Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Happy Birthday Barbie

What's a hard eleven inches, has a wardrobe to die for, and is sought after by women and gay men alike? No silly - it's not David Beckham... It's Barbie! Born on this day in 1959, the brainchild of Ruth Handler (and adapted from an earlier German fashion doll called Bild Lilli), Barbie's name was derived from that of Handler's daughter, Barbara Millicent Roberts.

PhotobucketBarbie has been controversial from the start, which probably accounts for her enduring popularity; parents in the Fifties were uncomfortable with her distinctly adult figure which, it hardly needs to be said, has always been pretty unrealistic. One of the first toys to be marketed aggressively on television, Barbie is Mattel, Inc.'s main revenue generator; controversial or not, 350,000 units were moved in the first year of production alone, making Barbie as potent a totem of consumerism as she is a symbol of Western decadence - only with cuter shoes!

After fifty years as a pop culture icon, Barbie faces her toughest challenges in the years ahead; already her market share has become as narrow as her waist thanks to the inroads made by Bratz, not to mention Gen-X parents uncomfortable with her tyrannical proportions and the possible effects they may have on the psyche of their offspring. In the meantime there are still new careers to conquer and new outfits to wear for the world's undisputed Queen of Fashion!
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