For the artist Annette Thas, Barbie is a disturbingly bittersweet symbol of childhood nostalgia and longing; for installation piece “Wave I,” she uses between 3,000 and 5,000 barbie dolls to build a sculptural wave, re-appropriating the doll as a means of translating her earliest memories, scenes which now flood her after returning to Belgium to care for her ill sister. Read More
Barbie has made headlines that lately; as we continue to push toy companies towards a doll that includes more diverse body types, ethnicities, careers, and lifestyles, some groundbreaking artists have reworked and re-appropriated the toy to challenge expectations and sexist assumptions. My personal favorite of these artists, Margaux Lange, shared a recent Barbie tidbit with her social media network this morning: the doll is going to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Read More
Barbie’s place in adolescence and constructed femininity has baffled psychologists and feminist alike: on one hand, she’s a patient confidante onto which girls might project their hopes and aspirations. But she also espouses limited and damaging views on female roles, bodies, and sexuality. She sends conflicting messages, passively listening to you for hours while remaining inhumanly cold. As girls, we intuitively pick up that Barbie is “grown up” and “sexy,” but she doesn’t have genitals and therefore cannot be understood as a sexual agent. Read More
As children, many of us turn to our toys to navigate our developing identities. Sometimes, our dolls serve as surrogates; we parent them the way we see our children parenting us, and we identify with them. Photography operates similarly: as teens, we might dog-ear or collect magazine images that appeal to our expanding sense of self. Since so many dolls and photographs in mainstream fashion magazines present a grossly limited definition of femininity, it can be damaging to use them as a means of self-definition. Read More
From Scary Movie onwards, Anna Faris has brilliantly subverted female lead movie tropes. In the 2011 The New Yorker piece “Funny Like A Guy,” she express her desire to verge from the Type A, likable and romantic roles offered to so many Hollywood starlets. She craves grit and authenticity: “I’d like to explore Type D, the sloppy ones,” she said.
So it makes sense that Faris’s relationship with Barbie, an early image of a stereotyped adult woman, was a little unconventional. Read More