I was reminded of my relationship with Barbie after seeing sculptor, Annette Thas's work 'Wave 1' at Sculpture by the Sea at Cottlesoe in Western Australia yesterday. From a distance I couldn't work it out, it looked like it was made from bleached seaweed. On closer inspection it is amazing piece, with hundreds of blonde Barbie dolls attached to form the shape of a wave.
When I was a kid, I was a tomboy and I didn't like dolls. If it wasn't fluffy and didn't look like a puppy or a bear I wasn't interested. What had been a successful formula was to be forever changed in year five at school, when the cool girls brought a new phenomena to class, Barbie dolls.
Barbie dolls were amazing and weird, even alien, and their knees clicked when you bent them. Unlike my other plastic toys, twisting off arms, legs or a head wasn't an option. These ones stayed on! There was also something alluring and repellent about Barbie's fakeness, her alien and very plastic self. My dilemma was, how to hold onto my integrity as a self respecting tom boy, and keep my un-cool nature concealed. Most alarming was that although none in the class had any yet, Barbie had bosoms. How confronting!
Constantly pleading to my mother for a Barbie doll was met with ,"Why would you want one of those silly things?" I can remember just as I gave up on the idea, my very own Barbie doll appeared. Sadly by then Barbie wasn't 'hot' on the cool kids acquisition list, and my ardour had waned, we didn't 'bond'. Such was the fickle nature of year five.
Barbie however, had other plans. Barbie met Ken and they became an 'item' after meeting on the set of a TV commercial in 1961. According to Mattel, "the precise nature of their relationship has never been identified." Plutonic or not they were a matching set that was confirmed in 2009 when Barbie's publicist announced their split. "I will confirm that Ken and Barbie are going their separate ways." Apparently they parted up on good terms, although the reasons why remain a mystery.
Now I don't mean to snoop, but what I would like to know is was there someone else? Or perhaps it was an identity crisis, perhaps it was time for a career change? Or was it all just too much? There must have been huge expectations to conform to industry pressure, with increasingly sexualised products; toys, clothing and films for children, just about anything that could be sold. I was a little unkind to Barbie when I first met her, but I wish her well in her future and hope she drops in one day.