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BARBIE AND BODY IMAGE

THE BARBIE BODY

Ideal bodies present themselves to us in nearly every aspect of our lives. From book covers, movies, posters, and photographs to clothing sizes, stories in the media, and even in our architecture these ideas haunt our minds like ghosts. But can we just blame what we see when we’re older and wiser? What about what we encounter when we’re younger, when our minds are sponge-like, absorbing the little grungy bits that no one wants to admit they see?

The Barbie doll is just one image that girls face when they are young. There are countless other dolls on the market and yet the Barbie is distinct; her body is so poised and graceful. Upon closer inspection it becomes grotesque: her proportions are painful to imagine, and her face is strained upon a smile. What is captivating about her, I think, is that she is uncanny. She seems familiar to us, and yet she maintains a strangeness. Could it be that we see her every day, that one who walks among us, perfectly thin and perfectly happy about the strangeness she carries?

I want to believe that one day we will be welcoming of all bodies but I wonder if we are just becoming tolerant of them. The Barbie doll is a staple image of American consumer culture. Young girls don’t necessarily want to be like Barbie, but you can’t tell me they don’t see the acceptance, the popularity, the mass culture-love that we hold for this plastic celebrity.

But if it’s not Barbie will it not be some other doll along the line? There is a poignant narcissism within the idea of a doll. What are we looking for in them? We can’t escape the ego, but maybe a child’s imagination will fill in a different desire one day, creating a new kind of beauty that cannot be defined, cannot be expected, cannot be contained.

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