At first I didn’t want to write about my Barbie® Dreamhouse Experience. I wanted to bury it in me till the day I’d be able to afford professional help.
Then I realized how many unaware followers Barbie has and I can’t stay silent anymore. I need to save them. I need to write about it, even if it means reliving that childhood trauma you pretend was just a bad dream.
Barbie®’s house was built overnight next to the ugliest shopping mall in Berlin. Just like that. We woke up and there it was, like the castle of a very gay Dracula screaming “I’m in town, bitches!”. I didn’t want to go there, actually, but every time I’d pass by I felt the
dark pink side of the force calling me, seducing my soul from afar with its sober yet fascinating elegance. Plus: a giant fountain shaped like a girly shoe. How could I resist?!
Despite german feminists’ several protests concerning the house, I decided that I needed to approach this experience with an open mind, also because Barbie®’s Wikipedia page taught me that:
- In July 1992, Mattel released Teen Talk Barbie, which spoke a number of phrases including “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “I love shopping!”, and “Wanna have a pizza party?” Each doll was programmed to say four out of 270 possible phrases, so that no two dolls were likely to be the same. One of these 270 phrases was “Math class is tough!” (often misquoted as “Math is hard”). Although only about 1.5% of all the dolls sold said the phrase, it led to criticism from the American Association of University Women. In October 1992 Mattel announced that Teen Talk Barbie would no longer say the phrase, and offered a swap to anyone who owned a doll that did.
- In 1997, Mattel joined forces with Nabisco to launch a cross-promotion of Barbie with Oreo cookies. Oreo Fun Barbie was marketed as someone with whom little girls could play after class and share “America’s favorite cookie.” As had become the custom, Mattel manufactured both a white and a black version. Critics argued that in the African American community, Oreo is a derogatory term meaning that the person is “black on the outside and white on the inside,” like the chocolate sandwich cookie itself. The doll was unsuccessful and Mattel recalled the unsold stock, making it sought after by collectors.
- In May 1997, Mattel introduced Share a Smile Becky, a doll in a pink wheelchair. Kjersti Johnson, a 17-year-old high school student in Tacoma, Washington with cerebral palsy, pointed out that the doll would not fit into the elevator of Barbie’s $100 Dream House. Mattel announced that it would redesign the house in the future to accommodate the doll.
- In September 2003, the Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia outlawed the sale of Barbie dolls, saying that she did not conform to the ideals of Islam. The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stated “Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful.” In Middle Eastern countries there is an alternative doll called Fulla which is similar to Barbie but is designed to be more acceptable to an Islamic market. Fulla is not made by the Mattel Corporation, and Barbie is still available in other Middle Eastern countries including Egypt. In Iran, Sara and Dara dolls are available as an alternative to Barbie.
What if Barbie® tried, guys? What if she DID try to break the stereotype of the dumb white blonde and still we weren’t able to see past her blond hair and her cooking skills? Even though she ran for president, got a doctor degree and was sent in space (all of which, FYI, Sandy Bullock did too, and she’s a REAL PERSON)
Bottom line: I had to go and see Barbie® in her natural habitat to find out whether she’s an anti feminist monster or a misunderstood empowered woman. I recruited an army of three (friends) and we headed there on a hot day of July.
The temperature inside the house was high enough to melt anybody’s plastic genitals, which explains a lot (sorry, Ken).
Right after the entrance they escorted us to an elevator.
I was in an elevator with strangers, once, and my nose started bleeding. I had to pack it with my sleeve ’cause I didn’t have anything else and it just wouldn’t stop. When we finally reached the ground floor I looked like Rose Byrne in Damages’ opening scene, but at least I was sure that would have been the most embarrassing lift ride of my life.
I was wrong.
In the lift it was just us four and even though we all got passed puberty a long time ago, the Barbie® minion kept telling us things like Barbie®’s world is made of magic and got us to wave at a 13 years old animated girl who appeared on the screen and claimed to be Barbie’s little sis.
After waving our dignity away we got to the first floor, welcomed by a series of items anyone would decorate his house with, like a giant cupcake or a pink plastic poodle. Inexplicably, they don’t sell them at IKEA.
I’d like you to look at the light and acknowledge the fact that no Photoshop was involved here. So yes, if you ever get the twisted idea to paint your walls pink, you should know that the place (and the people in it!) will look as if a nuclear implant messing with unicorns atoms had just blown up.
We started exploring the floor and made our way through the following rooms:
– Kitchen: a big disappointment, since we couldn’t interact with any of the kitchen supplies and everything was under glass! I might be mistaken, but I think Barbie®, that lazy ass, is just ordering chinese food all the time.
– Office: that’s where Barbie® makes her plans of world domination. Catherine went sitting at her desk, feeling the power, and she swears she saw some documents speaking about murdering Barbie®’s biggest enemies like Bratz or Winx.
– Wardrobe: another big disappointment! Not only we couldn’t try Barbie®’s clothes on, but her cabinet had the same assortment you could find in the russian version of Primark, if they ever make one. Catherine was outraged.
– Bedroom: nothing to report, except a big screen on the wall showing what I think was a video tutorial on how to make a voodoo doll out of your regular Barbie® and make your elementary school enemies blind.
– Toilet: Barbie® has a dolphin shamelessly intruding her ass every time she sits on the toilet. Scariest thing since Stephen King’s IT. Life in plastic is not fantastic.
Given that some of us were crying or hyperventilating we decided we were done with the first floor and had another quick ride in the elevator. At the end of it Barbie®’s minion proudly announced that we were
WELCOME TO FRANCE!
A kitschy version of the Eiffel Tower appeared in front of us and the three french persons I was with confirmed that Paris looked exactly like that. In their worst nightmares. At least the french room proved to be more interactive than the rest and gave us the opportunity to:
– Comb Barbie®’s hair, thanks to creepy impaled heads lying around like in the opening scene of Game of Trones.
– Watch a movie inside Barbie®’s van, whose story had to do with merciless female competition aimed to get the attention of the male character.
– Assist to a show on a little pink stage in the center of the room. Two little girls had been
chosen kidnapped from the audience and dressed up like moldavian prostitutes, then forced to dance and sing a song whose chorus says, repeatedly, “EVERYBODY NEEDS A KEN”.
If a feminist activist had jumped on the stage completely naked and set the house on fire I would have been happy. Sometimes showing your pussy and be a pyromaniac is the right thing to do.
After the show I went home and listened to the whole Ani DiFranco discography while acknowledging the fact that Barbie® wants to bleach our souls blond (and the ones of our children) and we shouldn’t let her.