NPR: Pretty, Plastic Barbie: Forever What We Make Her

Barbie is turning 49 this year and so am I. Too frightening — really. She still looks better in a swimsuit than I ever did in my lifetime. NPR has a great podcast and accompanying article. Here are some interesting excerpts:

The first version was based on a German doll named Bild Lilli. She, in turn, had been inspired by a cartoon character with a fondness for sugar-daddies.

“They basically copied the face,” Blitman explains. “So it’s very hard. I mean, this is not the face of a 17-year-old. This is the face of a 40-year-old woman who’s seen a lot of action.”


Orenstein thinks the fact that Barbie is stubbornly amorphous may explain one of the more common activities that children engage in with Barbie: torturing her.

Orenstein says a friend told her about a child who lined her Barbies up in the driveway, then had her mother drive over them.

“And she was really gleeful about it,” Orenstein says. “I just can’t imagine another toy where you, first of all, take the time to do that … and where you would be so happy about it.”

I don’t remember torturing Barbie but I did stuff one of her dresses to make her look pregnant.

My first Barbie wasn’t a Barbie at all but her best friend Midge (she had red hair). My older sister got the blond Barbie. I was jealous even though Midge looked friendlier. I remember having a Twist-n-Turn Barbie with bendable legs – that’s the one that got pregnant.

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