The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty

The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684862750
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 10/08/1999
Edition description: Original
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of seven novels. Her short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

When I first sat down in the summer of 1997 to pen a piece about Barbie, I imagined writing a wry, affectionate defense of the sexy little doll who seemed to be getting so much bad press. Little did I know how Barbie had changed in the three decades since she and I had parted company. I didn't really understand the fantastic impact she had made on American culture during those years nor the maelstrom of controversy that her mere name seemed to elicit. But the publication of my essay on the back page of The New York Times Magazine filled me in quickly: Barbie had been busy all this time, what with her brand-new professions, newly reconfigured face, hair, and, yes, even body.

Ever since her 1959 debut, Barbie has been an amazingly popular doll. Created by Ruth and Elliot Handler in the late 1950s and named for their daughter, Barbara, Barbie has her origins in the German Lilli doll, a quasi-pornographic toy intended for men. The Handlers cleaned her up and toned her down before presenting her to the American market, but her inherent sexuality — so stunning in a world of baby dolls and little girl dolls — remained intact, just waiting for a generation of American children to discover her.

Discover and fall head over heels in love. Her phenomenal success in the intervening years has spawned enough Barbie dolls to populate a small planet, to say nothing of the ancillary characters — Skipper, Francie, Midge, Ken, Allan, and Kelly — that fill her world.

The girls who played with the very first Barbies are now grown, with Barbie-toting daughters of their own. But Barbie continues to exert a hold on their imaginations, as well as the imaginations of the boys who watched — envious, disdainful, titillated, curious — as their sisters, cousins, friends, and neighbors dressed, and undressed, their sexy, ever-so-adult-looking dolls.

Forty years after her debut, Barbie is big news and big business. Millions of dolls, clothes, accessories, and paraphernalia are bought and sold every year. There are Barbie conventions, fan clubs, Web sites, and scores of publications.

There is also, I soon discovered, a whole new literature of Barbie that emerged in the shadow of the consumer frenzy she created. She has inspired novelists and poets, commentators and journalists, and academics from a wide range of fields. No longer just a child's toy, Barbie has become an icon and a fetish — to some angelic, to others depraved. And as such, she serves as a kind of springboard for a whole range of cultural discourse, some philosophical and reflective, some lighthearted and appreciative, some furious and damning.

The Barbie Chronicles both grows out of and adds to the current conversation about Barbie. In it, I have included twenty essays and five poems written from varying intellectual perspectives as well as differing emotional ones. Some are original works commissioned specifically for this volume; others are reprinted from existing material. But whatever the take on Barbie is, it is never neutral.

Anna Quindlen proposes driving a stake through Barbie's plastic heart, while Melissa Hook remembers her as a conduit through which she could connect with her frosty and distant grandmother. For these writers, Barbie has a talismanic power, one that illuminates both the world without and the self within. Here then are stories that will, I hope, shed a little more light on the meaning of America's most beloved, most notorious piece of posable plastic.

Copyright © 1999 by Simon & Schuster

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

Who's That Girl? Steven C. Dubin

Golden Oldie Stephanie Coontz

Dangerous Curves

Barbie Buys a Bra Pamela Brandt

Elegy for My Mother M. G. Lord

Teen Idol Leslie Paris

Barbie Meets Bouguereau Carol Ockman

Barbie's Body Project Wendy Singer Jones

Sex and the Single Doll Yona Zeldis McDonough

Happy Birthday to You!

Barbie at 35 Anna Quindlen

My Mentor, Barbie Susan Shapiro

Barbie in Black and White Ann duCille

Barbie Does Yom Kippur Rabbi Susan Schnur

Postmodern Muse

Photographing the Dolls Jeanne Marie Beaumont

Of Mere Plastic David Trinidad

Planning the Fantasy

Wedding Denise Duhamel

Holocaust Barbie Denise Duhamel

Barbie's Gyn Appointment Denise Duhamel

Material Girl Melissa Hook

Barbie Gets a Bum Rap Sherrie A. Inness

Our Daughters, Their Barbies

I Believe in Dolls Carol Shields

You Can Never Have

Too Many Jane Smiley

Barbie Doesn't Live Here

Anymore Mariflo Stephens

Barbie, Twelve-Step Toy Molly Jong-Fast

Twelve Dancing Barbies Erica Jong

Barbie as Boy Toy Meg Wolitzer

Notes and References

Contributors

Index

Introduction

Introduction When I first sat down in the summer of 1997 to pen a piece about Barbie, I imagined writing a wry, affectionate defense of the sexy little doll who seemed to be getting so much bad press. Little did I know how Barbie had changed in the three decades since she and I had parted company. I didn't really understand the fantastic impact she had made on American culture during those years nor the maelstrom of controversy that her mere name seemed to elicit. But the publication of my essay on the back page of The New York Times Magazine filled me in quickly: Barbie had been busy all this time, what with her brand-new professions, newly reconfigured face, hair, and, yes, even body.

Ever since her 1959 debut, Barbie has been an amazingly popular doll. Created by Ruth and Elliot Handler in the late 1950s and named for their daughter, Barbara, Barbie has her origins in the German Lilli doll, a quasi-pornographic toy intended for men. The Handlers cleaned her up and toned her down before presenting her to the American market, but her inherent sexuality -- so stunning in a world of baby dolls and little girl dolls -- remained intact, just waiting for a generation of American children to discover her.

Discover and fall head over heels in love. Her phenomenal success in the intervening years has spawned enough Barbie dolls to populate a small planet, to say nothing of the ancillary characters -- Skipper, Francie, Midge, Ken, Allan, and Kelly -- that fill her world.

The girls who played with the very first Barbies are now grown, with Barbie-toting daughters of their own. But Barbie continues to exert a hold on their imaginations, as well as the imaginations of the boys who watched -- envious, disdainful, titillated, curious -- as their sisters, cousins, friends, and neighbors dressed, and undressed, their sexy, ever-so-adult-looking dolls.

Forty years after her debut, Barbie is big news and big business. Millions of dolls, clothes, accessories, and paraphernalia are bought and sold every year. There are Barbie conventions, fan clubs, Web sites, and scores of publications.

There is also, I soon discovered, a whole new literature of Barbie that emerged in the shadow of the consumer frenzy she created. She has inspired novelists and poets, commentators and journalists, and academics from a wide range of fields. No longer just a child's toy, Barbie has become an icon and a fetish -- to some angelic, to others depraved. And as such, she serves as a kind of springboard for a whole range of cultural discourse, some philosophical and reflective, some lighthearted and appreciative, some furious and damning.

The Barbie Chronicles both grows out of and adds to the current conversation about Barbie. In it, I have included twenty essays and five poems written from varying intellectual perspectives as well as differing emotional ones. Some are original works commissioned specifically for this volume; others are reprinted from existing material. But whatever the take on Barbie is, it is never neutral.

Anna Quindlen proposes driving a stake through Barbie's plastic heart, while Melissa Hook remembers her as a conduit through which she could connect with her frosty and distant grandmother. For these writers, Barbie has a talismanic power, one that illuminates both the world without and the self within. Here then are stories that will, I hope, shed a little more light on the meaning of America's most beloved, most notorious piece of posable plastic.

Copyright © 1999 by Simon & Schuster

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Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbie is a very inspiring icon, displaying good health, eagerness, and a can-do spirit. She is a true american, following the american dream. I only read the sample but it was most informative. From research it is saddening to read how much people hate poor barbie. This book explains why barbie has such a huge impact. Go barbie! Barbiegirl1399
Mary Godoy More than 1 year ago
If u say nobody likes barbie u wrong casue u boughg it. It ok tho.
Anonymous 7 days ago
barbies are the worst
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbie. More like pukeie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It wont let me delete it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
?......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book sample is 41 pages long and it only lots me read to 36
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Skghjfhfgxvdgdjffb
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have you guys heard or seen the rel life barbie. Its scary how fake sh looks and the she dtarts speaking Russian! Aslo check out the real life anime girl. You could she them in the mall together (the actually hang out!) and crap you pants
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Haha!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shes awesome i wish she was alive!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apperently my grandma bought me one of those mellenium princess barbies when I was little, 'cause she just gave it to me and I love it! She has the most ornate blue ballgown with silver trim! I swear I will keep her forever!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
J
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I play with Barbie and Ken all the time too
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always play with barbie. And I play with her and Ken :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wheres the details
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who ever dont like barbie is a hater cuz i love barbie:0
Eric Biederman More than 1 year ago
truu daat i love it a alot ! (;
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I wouldn't write 'The Barbie Chronicles' off as a total loss, I certainly wouldn't say I took anything away from it either. Nothing in this book made me think any differently or change my opinions about anything. It is basically a series of essays, some of which hail Barbie as the pinnacle of feminine pride, and some of which condemn her to burn at the stake. Personally, I found it laughable that some people could feel so strongly about such a material issue. The book is worth reading if you study womens' studies or are interested in that field of study.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is shocking to learn that such a tiny doll could have such a huge impact on the way most little girls grow up. Instead of other baby dolls that direct girls towards motherhood, Barbie invites us to take a closer look at ourselves, and at what we can become as individuals. Barbie in herself is a course in the psychological development of young girls (and boys). My favourite essay is one entitled 'Barbie In Black And White', in which professor Ann DuCille explores the lack of ethnicity in Barbie-land. This book is an absolute must for any grown up boy or girl that has ever owned a Barbie doll, who has ever wondered about her plastic ways.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a Barbie collector for my whole life and am always fascinated by the strong emotions even the mention of her name elicites. This book presents the story of how many different people's lifes have been touched by Barbie- positive or negative. It will make you look at Barbie in a whole different way because it goes beyond the typical opinions one hears about her and her impact on society is examined in a non-biased way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really if you are a goth then buy it use the doll to for your gruge so you dont get pist at a ditz for a girl you use it for play for thearpy to use for i dont now use your imagian and if you really wanted to use it to make youtube videos
Shantea Roberson More than 1 year ago
Gooooooooooooooooooooodggggggggggggrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaatttttt