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Barbie, Can We Ever Forgive You?
The last week’s deluge of opinions on whether Barbie1 — the movie, the entity — is genius or mere marketing smut curiously coincided with the sad news of Sinead O’Connor’s death. And I found myself wondering: what are we really talking about when we consider whether Barbie is any good for us or not? Are we talking about the doll, the children’s toy industry, or something else entirely? Rightly so, we are exhausted and saddened by the reminder of being female in a world that has very specific (and ever-more challenging) qualifications for what we should be doing and what we ought to look like while achieving it (or not achieving it). But is our complaint with Barbie (her creators, her industry), or are we angry instead with all the flesh-and-blood figures in our lives who have much more influence on us and who daily tell us we are too much of this and not enough of that - no matter what we do?
I am struck with how we praise and honor the women around us when they do something we agree with, chastise and abandon them when they disappoint us, and only after their death, exalt them as if we had never turned our backs to their vision; as if we had always continued to champion their courage, talent, and beauty whether it fit the model mold or not.
Whether doll or idol, we rarely celebrate the true character of a person, regardless of make, model, or gender.
Dear Barbie, Can we ever forgive you — your pulseless longevity, the generational need to be, be, be? Can you imagine all the dramas in which you figured so greatly? Our little selves not realizing that the stages we built could not last, would not possibly endure the punishment of a concrete world. Flat-footed and thick with tissue, we can't compare; won't ever know what it means to be such a muse, what it means to be the embodiment of explanations for why our dreams are not what they ought to be. I'm afraid we may never forgive you, Barbie. Even the brave G.I. Joe, thick-veined and eternally bruised, can't make any sense out of you. But listen to me: None of this has ever been your fault. 07.31.2023
Full disclosure: I have not seen the movie, but I plan to, as soon as it comes to my little island movie theater.
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