From Publishers Weekly
The original "Barbie," an 111/2 fashion model doll with an hourglass figure, was introduced to the American public in 1959 and has been a bestseller ever since. In this witty and perceptive study Lord, a columnist for New York Newsday, chronicles Barbie's history and her relevance as a cultural icon. Ruth Handler, co-owner of Mattel Toys, modeled Barbie on a sexy plastic German pin-up that was sold to men in tobacco shops. The popularity of Barbie and her ever-expanding wardrobe with preteen girls led to the development of "Ken" and "Midge" dolls and a line of African American fashion dolls. Lord's comprehensive research includes interviews with toy-makers, an eclectic group of Barbie collectors, visual artists and feminists who disagree on Barbie's impact on young girls. The author sees Barbie, whose careers have included surgeon, pilot and astronaut, as a female role model, and credits her childhood play with Barbie as helping her cope with her own mother's mastectomy. Illustrations.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to the
If you think Barbie is just a child's plaything, you'll think again after reading this fascinating, funny, and far-reaching biography of the pointy-breasted, slim-waisted, high-arched gal who changed the way we think about dolls and ourselves. Lord, who writes for Newsday
, approaches the story like an investigative reporter. She unearths Barbie's low origins as Lili, a slutty doll sold to German men as a gag gift, and goes on to cover the Barbie story on numerous fronts: creative, commercial, and sociological. She interviews Barbie's designers, critics, collectors, even a woman who has undergone more than 50 cosmetic surgeries so she can look like a Barbie doll. Feminist thinkers including Camille Paglia, Betty Friedan, and Susan Faludi also weigh in with opinions. No doubt about it: Barbie is a gal who engenders intense feelings. As Lord puts it, "For every mother that embraces Barbie . . . there is another mother who tries to banish Barbie from the house." Cheerleaders, career women, bulimics, and mythmakers can all hang their hats--with justification--on Barbie's well-coiffed head. Lord, for example, makes a convincing case that Barbie is a pagan symbol, a queen surrounding herself with such drones as the penis-less Ken. We can buy that easily enough, but when Lord describes Barbie as "an incarnation of the One Goddess with a thousand names . . . an archetype of something ancient, matriarchal, and profound," she might be going just a wee bit over the top. For less high-minded readers, who just like Barbie as a doll, Lord lists almost every Barbie ever marketed, from Day-to-Night Barbie to Barbie Loves McDonalds to Gymnast Barbie, who's flexible body was capable of all sorts of workouts. The photographs are terrific, too, especially, the close-up of the original Barbie with her sly eyes and arched brows. Forever Barbie
is better than most biographies of real people. What a doll! Ilene Cooper
--This text refers to the