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Barbie As A Cultural Icon

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Barbie: The Cultural Icon

Cultural icons are not just merely widely recognized persons or things; they inspire keen interest and dedication, if not obsession and addiction on the part of collectors, designers and most importantly, consumers. Barbie has been an important part of the toy fashion doll market for nearly fifty years. Launched in 1959, Barbie has become the best-selling fashion doll as well as a cultural icon.

Actually, some people buy, sell, collect and examine Barbie as a hobby and a past-time activity. These people are willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money and time on Barbie. The question is: why? One would say Barbie is just an object, a piece of plastic dressed up. However, Barbie is much more complex than that. Barbie has her own cosmology and in her universe women are first; Ken, her boyfriend, happens to be one of her accessories. She was made perfect; her body is relatively the same as it was over 40 years ago and she can be considered the epitome of the song "I'm Every Woman" by Whitney Houston.

Some people seem to have no conscious thoughts about how Barbie is defined in terms of race, sexuality, and femininity. She is a "fictive icon," contributing to a culture by letting members act as if something is real or true even while they know it is not. She is also a "fantastic icon," in that her presence in American culture extends and embellishes what is actual, possible, or conceivable. Along with Superman, Barbie has the capacity to free people's imaginations from the constraints of culture's definitions and requirements. Her very essence is magical, romantic, and enchanting (Rogers 3).

The introduction of Barbie also illustrated the complex identification process through which children become involved with and attached to a toy and demonstrated the power of a doll as an idol. Toys describe how children should act. Adults expect girls to play with dolls like Barbie or Cabbage Patch, while they expect boys to play with action toys. This sexually stereotypes a child because this is suggesting that the girls are to chase after "cute looking guys" at the mall and always be interested in fashion and money; this is what Barbie does. For boys, the expectation is to be tuff and buff and shed no tears; they are the ones with the racecars and the other "masculine toys," which also makes them violent. Toys are a major contributor to sexually stereotype girls and boys. Barbie helps stereotype girls by making them a type of air-head. The Mattel Toy makes the doll with big breast, blonde hair, a boyfriend, outfits and hair accessories. Although she has everything that is supposed to make her feminine, "she [still] lacks a certain softness" with her "hard-body" (Prager 770). Additionally, s he doesn't budget her money, work, clean, read a book or anything else that regular people do on a daily basis. This is supported in Gary Cross' essay "Barbie, G.I. Joe, and Play in the 1960s," where he states that "Barbie did not invite children to be Mommy, nor was she the child's friend in a secret garden of caring and sharing."

Barbie is an icon; the one every little girl dreams to be. This is sad because people are real - not Barbie dolls. Unfortunately, although most little girls, who dream to be Barbie, usually grow out of it; like a passing stage I found a case where this dream came true. CBS produced an article titled "Becoming Barbie: Living Dolls," which is the story of a woman who spent over $100,000 in plastic surgery to look like Barbie. Her transformation inspired a 33 year old man to do the same and he eventually "became" Ken. According to the article, Cindy Jackson started at age 33 and "it took 31 operations and 14 years" to achieve



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