Friday, August 13, 2010

the maternal is not an element of the Barbie collective

Last night, after researching free knitting patterns for the off-brand "Barbies" I got for 75 cents at the Thrift Store (I got three of them: one with green hair, one with pink hair, and one blondie whom I'm going to shear and suit up a la' Rachel Maddow), I was drifting off to sleep, still thinking about all the wonderful morphological transformations I was going to make to these dolls in my subversive initiative to to render Clare's Barbie fascination innocuous (a la' Kim Toffoletti), and it struck me: the one thing I had not seen, anywhere, was a Barbie MOM. And for damn sure, no preggo Barbies. Sure: there's "Skipper," but she's like, a younger sister or niece or cousin or something, and like a pre-teen anyhow. Barbie's not her mom, she's more like the cool single aunt type.

Barbie's married friend, pregnant Midge
So this morning I sat down and googled "Barbie mother" and whaddaya know...there's more out there than you would have thought. There's the Barbie Happy Family collection--which'll cost you about $250 for the whole happy family. However, you can buy Barbie's pregnant friend Midge Hadley separately, for only $80. She's got a magnetic detachable belly with a teensy little baby inside. At this point, rumor has it, this is her second.

Now, don't get excited, like all of a sudden Barbie's problematic body image issues are benefiting from some long-overdue therapy. When preggers Midge first hit the market, there was an uproar. Rather than rejoicing that skinny bitch Barbie had finally allowed some real female bodily reality into her ranks, we were frightened. Frightened! OMG, what will this teach our children? How could they possibly look up to their Barbie as a role model if she's pregnant!? Oh, the horror!

Barbie and youngest sister Kelly
So, nowadays, having learned that actual motherhood is totally off-limits if you're going to retain your plastic yet rigid fantasy girlish figure, we're back to Barbie and Kelly. There is just no damn way that Barbie's gonna be a mom.

Which is weird, right? Because Barbie is the projection of quintessential American womanhood--and no matter what color they paint her universal face, no matter what professional outfits she may put on and off, she is still the impossibly long-limbed and big-breasted fantasy girl of the American Dream. And it seems to me that an important piece of this cultural message of essential American womanhood is the get-married-settle-down-and-take-care-of-your-family piece. That's why our country doesn't have "working women," it has "working moms." No matter professional outfit you may put on, at the end of the day, you're supposed to take it back off and come home and take care of your family.

The only explanation I can come up with for why Barbie can display maternal tendencies but not maternal bodily realities is simply that, in the end, a Barbie without the perfect Barbie figure is no Barbie at all. It's a Barbie face on top of some monstrously distended body, and we can't have that.

So, definitely adding a preggers Barbie to my subversive plan, along with: zombie Barbie, crossdressing Ken, prosthetic cheetah sprinting legs Barbie, and of course, cyborg Barbie.

More suggestions welcome...

1 comment:

Donna Freedman said...

Midlife Barbie, definitely.