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The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty Paperback – October 8, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Since her birth at the hands of Ruth and Elliot Handler in 1959, Barbie has been decried for her bad influence on girls' self-esteem and become the object of praise for her ability to elevate girls' play beyond baby dolls and kitchen sets. Though she's only a molded hunk of plastic, Barbie has wielded a curious amount of power over the last 40 years. McDonough (Tying the Knot) attempts to present differing points of view about Barbie, but the overall tone is one of admiration, even from the doll's critics. Anna Quindlen wistfully imagines driving a silver lam? stake between Barbie's perfect breasts, while Ann duCille discusses issues of race and conformity, positioning Barbie at the center of what's wrong with the doll section of toy stores. Other essayists strike a gentler tone: Jane Smiley, Erica Jong, Carol Shields and Steve Dubin see the dark side of what the doll could represent to young girls, but recapture the original, guilty delight they felt when posing, defacing and, predominantly, undressing her. This well-chosen group of writers artfully explores the world that created Barbie, the childhood selves the authors remember and the meaning behind one of our era's most controversial pieces of plastic. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

No longer just a child's plaything, "Barbie has become an icon and a fetishAto some angelic, to others depraved." In honor of Barbie's 40th birthday, McDonough (Tying the Knot) has collected 20 stories and five poems in one volume: Steven Dubins's essay on Barbie's origins as a German pornographic doll; Jane Smiley on Barbie's "genius," which took girls from big hairdos and pink jeans to women's self-knowledge and rights; Anna Quindlen on her desire to "drive a stake through Barbie's plastic heart"; and a lots of essays with priceless titles ("Barbie Does Yom Kippor" and "Sex and the Single Doll"). Speaking largely to today's 30- to 45-year-olds, the varying intellectual and emotional perspectives here make for an engaging blend of idiosyncratic remarks and in-depth social commentary. Comparable in its irreverent style to Adios, Barbie: Young Women Write About Body Images and Identity (Seal Pr.-Feminist,1998); recommended for public and academic libraries.AKay Meredith Dusheck, Univ. of Iowa, Anamosa
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Original ed. edition (October 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684862751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684862750
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,712,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The concept of this anthology is simple: collect high-quality commentary pieces on Barbie, that lightning rod of controversy, and put them in a book. This book comprises both anti- and pro-Barbie writings, and the authors find original issues to analyze (e.g., the lack of adults or old people in Barbie-land, the race issue, baby dolls vs Barbie dolls, etc.). The essays included are well-reasoned and entertaining.
However, there are some problems. First, most of the included works are either opinion pieces or introspective pieces. It seems ludicrous that the forms used to analyze a world based on fantasy and imagination are limited to these two tried-and-true alternatives. Only Denise Duhamel's wildly imaginative poetry gives us a glimpse as to the untouched analytical forms that are thought-provoking and incisive (Only 3 of her poems were included; you can read her entire Barbie work in the book Kinky--an incredible piece of work).
Also, the op ed pieces suffer because of the lack of hard data. No real studies exist on the effect of Barbie on kids. Admittedly, such study would be difficult to execute, but interpreting the Arizona study to be such study is a stretch. Accordingly, we end up with op ed pieces either demonizing or adoring Barbie that rely mostly on opinion rather than fact.
Furthermore, the authors end up making the same points over and over: the comma-shaped feet, the torpedo breasts, the unnatural waist, etc. Good or bad? Each author has an opinion. But is this all we can criticize of Barbie?
The introspective pieces are nice (and some of them very funny), but you can only read about somebody's experiences growing up (or old) with Barbie so many times.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book presents a wonderful blend of creative discussions of Barbies. It blends poetry with personal essays to provide an educational overview of the different conversations surrounding Barbie. Unlike many books, this one presents essays on both sides of the debate for a nice well-rounded discussion.
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Format: Paperback
The Barbie Chronicles was an interesting book to read but keep in mind that it is all about Barbie. There is a good amount of information on her, such as when she was first put on the market, the reaction from the consumers, and the major conflicts Barbie caused. It is incredible to see how much a doll can impact a culture. Barbie caused feminists to become angered at the way they (women) were being inappropriately portrayed. The major dislike of Barbie was her unrealistic look. She was and is very skinny, busty, blond, blue eyed, and at the beginning only white. This sent shock waves through the country. Some parents really had no problem with Barbie, and others wanted to burn her. It was considered a controversial doll to many.

The way in which The Barbie Chronicles was written kept my attention because it was unique. Or it was at least unique to me because it was all in essay form. When reading this book you get all different degrees of attachment to Barbie. You get the impression that there are people out there that absolutely love Barbie and seem to almost dedicate their lives to collecting her and then there is the complete opposite. By the complete opposite I mean that there are people that despise Barbie so much they wouldn't even allow the thought of her in their house. The people that do this are almost always parents and they give an array of different excuses for not allowing Barbie into their homes. All the various excuses come down to the same thing, Barbie's figure. If anyone has a qualm with Barbie it is usually due to the fact that she is deathly skinny and no one wants their kids, especially their daughters around that.
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Format: Paperback
Barbie is one of those pop culture icons everyone seems to have an opinion about. This book was fascinating to me because it delved deep into why these people feel as they do and had many very personal essays about people who developed special relationships with the large breasted bombshell. I was happy that many myths about the doll were not perpetuated. Being a Barbie collector I get frustrated when a book is strictly one-sided and claims things that are misleading. Even the Barbie bashers here spoke the truth- a truth that was very interesting to read and helped me to gain a deeper appreciation for all those with passionate opinions about BArbie- they have their reasons!
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