Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"My Scene"Barbie..is it your scene? (try 4)

"My Scene" Barbie, is it your scene?

When you think of Barbie, some imagine an icon of femininity, while others reminisce of her as a favorite childhood toy but today’s Barbie and friends have come a long way since then. The Barbie of today reflects different aspects of pop culture from her hair style, occupations, and dress. Barbie, however doesn’t always represent the best image of women. In particular, “My Scene” Barbie, one of the many lines made by Mattel, Inc comes with multiple themes and corresponding outfits. In particular the “Let’s Go Disco” doll comes with a ruffled mini skirt, high heels, and a belly baring trendy top. These outfits are so barely there, they would make the original Barbie blush.

In the second Chapter of Newman’s book, he examines this idea of cultures effect of young girls. The theory of constructionism states that gender is a result of culture, not biology (Newman 36). This means that gender takes on roles given to us by society, from broad terms of being labeled male or female, to influencing personal decisions, like taste in music, and clothing. An example is the color association between pink for girls and blue for boys implemented at birth. From these ideas, children coming to grow within these gender roles through adulthood. Girls are constantly met with concepts given by the media, through commercials on TV, to the toys they play with. Also traditional ideas are reinforced in the media, for instance girls should be concerned with their appearance and home life, this idea is again cemented in minds through products and toys focused on their female consumers. The Barbie that is in the constant hands of our youth is a direct interpretation of how we should be, but you don’t realize this as a child, you can’t differentiate between your own opinions from what given.

“My Scene” Barbie was introduced to the US toy industry by Mattel Inc. in 2002 and is marketed to young girls between 6-11 years old. The Barbie doll line initially consisted of three main characters with a single look, but as of 2008 there was an additional forty more themes and a multiple of characters. Each character expresses the new theme through their clothes, but not their faces. Every doll has a flashy eye makeup, a blank wide eyed stare and nothing more then a pout. This could easily leave a young girl with the impression that it is more important that I express myself through clothes and then through facial expression. Clothes that are made by cultures expectations, forming girls to choose from clothes that don’t represent a personal expression but a cultural expression. This need to buy and consume is a part of our culture taught to children at such a young age, an idea argued by Lipsitz. He examines how commercials influence children to consume, a market that has expanded further with the internet. Children are constantly being fed ideals, through TV, internet, in school, with their toys, and friends it is an overwhelming situation.

Further the main characters are made of stereotypical ideal examples of race, a blonde with blue eyes as the main friends, a strong loud light skinned black friend, a quiet, submissive Asian friend, and a fiery red head who could also be Hispanic. Although these stereotypes are not blatantly seen when looking at the dolls but it is less subtle in the animated version of the characters. This is an example of accepted racism or “inferential” racism as described in “The Whites of Their Eyes” by Stuart Hall. Which states that it is a form of racism that is allowed because its so subtle its almost unnoticed because of how much it is seen.

Barbie is preparing girls to be adults prematurely, and over sexualizing them. For instance, the name of the line “MyScene” is written very similar to “Myspace” (myspace.com) which is an online social network geared to adults. My Scene Barbie line has an online site that is set up almost exactly like the adult site, providing videos, downloads, an online store and games. This allows for the transition from “innocent” myscene.com to an unprotected myspace.com all the easier. A scary thought because of the ability for young people to work myspace unregulated and unprotected from predators not found on myscene.com.

Barbie is not a simple toy of child’s play but rather a direct medium of society ideas for a gender role. For a younger girl deriving her identity from My Scene Barbie alone, would interpret the need to be beautiful, hide behind a face of makeup, a constant consumer, non expressive, and dressed provocatively. I look back now on the Barbie dolls I once cherished, in a new light, it’s hard to imagine who I would be if there was no influence.

**To Check out a MyScene Episode go to: http://myscene.everythinggirl.com/webisodes/webisodes.aspx


Image 1. Amazon.con May 20, 2008. http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/B000A7S5AK/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_images_2?ie=UTF8&index=2

Image 2. Amazon.com May 20, 2008. http://www.amazon.com/Barbie-Scene-Un-Fur-Gettable-Kennedy-Doll/dp/B000EMJ9UG/ref=pd_sim_t_img_3

Hall, Stuart. The Whites of There Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media. Gender, Race,

and Class in Media. Sage Publications Inc. 2003. p 89-93.

Liptsitz, George. The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class, and Ethnicity in Early

Network Television. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications Inc.

2003. p40-48.

Myscene.com. Mattel, Inc. 2008. www.myscene.com

Newman. Chapter 2. p 36-37