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Banning Barbie

BY NATE WHITNEY | MARCH 5, 2009 7:19 AM

BIt’s a warm June day in 2010, and in Huntington, W.V., a Toys ’R’ Us store is quiet save for a handful of customers slowly wandering the aisles. An employee is standing idly at the register, another is unloading a box of video games, and somewhere in the back of the store, a young boy is loudly insisting his mother buy him whatever he wants. The sun gleams through fingerprint covered windows, highlighting the dusty dry air as it floats through the store. All is quiet.

Suddenly, federal agents stream through the entrance, screaming for everyone to get down, the scopes of automatic weapons float from target to target. Amid the organized madness, the raid leader coolly walks over to an endcap display and picks up a Barbie, shaking his head and glaring at the woman behind the register. Then, like Chief Wiggam in an episode of “The Simpsons,” he says “Take her away, boys.” This isn’t a drug raid, or a search for illegal immigrants, it’s a hunt for something much more deadly. An evil that is poisoning our nation’s youth, diluting the reality of their futures, one little girl at a time.

Ah, the sinister, Mephistophelian Barbie doll.

West Virginia lawmaker Jeff Eldridge (D-Land of Lunacy) has introduced legislation that would ban the sale of Barbie dolls and (vagueness alert) “other dolls that influence girls to be beautiful” in the state. Eldridge; “I hate the myth around, if you’re beautiful, you don’t have to be smart.”
Well, that’s actually a great point. Too bad that despite his making it, he still doesn’t get it. It’s a myth. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. But the bigger point is missed here, and that’s that we’re arguing about the moral and ethical implications of a plastic children’s toy. Aside from the fact that most good parents are going to be able to help confused children disseminate the differences between fantasy and reality, imagination and logical reasoning, it’s obvious given West Virginia’s immaculate image of a largely healthy, well-educated populous with impeccable dental hygiene that Barbie’s influence is strong in the state.

I jest, of course. West Virginia stereotypes are no laughing matter, though this legislation is. And as long as we’re talking stereotypes, how about the iconic American and how most of us (not just according to research, but to looking around every day) are obese. We are a nation of fatties. Should we ban the Weeble? And if Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down, well Mr. Eldridge, what kind of an example is that to present to our youth? Not only are we enforcing the concept of having a ridiculously round bottom and girthy midsection, but people fall down all the time. Mistakes are made, as the West Virginia delegate is proving right now through introduction of this completely inane and ridiculous legislation.

Don’t confuse my intent here. I’m not saying the Barbie doll is an accurate representation of women (at least not the kind I’d want to take home to mom, nothing but air between the ears and synthetic materials everywhere else), but it’s a freaking toy doll. Since when do children’s toys have to perfectly represent the virtues of womanhood? How about action figures (after all, boys don’t play with dolls)? The bulbous muscles of WWE action figures, GI Joes, and various other costumed superheroes — are these creating delusions of unreachable grandeur in the minds of young boys?

Doing a quick online search reveals a list of Barbie’s past “careers,” or at least the themes that previous Barbie dolls have been released with. Sign-language teacher, pediatrician, Navy officer, astronaut, paleontologist and UNICEF summit diplomat. Not a plus-20 ACT score to be had in that bunch, for sure. Professions aside, how about the actual figure of the doll, since that’s at the center of Mr. Eldridge’s attention. Why not make the doll with a muffin top? Maybe a receding hairline, or cottage cheese cankles? Surely young girls will strive to attain those types of images just as much, right? But they’re more realistic, and that’s what we’re aiming for with children’s toys, aren’t we?

To Eldridge’s credit, he tells us he wants children to know that “beauty from the inside” is just as important as any other kind. I couldn’t agree more, but just how do you get such a philosophical concept through in a $15 plastic doll? Better yet, is such a lesson really necessary in every product a child owns? The morals behind this bill are important for our children to learn, but anyone who wants to ban Barbie is dumber than a sack of rocks, which — I’m guessing — is exactly what Jeff Eldridge had to play with when he was little. Have some fun, and grow up.


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