Nairn sees these Barbies as being tortured to destroy the dolls perfection, but the same children (I have noticed from observing female relatives) may demand a new Barbie, even after treating the old one carelessly.
Additionally, not all Barbies are disposed of. In fact, there is a thriving industry of adults who collect Barbies. These Barbies embody characters from famous old films, new films, or characters from around the world. Even some Barbies marketed at younger girls that are reasonably priced like those of the Twilight series of Barbies, are clearly not disposable. Barbies run the gamut from the cheap to the beautifully coiffured, yet all of them suggest a model of femininity that is similar: adult and girlish at the same time. Even as early as the 1960s, according to the website “Barbies Career History,” Barbie was used to embody acceptable female occupations for young women, including that of a fashion designer and a nurse in ways that appealed to adults as well as children.
Barbie was supposed to be subversive when first released, but she was always wholesome and all-American in her beauty to some degree, and as beauty and femininity has changed, so has Barbie. But Barbie still has close ties with the movie industry, the fashion industry, and other industries that produce very stereotyped images of femininity. Todays Barbie is girlish in her embodiment of teenage pleasures like riding bikes and caring for animals, but her marketing as a doll persona resembling famous movie characters suggests she is being marketed to parents as well, not above them as is sometimes alleged, because of her sex appeal.
A parent can buy a Barbie to collect for herself, and buy an inexpensive fairy princess Barbie for a child. It is Mattel who is truly having it all — both audiences, adult and child, for Barbie.
The pleasure of clothing and accessorizing Barbie, even in her feminist incarnations, drives the Barbie industry, and is reinforced by the online images and games. Rather than competitive play, girls learn how to adorn a potential image of themselves as potential women. The purpose is decorative, and now the decoration is more controlled than ever before — girls buy clothes, rather than make clothes for their dolls like they did in previous eras. Barbies image may be more empowered on the surface as a professional, but in terms of how girls are learning to play Barbie and play at being women, it is more controlled than ever.
Buffamonte, Christina. “Barbies career history.” Good Housekeeping. 2008.
June 23, 2010. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/teens/barbie-dolls-careers
Bindel, Julie. “Con — Barbie: Dumb blonde or diehard feminist?” The Guardian. December 28,
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Redmond, Moira. “Con — Barbie: Dumb blonde or diehard feminist?” The Guardian. 2008.
December 18, 2008. June 23, 2010.
“Rethinking childrens play.” National PTA. June 23, 2010.