I have a weird relationship with Barbie dolls.
First of all, I played with them until I was probably like 12, so a little bit beyond when other kids stopped. I built a Barbie Hogwarts in my bedroom, used a cigar box as Harry Potter’s trunk.
Then in college I studied Sociology and Women’s and Gender studies, and spent a semester collecting people’s stories of how they played with Barbie dolls, which I then turned into a paper and then a zine.
Later, I took an experimental video class where I edited pieces of various Barbie advertisements and other symbolically feminine footage (I’m afraid to even look back at the video I made, as I’m sure it was pretty cringe-y and heavy-handed) with a video released to news organizations in 1993 by The Barbie Liberation Organization
The BLO was brought about by the creation of Teen Talk Barbie:
This doll was significant in that each doll said 4 phrases out of a list of 270, meaning that few dolls said the same 4 phrases. However, the things they had Barbie saying were, generally, pretty fucking sexist. The phrase that got the most media attention, though was, “Math class is tough!”. The company ultimately pulled the phrase from the list, but continued to sell the doll.
Anyway, in my research for these various Barbie projects I’ve undertaken, I’ve watched a lot of Barbie ads, and I thought it would be fun to compile all of my favorites in one central location.
Loving You Barbie (1983)
I love this ad because it is so strangely queer. The little girls are writing notes telling Barbie how much they love her and they continually state how beautiful she is. Generally Barbie ads cultivate this sort of hero-worship feeling about the doll, but this one just feels romantic.
Color Splash Pocahontas (1995)
Um. Why does John Smith have a color-changing chest Eagle?
Cool Shavin’ Ken (1996)
I mean, I know it’s Barbie, but this one is so heteronormative that it kind of grosses me out, and I’m currently in a very hetero relationship. Also, I love the Old Spice tie in.
Astronaut Barbie (1985)
This one is by far my favorite. Barbie doesn’t even pretend she’s getting anything productive done in space. She even TAKES HER HELMET OFF to dance under a space disco ball. I also love the puffy sleeves on that space suit.