From Bikini to Burkha

ELLIE PITHERS: Now Muslim girls can play with a Barbie which “represents them” – but what about the lesbians, the crack whores, the binge-drinkers?

She had it all. The Glam Vacation House featuring six areas of glam-o-rama play space. The Picnic Party Campervan with the barbeque panel that folds out the side, displaying 6 perfectly plastic browned corn-on-the-cobs. The Baywatch Beach Hut, complete with lifesaving canoe, first aid kit (with mini elastoplasts!) and synthetic camp fire.

But clearly none of this was enough, for Barbie has found God. 

Or perhaps merely discovered a humungous spot on her forehead for which she has run out of cover-up. Either way, Barbie’s style doctrine has this month evolved from its previous gospel of ‘The Three B’s: Brazen, Busty, Bikini’ to ‘Single B: Burkha’. Clearly the ‘less is more’ mentality of her skimpy teenage wardrobe is no longer judged fitting for a modern day fashion icon – Barbie is moving with the times, joining the God Squad, and covering up. One Barbie collector’s squeals echoed my thoughts exactly: "Bring it on, Burkha Barbie … I think this is really important for girls. Wherever they are from, they should have the opportunity to play with a Barbie that they feel represents them."

Barbie fanatics must have responded to this news, that Mattel is producing a limited edition collector’s item, “Burkha Barbie”, with a barrage of questions. The British collectors, with their famously unique brand of ‘multiculturalism’, might have asked, ‘Is this a positive tribute to the Muslim tradition?’ Moving across the pond, Americans on their scintillating online blogs are insisting that covering Barbie up is a promotion of the enduring subjugation of women by a misogynistic ideology, blabbering on about car crashes in Saudi caused by women whose robes impair their vision, stay-at-home females, and, even more bizarrely, female genital mutilation.

But, boring as it is, let’s drop all this multicultural shit for one millisecond, and think pink. Mattel want to make money. Mattel enjoy releasing Barbie in all her many guises and saying all the right things – can anyone forget, for instance, Teen Talk Barbie, who found a voice in 1992 to deliver a number of catchy lines, including, “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “I love shopping!” and “Wanna have a pizza party?” So what better way to rake in those chips than to introduce a Muslim-inspired doll who has to be accompanied out of the store by her male companion, Ken?

I jest. But the real issue at stake here is not whether this is a religious issue or a fantastic marketing ploy. The reality is in fact, much, much more serious. Barbie needs therapy.

Barbie has no idea who or what she wants to be. She’s like Michael Jackson – so messed up, that she has even changed her skin colour. She once went so far as to be bound in a wheelchair after having a brief fling with a physical handicap – she was only on the shelves for six weeks, but at least she got that disabled parking permit. She’s a vet, a doctor, a life-guard; a horse-riding, ballet dancing Nutcracker Princess. She’s a babysitter, an Olympic runner, a Malibu beach bum, a skier, a film star – she even appeared in Toy Story 2 in 1999. She has over forty pets. She has been married five times, but always to Ken. A news release from Mattel in February 2004 announced that Barbie and Ken had decided to split up, but in February 2006 they were back together again. She got a tattoo in 2009, of Ken’s name in a heart in the small of her back, to commemorate their reconciliation. Barbie makes Britney look like a normal person.

Don’t even get me started on Ken. In his best personality he is Shaving Foam Ken, where you can actually shave his beard and it doesn’t grow back for 3 days! It’s an utter miracle in plastic technology, but questionable since he doesn’t even have genitalia. Ken is Jock Supreme, always guaranteed to have a hot bod, but there is nothing down below to partner the bouncing bosom of Barbie. Sometimes I wonder if he’s even a man at all. 

Barbie is blonde, brunette and redhead. She is Black and White and Chinese. She wears ball gowns and bikinis. She represents society in all its most bubbly and beautiful forms. But there are some vital social types which Mattel left out. At least now Muslim girls can play with a Barbie whom they feel “represents them” – but what about the lesbians, the crack whores, the binge-drinkers? Maybe Golf Pro Barbie should just come out and admit that she too, a few years back now, succumbed to the prowess of Tiger Woods. Then she could become Nightclub Attendant Barbie, and earns loads of money with a Hello! magazine deal.

I want to see Barbie representing female politicians as a Member of Parliament, complete with the abode of ‘Country Pile and Bell Tower’, accessories being expenses claims forms which she can fill with all her heart’s desires. Or how about Carmelite Nun Barbie? She could have pink robes and a glittery crucifix to liven up the religious proceedings. For all those repressed girls, we should have Lesbian Barbie, complete with strap-on accessory, batteries not included. Crack-Whore Barbie, “sherbet lemons” in her handbag and a gun in her back pocket, in case anyone tries to jump her. Anorexic Barbie, with plastic ribs protruding from her plastic torso.

If Mattel wants to represent real girls, perhaps they should cater for the silent minorities.