Jewish World Review Dec. 26, 2002 / 21 Teves, 5763

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
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Consumer Reports

Barbie and teddy: The new generation of toys

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Barbie. She's hot.

Really, really hot.

Not content to merely have the coolest clothes and accessories, just about the best, long, luxurious hair ever and a guy who's always there when she wants him, that 11 1/2 inch icon of American womanhood (well, sort of) and the bane of feminists' existence (yeah, yeah, we know about the proportion problem) is one 21st-century gal all the way down to her miniature underthings.

Meet Lingerie Barbie. Think Victoria's Secret and perhaps a dash of Fredericks of Hollywood. Aw, yeah.

And I thought my Barbie's teeny removable shoes, itsy-bitsy comb and camping gear complete with diminutive chairs, camp fire and tent were totally cool.

How early '70s.

Barbie's grown up since the late 1950s when Ruth Handler created a doll named after her daughter to, as Mattel explains it, "inspire little girls to think about what they wanted to be when they grew up." And the tradition continues. As Mattel states, "From astronaut to veterinarian, Barbie encourages girls to be anything they want. Barbie invites girls around the world to experience fun, fashion and friendship, inspiring them to imagine and dream."

That's why Barbie wears lingerie. All six of her.

I'm unclear when Lingerie Barbie No. 1 emerged on the scene in her white satin bra and delightful matching panties trimmed with white lace and pink bows. White stockings and garters and a saucy pair of white heels top off that ensemble. Specify blond or brunette.

I couldn't locate Lingerie Barbie No. 2, but presumably she exists, because No. 3 does --- in what appears to be a black version of the first Lingerie Barbie's outfit, except trimmed with blue bows. Same gold earrings and sleek ponytail. Brunette appears the only option.

The blond returns again with No. 4 in a smashing pair of pink pumps and a Marilyn-like do. Same come-hither stare with arms tossed -- or stuck -- casually at her side as she poses in front of her dressing table, a fashionable balcony visible behind her. FAO Schwartz really does say it best: "Barbie doll exudes a flirtatious attitude in her heavenly merry widow bustier ensemble accented with intricate lace and matching peekaboo peignoir." Garter and stockings included. Batteries, however, are not required. Sorry, guys.

Heavenly bustier? Peekaboo? Who's peeking? Tom through that balcony? Oh, my.

No. 5 from the 2002 collection might be the most sophisticated Babs with her black version of older sibling's pink bustier combo. And, as it happens, this one is the first African-American Silkstone doll. Perhaps out of concern that No. 4 gave the wrong impression, No. 5's "matching robe offers alluring cover." And not to be outdone by any peeking pieces, No. 5's "slingback high heels complete this simply elegant ensemble, perfect for dress-and-play excitement."

But don't get too excited.

These fashions are designed for the Silkstone doll only. Not for use with other Barbies. You know how girls get when you don't ask to borrow their clothes.

No. 6, due out in February, mixes it up a bit. Gone are the two-piece sets and bustiers. This long-haired redhead with the teasing black bow in her straight hair is "simply sassy in a short pearl-grey satin slip trimmed in black lace." And she's moved beyond the garters: "Her thigh-high stockings add a hint of flair."

So, this is what I ponder as I contemplate how No. 6 gets those thigh highs to within just the perfect distance of her fetching slip: Why does a girl 14 and older (which we knows means younger) need a lingerie-clad Barbie? What kind of flirtation should she be perfecting? What sort of flair should she be adding to her wardrobe? What kind of excitement should she be striving for? What dreaming?

Look, I know Barbie's just a doll. She weighs less than a pound for heaven's sake. It's not as though girls can try her stuff on.

But that's not the point. The sexualizing of our children's childhood is.

The cheap and trashy pervades their world --- via skimpy clothing, thongs for preteen girls, idolized media figures who dress for success on street corners. Children are continually encouraged to function in ways far too adult, and we have situations like oral sex among middle schoolers and simulated sex on high-school dance floors to show for it.

While Lingerie Barbie's next-to-nothings are tasteful and assuredly feminine, does she really need to show them to young girls still shy of their first kiss?

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JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

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10/09/02: Little monsters
10/02/02: Synonym salad
09/25/02: America has no right to criticize any country
09/18/02: Hey, Bill: Time to enter the No Ego Zone
09/11/02: Reliving 9/11 again and again and ...
09/04/02: The price of success: When being a responsible father is not enough
08/28/02: When separate can be equal --- and better
08/22/02: Egypt and Saudi Arabia: Curious inconsistencies
08/15/02: Hey, fellas: Beware the fairer sex ain't always fair
08/08/02: Why women will remain the at-risk gender
08/01/02: Girl: The new four-letter word?

© 2002, Northwest Arkansas Times