What fascinated me most was how Barbie and Ken have evolved in the last 15 years, presumably to greater reflect modern men and women. Well not so much Barbie, but Ken. Gone is the hard plastic helmet-hair, the 5 o clock shadow and 3/4 length ‘Dad shorts’ sported by the Ken dolls of my childhood. Those ‘Action Man’ wannabees have been replaced by much younger looking fashionable plastic figurines with cleverly coordinated outfits, ‘real’ hair and moveable limbs capable of over 100 poses- as it hilariously informs us on the box (how is that a selling point?!).
Perhaps todays Ken reflects the more fashion and beauty conscious, dare-I-use-the-most-overused-word-since-2000 ‘metrosexual’ young men of today. Or perhaps he reflects a crisis of masculinity in society lecturers in my gender studies classes swore was happening. Whilst Barbie is off being a doctor or lifesaver or ballerina or bride (she hasn’t quite evolved past the big white dress yet) or whatever she wants to be because dammit, she has the right to choose, Ken gets skinny jeans and a bunch of new poses. I couldn’t help but start to feel sorry for Ken. He seemed so confused- in one box he seemed wittingly camp with an indeterminate sexual preference, and in another he stood sheepishly next to Barbie, branded with her lipstick on his cheek, ‘Together Again!’. Purportedly she took him back after dumping him. Barbie holds all the cards, Ken is subject to her whims. Not since the Golliwog have toys been so politically loaded. What next for Ken? Perhaps he will soon be available for purchase with one of those super emasculating baby-holders strapped to his chest. A car with a baby-seat in the back? At least give him a Hummer or something.