>As I recently confessed, I was not always an unshaved, misanthropic feminist. Nope. Back in the day, I was a fat nerd hiding from the onset of puberty and playing with my Barbies while the other 4th graders at my school experimented with dating and read stolen copies of their dads' Playboy magazines. Sure, my Barbies were horny gals out for some action with my one Ken doll, but isn't that more innocent than me being a horny 10 year old looking for ass? I think so. The point is, I loved Barbie.
Hence it is ironic that I was sent by Bugaboo magazine yesterday to cover the global launch of Mattel's new Barbie product, Barbie girls. I admit that I was eager to see what sort of sexist stew they had concocted to feed our kids. I wasn't disappointed, at least in the sense that they lived up to my lowest expectations. From the press release (which I am pleased to note they distributed on USB ports):
NEW YORK CITY (April 26, 2007) –Today, Mattel unveiled the next generation of fashion doll play with Barbie Girls™, an unparalleled, hybrid play experience that blends fashion, music and an online virtual world. Representing the true evolution of what today’s girl loves and opening the door to how tomorrow’s girl will play, Barbie Girls™ fuses the best of virtual and real life for a fresh, new experience. At launch this week, Barbie Girls™ first comes to life via www.BarbieGirls.com, the first global, virtual online world designed exclusively for girls. At BarbieGirls.com girls can create their own virtual character, design their own “room,” shop at the mall, play games, hang out and chat live with other girls. In July, Barbie Girls™ will take shape in the real world with a sleek, handheld, 4 ½ -inch portable device that serves as a music player and fashion statement-in-one, while also unlocking new content within BarbieGirls.com.
According to the Chief Barbie Girl's presentation at the launch, girls today love music, shopping, and being online. A group of hired minions – er, I mean "real girls" – stood around shouting out their agreement at this statement, and as Chief Barbie Girl walked us through the virtual world that is supposed to represent tomorrow's girl, they kept whooping their approval at all the "cute outfits and cute accessories and cute pets" that a girl can virtually acquire by watching "movies" (aka commercials) on the Pepto pink site. (OK, I probably shouldn't criticize the color, but CUSS's Pepto is irony, damn it!) The games offered on the site, which also help a girl earn virtual dollars which she can then spend on clothes and furniture, involve painting digital fingernails and giving Ken a makeover. I detected nothing game-like in this.
The point of all this is that Mattel either believes that girls only care about shopping, fashion, and looking good while hanging out with friends online, or they are reminding girls that obviously this is what they should care about. Even the virtual park is for hanging out, not for playing soccer or running or anything sporty. Need I mention that the Barbie girl avatars look like Bratz, but without the thongs? Oy. As for the Barbie girls MP3 player, well, Barbie's finally an official 'Pod person. (Ha! I kill me.)
Of course, I will write a nice little blurb about the product in Bugaboo. My interviews with minions – er, I mean "real girls" – (ages 10 and 11) will appear at BlogHer in early May. (They made me want to poke my eyes out in despair for the future.) At least they don't spell "girls" with a "z," right? Also, they had some great fucking food at the launch. Not that real Barbie girls eat mini sandwiches with cheese (the horror!), but I put the Barbie-as-surrogate-Suzanne away a long time ago, so I stuffed my face most unceremoniously.