Barbie v Bratz
For a middle-aged guy, I spend a lot of time prowling the toy section of our local thrift stores. As you can imagine, “Barbie”, the Grand Dame of Mattel’s gigantic toy empire, remains a ubiquitous presence in the racks of pre-abused toys I regularly survey. The last time I visited the thrift store in the Manilla Community Ctr, I found a a clear plastic shoebox full of naked Barbie dolls. They must have had at least 30 naked Barbie dolls in that box.
Of course, that many Barbie dolls would not fit in a shoebox if they were all facing the same way. Sure, you could fit 30 pairs of Barbie doll feet in at one end of the box, but the boobs of thirty Barbie dolls would surely topple over, and spill out at the other end of the box. So, to fit them all in the box, these Barbies were stacked head-to-toe in a kind of multiple 69 configuration. I’m not sure whether it looked more like a big-haired lesbian orgy, or an all-blonde mass grave, but lets just say that the image of that shoebox full of naked Barbies has stayed with me, perhaps a bit longer than I’d like.
I’ve always found Barbie a bit disturbing. I’ve seen “Superstar; The Karen Carpenter Story”, and I’ve seen some amusing, if not inspiring dioramas, starring Barbie, assembled by an artist with a dark sense of humor, but, I’ve never seen Barbie dolls look quite so disquieting, as they did in that shoebox a few weeks ago at the Manilla Community Ctr. Thrift Store. I don’t think that’s a great way to sell Barbie dolls, personally, but whatever. What’s done is done. I guess I’ll shake it off someday.
That’s how it is with Barbie. I can’t say she’s unattractive, but everything about her is just a little creepy. Besides the fact that her boobs are too hard and pointy, there’s something just a little psychotic in her facial expression. She’s trying too hard. Barbie always looks phony, and just a little too ambitious. It’s not a good kind of ambition, if there is such a thing.
Barbie’s expression says “I know I’m beautiful, and I like to go on dates, but I’m in love with Jesus, and I’m saving myself for marriage.” Or, that she’s a perpetual beauty pageant contestant, trying desperately to convince us that she’s perfect, until that day she killed 14 people in a Starbucks in San Diego. You can see it in her eyes, she’s looking right at you, but doesn’t see you at all. She’s in her own little world, totally focused on trying to live up to her own unrealistic expectations of herself. Who wants to spend their time around that? Not me.
I understand that Barbie was originally marketed to middle-aged men of questionable taste, such as myself. Apparently, Barbie dolls, then called “Lili” dolls, clad in only a negligee, became a popular item, sold in bars in Germany in the 50s. Named after a sexy, sassy, buxom young female comic strip character of the same name, “Lili” dolls hung from rear-view mirrors all over Europe. The 50’s era design explains Barbie’s pointy, 18hr, cross-your-heart bra, missile tits, but I still don’t like her.
Original Lili doll
Yes, Mattel really hit pay-dirt when they started marketing this sexy plaything to young girls. You can’t argue with success. My survey of Humboldt thrift stores tells me that Barbie has achieved complete market saturation. If there is a little girl in America who does not have a Barbie, its only because her mom forbade her from having a Barbie. As a result, she will grow up obsessed with Barbies and collect them compulsively.
I’m sure lots of little girls grow up without playing with Barbie dolls, but at least they always knew that Barbie was available to them. Hell, I even played with Barbie, once or twice myself. I seem to vaguely recall helping Barbie drive her Corvette over a cliff at some point in my distant past, and I still want one of those new “Video Barbies”. Have you seen “Video Barbie”?
Video Barbie has a video camera in her neck, a TV screen in her back, and a serial port between her legs, so you can upload the video you shoot with Barbie to youtube and facebook with your computer. I’ve made enough documentaries to know that very few people ever get entirely comfortable in front of a video camera. I’m not sure they’d be any more comfortable with a middle-aged man pointing a Barbie doll with a tracheotomy at them, but its worth a shot.
That pretty much sums up how I feel about Barbie, but the Bratz dolls are another story all together. I like the Bratz. I really like the Bratz. I mean, I know they are too young for me, and I don’t, like, know their names or anything, but I think they are cute, and not in a fluffy kitty sort of way.
Bratz dolls never fail to turn me on. The Bratz dolls aren’t as stacked as Barbie, but they have cute figures, and they like to show off their belly buttons. I don’t think Barbie even has a belly button, but what really gets me about the Bratz dolls, is the way they look at me.
I can’t help notice them looking at me. They’re eyes are at least three times as big as their boobs, and they look at me the way real women never do, at least not when I’m rifling through a shelf of stuffed animals at a thrift store. Then I notice the Bratz luscious full pouting lips, almost as wide as their own hips, and I can’t help but think to myself, “I’ll bet these Bratz give memorable Bjs.”
So, when I found out that Barbie was suing the Bratz for copyright infringement, I immediately sided with the Bratz. The lawsuit seemed ridiculous to me. Bratz look nothing like Barbie. The Bratz are so much hotter than Barbie, so much cooler than Barbie and so much more appealing than Barbie. How could that bitch even think they were copying her? “She’s just jealous.” I thought.
I was shocked and heartbroken when the ruling came down and Barbie won the trial. Apparently, Barbie, or more accurately, Mattel, spent big bucks on the research and development of the Bratz, but because Mattel determined that Bratz dolls were only going to hurt sales of Barbie dolls, Mattel shelved the Bratz project. A Mattel employee, Carter Bryant, who worked on the Bratz project, and obviously became as smitten with them as I am, jumped ship, and started his own toy company, MGA Entertainment, launching the Bratz himself, and going head-to-head with Mattel in the super-sexy teenage doll market. That’s how the Bratz were born, and that’s how the Bratz almost died.
After the trial, the judge ordered that all Bratz dolls and toys be removed from store shelves. That didn’t effect thrift stores though. I continued to encounter Bratz in the thrift stores pretty regularly. By the time of the trial, literally billions of units of cheap plastic Bratz crap had spread to every corner of the globe. I know that globes don’t literally have corners, but suffice it to say that enough Bratz products had been manufactured by that point to form a distinct layer of Bratz sediment in the Earths fossil record.
When I would see Bratz dolls in the thrift stores during that time, they reminded me of just how corrupt our criminal justice system really is. Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abdul Jamal are still in prison, the drug war continues unabated, and now this. The Bratz became a symbol of injustice and oppression to me. That flawed ruling only made me love the Bratz that much more.
Even so, I never wanted to own any of the Bratz dolls. I’m not that kind of guy. I like the way they look, and I like the way they look at me, but I’m not the possessive type. I just like that they are around, and its nice to see them at the thrift store once in a while. I’m not a collector, and I didn’t try to make money off of people’s fond memories of them, as Bratz dolls became more scarce over time. So, I cheered when an appeals court overturned the trial verdict, and ordered Barbie to pay the Bratz $310 million. Last I heard, Bratz had taken 40% of the “fashion doll market” away from Barbie. Woo-hoo!
Now, I hope the Bratz crush Barbie once and for all, and if there’s a god in heaven, please don’t ever let me see another shoebox full of naked Barbies ever again. I know that this whole Barbie vs Bratz thing blew over last year, so this is by no means news. I’m excited about the Bratz today because I just bought my very first Bratz electronic toy.
I found this Bratz brand, pink and black electronic drum machine, that looks like a giant padded training bra, in the Garberville thrift store for $1. Looking online, couldn’t find any evidence that anyone else has ever circuit-bent this model of toy before, and I could only find one picture of it online, in an Ebay auction, used, for $9.99. I’m eager to explore the untapped potential of this sexy, somewhat rare, Bratz padded drum bra, and I look forward to having the Bratz in my growing circuit-bent orchestra soon.
For sale on Ebay, $9.99
Postscript: Having spent a while looking at pictures of the Bratz in preparation of this post. I have to admit that these mantis faced Bratz creep me out every bit as much as Barbie. I think I may need to see a fashion doll trauma counselor, but I still like my new drum bra.