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The International Writers Magazine
: Lifestyles: Looking your best at 46

Life in Plastic
Amy Dunmall

She’s 46 years old yet she doesn’t look a day over 21, her long blonde locks seem to be immune to the greying of old age and she has a figure envied by women everywhere; yes it’s Barbie. A lot of controversy surrounds this woman, she’s widely discussed by feminists and loved by young girls everywhere, plastic or not it doesn’t matter, Barbie has found herself defining culture.

Born Barbra Millicent Roberts in 1956, Barbie was first introduced as a "teen model", so right away she was encouraging young girls to focus on their clothes, and physical appearance. She promotes constant material gain with her ‘Dream House’, cars, extensive wardrobe etc and horror of all horrors it now appears her latest model, ‘Cali Barbie’, may be endorsing sexual promiscuity! That’s right after 41 years of dating Barbie and Ken have decided to have some "Quality time apart", as quoted by the pairs ‘business manager’ Russell Arons, and Barbie has found herself a new toy boy; an Australian surfer by the name of Blaine. Granted they weren’t exactly married, and she was probably getting tired of waiting for the obviously commitment phobic Ken to ‘pop the question’, but with divorce rates on the increase it’s certainly a reflection of the times. And with Barbie moving on so speedily what is to become of Ken? Will he move on to Skipper, or maybe one of the new ‘girls gone wild’ Bratz dolls? Or is he doomed to live alone on a charity shop shelf, his position as prince snatched away, gathering dust and wondering where it all went wrong? I guess we shall never know as he probably won’t be around to be remembered by the future generations of Barbie fans.

Now some parents are questioning if this is the type of role model they want their little girl looking up to. After her recent exploits Barbie’s spin-off Sindy is beginning to look like a wholesome alternative. But despite her and Ken splitting up, and the new Californian party girl image, there are plenty of ways in which Barbie is a positive influence on the lives of little girls.
For example her independence, Barbie relies on no one but herself, all of her possessions will have been bought by her, and she takes on many different hobbies.
Her list of career paths is very extensive and range from more fantastical jobs such as Olympic gymnast and pop star, to the more down to earth including dentist, vet, and doctor. Playing with her in these roles encourages girls to explore different aspects of themselves and to be whatever they want to be. Also that any job no matter how boring it may seem at first can be just as exciting as being a ballerina or pop star. I know that I changed my mind as to what I wanted to be when I grew up dozens of times whilst playing Barbie’s with my friends. Dreaming up different lives for her stimulated my imagination, and was just plain fun.

Barbie has gone from strength to strength over the passing years, coming along way from the early days of puffy dresses and vampish features, spawning dozens of different characters, hundreds of different models, accessories galore and even a range of computer games. And now Mattel have taken it one step further and brought Barbie to life through the miracle of digital animation, so now Barbie has even made her screen debut on video and DVD, and has now produced several film remakes of fairytales such as ‘Barbie and the Nutcracker’, and ‘The Princess and the Pauper’. For the first time ever her fans can watch her walk, dance, talk and sing all by herself without their aid or the limited, stiff movements which her rubber limbs allow her. This has gone along way to reinvent her career, which critics would, have you believe was beginning to flag. And with her new ‘trendy’ Cali Barbie model soon to be released, complete with deep tan and brassy hoop earrings, she should be just as popular as she ever was, creating more happy memories for girls the world over.

© Amy Dunmall Jan 19th 2005

Amy is a Creative Arts student at Portsmouth University

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