Life in Plastic, It’s Fantastic: How Barbie Set Unrealistic Life Goals for Girls the World Over

Humour

Life in Plastic, It’s Fantastic: How Barbie Set Unrealistic Life Goals for Girls the World Over

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

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our favourite doll Barbie turns 60 today. Feel old yet? She doesn’t. Why would she when her makers designed her to be ageless. In fact, this newly minted sexagenarian still looks 18. She’s not the first 60-year-old to look impossibly hot, but unlike Rekha she doesn’t gift wrap herself only in shiny Kanjeevarams while managing to look like a mafia don in dark shades. This one’s a babe. Barbie, when not donning her Indian avatar, is mostly in smart casuals and impossibly high heels and prefers remaining motionless.

The last time she tried walking, her 39-inch bust balanced delicately over her 19-inch waist brought her crashing down. She had to crawl on all fours and made you wonder how she managed the butt of a 13-year-old boy. But then you looked at her mouth permanently shut and insides that were completely hollow and gave a resigned sigh.

At nearly six feet and legs longer than a traffic snarl on Gurgaon-Delhi highway, she’s always been just Barbie, not aunty and definitely not mata jee. No, she won’t even turn up in the search results when you google “hot aunty pics”.

Without uttering a single word, she gave us hair goals, waist goals and even boyfriend goals. Who doesn’t want a boyfriend like Ken – tall, broad, well-dressed, slightly younger, and most importantly always silent? Unlike our real-life friends, she was always available to play and a willing guinea pig for our make-up misadventures. The poor thing put up with crayon-lined eyes that made her look like a psychedelic raccoon and purple-stained cheeks with a stoic expression. She might have not been a great conversationalist, but she was quite the entertainer. That perfect mane of hers brought out the sadistic hairstylist in us – we gave her uneven bangs, spikes, and a mohawk the moment we got tired of brushing her hair and tying it in a neat pony.

Long before the divas of the glam industry took to plastic to look fantastic, she was the plastic babe we loved to trash. Barbie has lost count of the number of times she was accused of setting unrealistic body standards for young girls eager to believe that it’s okay to be emaciated as long as you have F cup boobs. Pfft… all their mothers had to do was take them to a Marks and Spencer store and make them look at the bras in the F cup section to scar them for life instead of gifting Barbie a guilt complex that she didn’t deserve.

Like any woman who thinks it is her duty to take care of everybody else’s emotional needs at the cost of her own, Barbie kept reinventing herself.

Is this how you repay a woman who may have inspired Wonderbra, the magnificent invention that uplifted your tomatoes to become watermelons? Have you forgotten the life lessons she taught you? She taught you discontentment. After driving your parents insane with your incessant whining and finally getting a Barbie, your contentment lasted exactly one week. Pretty soon you were whining for Ken, a sibling or two to keep Barbie company, a kitchen, closet full of clothes to keep her busy and furniture for the living room to entertain her guests.

You had to wait a decade or two to make the awful discovery that buying stuff for the kitchen is great as long as you don’t have to use it to cook meals and household chores are way more fun when they are imagined and not done.

She taught you disappointment. Imagine going around with a broad-shouldered, well-muscled and seriously gorgeous guy only to discover he doesn’t have a dick!

Like any woman who thinks it is her duty to take care of everybody else’s emotional needs at the cost of her own, Barbie kept reinventing herself. It’s as if she was afflicted with mid-life crisis all her life, changing her persona from time to time to stay relevant. From a tall blondie with a wrist-sized waist, she became brown, a rebel with tattoos, and even got her best friend Midge to get pregnant only to be told she needed to try harder. Since running marathons or cycling from Manali to Leh was not an option, she became Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Chef Hélène Darroze, Olympic gold medallist Chloe Kim and mathematician Katherine Johnson until she didn’t know who she was anymore.

Phew, rather be Rekha than the world’s most popular doll. At least you get to be yourself.

Do they have a Barbie in a gold Kanjeevaram and dark shades yet?  

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