Barbie Does Campy.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you probably know that the Barbie doll turned fifty this month. Now, if you read this column with any regularity, you may recall that I am not exactly a Barbie lover, and as such, I normally wouldn’t take time out of my life to mark this momentous occasion. However, seeing as how my daughter and I were invited to a celebratory party at the “real” Malibu Barbie Dream House, I simply couldn’t resist the urge to go check it out, my disaffinity for Barbie notwithstanding (and yes, I think I made up the word disaffinity, but I am too lazy to go hunting through a Thesaurus for the proper antonym for affinity, so disaffinity it is).

 

Let me just say this, right off the bat: the Malibu Barbie Dream House was kickass. From the moment we pulled into the ivy-covered gates emblazoned with hot pink roses in the shape of a “B,” and saw the hot pink, blinged-out convertible Volkswagon with the pull-down makeup tray just above the rear license plate, I knew that I was going to be converted, right then and there. According to the lovely woman I met from Mattel’s PR firm, the house was rented, the owner’s furniture had been pulled out, and famed interior designer Jonathan Adler had re-decorated it especially for the birthday girl herself. And wow, did he re-decorate. There was the custom, super-plush, black and white carpet monogrammed with lowercase bs, and the chandelier in the living room, made entirely from blonde, Barbie ponytails. There were the living room chairs covered in fabrics from various Barbie outfits and shaped to look like corsets, complete with black satin laces criss-crossing the backs. There was the boudoir ceiling draped in hot pink velvet, and the walk-in closet filled with identical, hot pink, Christian Louboutin platforms (which, the PR person told me, required a bodyguard). And of course, there was the magnificent ocean view, just steps above the Pacific Coast Highway. It was, without a doubt, a house that any girl would dream about.

 

And yet, it didn’t feel like it was inhabited by the Barbie that I knew. The Barbie that I knew was far too earnest to live in such a tongue-in-cheek setting, which is exactly what I never liked about her as a kid. She was so nice to Ken, and she was so good to her younger cousin, Skipper. She seemed like the kind of girl who said things like, “gosh” and “golly,” and who volunteered at a homeless shelter on Friday nights instead of going out on dates. She had those perfect clothes and the perfect house and the perfect boyfriend, and the camper that you just know she never used for getting high, or having sex, or doing anything that a real Malibu girl with a camper in the 1970s would have done. And frankly, I found her annoying. I mean, forgive me, but I prefer my female icons with a bitchy side.

wigglerooms
03.27.09

I love this - from the idea of a Black Power Barbie to the things Barbie wouldn't do in her camper, to her inability to "cast off the vestiges of her Sandra Dee past" and the gay fashion icon marketed to 30-somethings with a sense of humor. You've hit everything I love and hate about Barbies, with articulation and wit. Definitely stumbling. :) Am only disappointed I live too far from Malibu to visit the mansion.

raindots
03.26.09

As I got older, what bothered me about Barbie were her impossible proportions. But as far as the she-could-be-anything-without-context... Well I'm a child of the 80s so I was lucky that the women who came before HAD knocked down so many barriers for my generation, but with Barbie, I saw that aspect of her - that she could be anything - as a way of rewriting history and stereotypes for young girls: if BARBIE can be a fill-in-the-blank, so can I.

Incidentally, my favorite Barbie was the one my parents had to really search to find me: a Hispanic Barbie for that side of my heritage. That was an unusual thing to see back then. I'm glad that at least, has changed.

ngb48
03.25.09

I was at the Barbie Malibu Gala....and I only remember seeing one young girl with her Mother....she was in an adorable Black Sparkly Tulle skirt over leggings. Most of the people were from the design community or the celebrity circuit. So I question the "can't count" reference to mother/ daughter conversations in the museum portion. Too bad in trying to write a pithy and disparaging column about Barbie...you couldn't overlook your own prejudice and report on what a fun, classy, and joyous event it was!!