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Jewish World Review March 25, 2002 / 12 Nisan, 5762

Michelle Kennedy

Michelle Kennedy
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Consumer Reports

Thrust into a Barbie dreamland | Shuffling my bare feet along the cold kitchen floor one abnormally bright and sunny Sunday morning - the feel of my coffee mug in my hand my only desire - I was jolted to life by a stabbing pain in the bottom of my foot.

"SSHHH....Sugar!" I yelled as I reached down to gingerly pluck the offending object now embedded in my foot.

Without even looking at it, I know what it is. A tack? No. A Lego? Definitely not, as a connoisseur of piercing foot pain, I can immediately discern between the corner of a Lego and this object. My knowledge is confirmed as I examine the pink stilletto heel belonging to our family's ever-growing Barbie population.

And so I am thrust into a Barbie dreamland, right there in the middle of the kitchen, the only thing impeding me from my coffee pot is an area approximately 5-feet in diameter consisting of Barbie's jeep, boat, beach house, pool (complete with slide and cabana boy), jet skis, and horses. Barbie's regular "Dream House" which consists of three floors of nothing but the best furniture Mattel can provide, is down the hall - the intended destination, it appears, for Barbie, her friends, the ever-doting Ken and their fleet.

If Barbie and GI Joe ever had a war, GI Joe better look out, because as sure as he has tanks and jeeps at his disposal, Barbie has the Beverly Hills equivalent of the cavalry at hers. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Mission Impossible Barbie was in the new line (this compact will self-destruct...).

Barbie has caused more controversy and lived more lives than anything that ever came out of a 12-inch box, except for perhaps, Earring Magic Ken. Feminists hate her because she, with her perfectly out of proportion supermodel measurements, embodies everything that "real women" can never be.

In an effort to downplay Barbie's perfect bod, unblemished skin and permanently high-heeled feet, rival toymakers have come up with new dolls that they believe will give girls a better image of what women - real women - look like.

But let's be real. When was the last time a 6-year-old girl bypassed the Barbie section at the toystore to get her hands on "Pleasingly Plump Penny?"

Now, don't get me wrong. There could definitely be a market out there (especially among us older ladies) for PMS Barbie, as long as she came complete with 3 pounds of chocolate, acne cream, a stack of sappy videos and a miniature bottle of Midol.

As the first and second generation of Barbie admirers get older, I can only hope that Mattel gets a little more inventive. How about "Divorce Barbie?" In addition to all of her stuff, she can get Ken's house, car, boat and a monthly alimony check.

But you will never get me to admit that there is any market at all for "Thunder Thighs Barbie." Why? Because Barbie is the epitome of cool.

Barbie is the only doll that has ever both run for president and been Miss America. She's been a firefighter, a doctor, a dentist and Cinderella. She has a Harley, a horse and a plane. And she always gets Ken. But if she didn't want him, well we could make him go play with Skipper.

In an attempt to capitalize on the latest trend in angels, like Oprah's "Angel Network," and the television show "Touched By An Angel," Mattel even came out with "Angel of Hope, Joy and Peace" Barbies.

But can there be many Barbies left? How about Psychic (aka Miss Cleo) Barbie? Maybe she'll come with Tarot cards, a 900-number and a real faux Jamaican accent. How about Divine Barbie? Instead of dreamhouse she can have her own cathedral and a set of customized prayers.

Barbie is many things, but above all of them, she is a doll and to put too much emphasis on her societal impact is a lot like blaming the plight of overweight children on Pez dispensers. She is just as likely to be revered in a museum as she is to be found face down in the sandbox in the backyard.

I once read a parenting manual that said that Barbie shouldn't live better than you do. Maybe. But I looked at Barbie's life, laying there on my kitchen floor --- pool, cabana and all, and all I could think was: I want to be Barbie when I grow up.

JWR contributor Michelle Kennedy, who reads and responds to all of her mail, is a reporter and columnist for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. Comment by clicking here.


02/01/02: Shooting the 'surplus population'
12/20/01: Zen and the Art of Clutter
12/14/01: Confessions of a serial library fine payer
12/06/01: Too good at my job, I quit

© 2001, Michelle Kennedy