The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us
by Tanya Lee Stone
Viking Juvenile, 2010
Library copy from Junior Library Guild
[#36 in my 75 book challenge]
I guess you could say I was a Barbie kid. I had maybe ten Barbies and multiple outfits for each. I had Skipper and Stacie and maybe even Kelly and Krissy (I don’t remember). I had a Barbie pool, little hangers for my Barbie clothes, and lots of shoes. While I enjoyed playing with my Barbies, I never really gave Barbie much thought. But by the time I was a teenager, I was well aware that there are many Barbie lovers and Barbie haters out there. Barbie causes a lot of controversy across America, it seems, which is what intrigued me to read this book.
Stone tries to cover all things Barbie in an objective way, and this book is written for the young adult audience. I thought it did both of those things quite well, while also providing an overview for adults. I’m sure there are books out there going into crazy detail about Barbie, but I was happy with the 124 page overview. Topics and sections include:
- History of Mattel
- Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie
- History of Barbie
- Barbie as sexist/unrealistic/harmful
- Barbie as a fashion icon
- Barbie as a career woman
- Multicultural Barbies
- Mutilating/destroying Barbies
- Sexual play with Barbies
- Barbie in art
What I realized from my reading was that what kids think of Barbie does not seem to be the problem — it’s what adults think. Moreover, it’s what adults perceive about children’s behaviors and beliefs. A good portion of the book includes personal stories and memories that real people sent in to the author about their time with Barbies. It was interesting to see how other girls and boys felt about the doll as kids and adults in these reflections.
FINAL GRADEL: B This is a fascinating little book, and I’m glad it’s in my library. It’s informative and interesting, with lots of great photographs and quotes through the pages. The sexual discussions are all very tame, mostly mentioning how Barbies have no genitalia and how kids wanted Barbie and Ken to sleeping the bed together. Real Barbie enthusiasts will probably want to skip it, as I’m sure there is nothing new for them to learn. But for everyone else, I’d highly recommend it.
Did you play with Barbie as a kid? How do you feel about her now — love her, or loathe her?
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