Maybe it’s to deconstruct the ultimate symbol of idealized femininity and the socialization of young girls. Maybe it’s in defiance of Mattel, a company infamous for harassing artists who try to obfuscate their pure brand. Maybe it’s Maybelline.
Whatever the reason, the destruction or alteration of Barbie Dolls has long been a choice method of delivering insights on femininity in modern america by artists. There seems to be this impulse to take the inauthentic perfection of Barbie, and make it into something dark. This post explores three artists and the ways they do that exact thing.
Tom Forsythe: Food Chain Barbie
Now famous for being hunted down by Barbie’s company, Mattel, Tom Forsythe’s photography of Barbie Dolls being baked and blended in antique kitchen-ware aimed to address the anachronistic role that ‘regressive’ toys such as Barbie Dolls played in society. The art piece interacts interestingly with the concept of ‘about to happen,’ in that no dolls are actually destroyed, but the tension is built up by their positioning in hazardous places.
Mariel Clayton: Bad Barbie
Mariel Clayton’s work found its fame through the online social media platform Tumblr. One user posted this image and commented on how mortifying it was that Barbie was cleaning in white pants, intentionally ignoring the obvious macabre scene the work depicts. This post sparked a long trend of people adding on nit picky observations, while acting as though Barbie’s murdered lover was trivial, at best. Both the original piece, and the fan interaction with it, play with the notion of this character as the always happy, always perfect, resident of a Dream House. In fact, the implication of Barbie keeping a smile on her face while performing gruesome tasks subverts the initial intention entirely.
Mark Cope and Carlo Moss: The Most Popular Girls In School
Although it may not fall into the category of high art per se, the raunchy stop motion web series certainly does fall into the category of bastardizing the barbie doll. The show features unlikable characters and Wolf of Wall Street amounts of swearing that serve to provide a nuanced look of the balance between maturity and innocence that takes place in during ones teenage years. As one character says, “This is high school, not a fucking episode of Lizzy McGuire.” Just as no one is as perfect and innocent as a character in a family-friendly sitcom, no one is as cruel and poor-intentioned as one of the titular Popular Girls.