of polemic.

  6. Thank you! I thought I was the only person in the world who thought that I Love Lucy was cringe and embarrassing. I couldn’t stand it.

  7. I too abhorred ‘I Love Lucy’, it made me embarrassed to be in the same species. And as a boy, had less than no use for Barbies…

  8. I was a medical student living in a little complex with multiple houses when I first saw a Barbie. A little girl who lived nearby had one. I didn’t have a daughter at that time but I could not see the attraction. The doll was odd in that it was an adult while most little girl’s dolls were babies. I eventually had three daughters and I can’t remember any of them that liked Barbies.

  9. Barbie was just a doll to me, it was a doll with which to enact fantasies shaped by all of the books we were reading(david eddings mostly). But I was an 80’s kid so to me barbie was just fun…same as the Jem dolls, or Sheera. I played with G.I. Joes too…to young me, it was just a toy and a reminder of a time when I could play for hours with my friends, Barbie was just a doll to be played with, with none of the hang ups assigned to it by adults.

  10. Really old here – I had a Toni Doll with hair that could be permed, blonde of course. We were a military family, ended up in Germany with Toni and had some great clothes made for her. She came with a bridal gown, so she got jamies, a warm but stylish coat and some Swiss Heidi looking dresses. I was so enthralled with her (not) that she is still in great shape – my baby brother used to drag her around by the hair, but that didn’t seem to affect her. My hair was curly anyway, so the associated product placement didn’t do much for me. I had no time for dolls, being the reading type. My daughter didn’t get her – her Barbies were all scalped within days of receipt and left lying around the tiny car track in accident mode.

  11. I’ve sometimes wondered if certain types of girls, identifying with their Barbie doll during play, held Barbie in one hand – where Barbie got to do and say whatever Barbie wanted. Then there was Ken in the other hand…where Ken got to do and say whatever Barbie wanted. And this somehow prepared them to participate in a marriage relationship???

  12. My granddaughters are visiting their cousins in Germany, and all went to see the movie there. They had a giant Barbie toy box for them to pose in for photographs. I don’t mean to brag, but if my oldest granddaughter had been around to model for the original back in the day, Sgt. Mom would have beaten a path to her grandparent’s door. The Germans are great at dubbing movies. Their Bogart sounds just like the real one speaking German, and the lip synching makes it actually look like he is speaking the language. Barbie probably wasn’t quite that challenging.

  13. Barbie was always creepy, I Love Lucy was cringingly stupid, and I hated Jerry Lewis with a passion. His characters were cruel parodies, mocking stereotypes with vicious disdain. Nothing I ever saw that asshole do made me crack a smile- unless I was grinding my teeth.

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