I mutilated my Barbies – and so have you. Here’s why.

barbie gifs

Crazy makeup and amputations are just a few of the ways kids often get creative with Barbie makeovers. (Illustration by Jay Sprogell for Yahoo; Photo: Getty Images)

While the highly anticipated July 21 release Barbie approach to filmmaking, I thought a lot about my own childhood Barbies – in particular, how I cut off their little heads of hair, and also how I ripped off Ken’s leg just to see what would happen (it wouldn’t be coming back ), drew tattoos on another Barbie’s back, used nail polish as makeup that never came off, and stripped them all and put them back in a tissue closet.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my penchant for destroying Barbie. “I hacked my hair! Down to the scalp, roughly,” a colleague shared, with another report, “We ripped ‘Kissing Barbie’s face off and turned her into a demon that would attack with her frown. … Without his skin, it was like a bad tongue.

My teen told me she and her friend “cut their hair and combed it with nail polish and drew on it with Sharpies and called them Blarbies,” and a New York artist friend of a friend shared : “I was probably 22 and trying to get sober…I heated nails to burn plastic and nailed them to pieces of wood…I painted my scars on the Barbies…Others have been completely dismembered.

On TikTok, posts related to the “destruction of Barbie dolls” have a total of 2.9 billion views. A bar in San Francisco, meanwhile, has for years held an annual Halloween party dedicated to the mutilation of Barbie. Jessica Biel confessed years ago to “mutilating them by ripping their heads off, cutting all their hair off, dyeing it with markers and sticking it on the Christmas tree lights.” And at least a handful of other artists use deconstructed Barbies as a medium, including jewelry designer Margaux Lange, who makes earrings and necklaces from Barbie’s ears, eyes and smiling mouth, a subject she finds “infinitely inspiring”.

Destruction is a habit confirmed by Tanya Stone, author of The Good, the Brut and the Barbie, which tells Yahoo Life, “Part of my research by writing [the book] came from hundreds of stories sent to me by a wide variety of people. The bashing of Barbie was a common theme and seemed to fall broadly into two categories – pure entertainment and action that stemmed from something deeper. Many have referred to it as a sort of punishment for Barbie being too perfect. One woman simply said, ‘Barbie was so despicable.’ »

Barbie bashing theories

Lange believes that “the alteration/destruction of Barbie dolls in childhood” is “almost a rite of passage as a way to play with altering appearance and/or releasing feelings in a perfectly safe and exploratory,” and it’s something she’s done a lot of, with Barbie haircuts and makeovers involving Sharpies.

“Some of them are just childhood entertainment – because one can, and the curious impulse of ‘what if…’ is quite strong and perfectly natural for children,” she says. “It may also stem from a desire to destroy Barbie’s perceived perfection and her portrayal of impossible standards for women and girls. There’s something very cathartic about venting frustrations with societal expectations by altering a inanimate object that keeps smiling at you.

A small British study carried out in 2005 at the University of Bath by Agnes Nairn, now professor of marketing and consumer behavior at the University of Bristol, examined the subject by asking children aged 7 to 11 about various dolls.

The first Barbie doll from 1959 is on display in the interactive exhibit

“All reported damaging their dolls by cutting hair, combing it, or even removing appendages,” noted a study of how children played with their Barbies. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

“The girls we spoke to see torturing Barbie as a legitimate play activity and see torturing as a ‘cool’ activity,” Nairn told The Associated Press at the time, when her research sparked a stir. slew of sensationalist “Barbie torture” and “Die, Barbie, Die” headlines.” The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from waxing to beheading, burning, breaking and even microwaving She added that “the physical abuse and torture towards the doll was reported on several occasions, quite happily”, and that the reason for this was largely because the girls thought of Barbie as ‘baby’ and something” which they had now passed”.

In response, a 2005 opinion piece in the Guardian by Anastasia de Waal, head of family and education at a UK think tank, said the findings “looked like academic overanalysis”, particularly Nairn’s takeaway that some of the anti- Barbie was a response to consumerism.

“Seeing what a doll looks like minus a limb or two does not denote ideological hostility, but rather a sense of curiosity – albeit a bit morbid (I’m now intrigued by what happens when a doll is put on the mic -waves),” she wrote. “Methods of customizing dolls have become more innovative, not for any threatening reason, but because dolls are now pretty damn durable. So if a toy collection consists mostly of Barbies… then a lot will be shorn/drilled/charred . Simple as that.”

Nairn doesn’t dispute that, telling Yahoo Life today how she learned through her research that the destruction came with “a lot of different reasons,” including being experimental and “trying to give it back.” .. more individualized”. The kids would tell her, “Barbies? I have a box full of them under the bed,” she adds, “So Barbie wasn’t special, Barbie wasn’t an individual, there were multiple Barbies If you had a doll that was your special friend, I can’t imagine you would disfigure her…and I don’t think Barbie fills that role.

Nairn (who says the kids told him a microwaved Barbie smells like “pancakes”) says “it would be really interesting to revisit” the study, given that we’re 20 years later not only in female empowerment but also in the diversity offered by Mattel, such as with a transgender Barbie and those with Down syndrome or physical disabilities – proof that “individualism has continued apace”.

She recalls the “huge” reaction to her research when it was published, with “three solid days” of media calls. “It was around Christmas. But also, just this idea of ​​little girls torturing their dolls really upset adults.

An earlier, smaller and broader US study of young teenage girls’ views of Barbie found that suburban girls, ages 10 to 13, reported three categories of Barbie play: imaginative play, of torture and anger.

While Rage Play involved stabbing or stomping on a Barbie to release anger towards a classmate or sibling, “a surprisingly common form of Barbie-related play reported by participants was Torture Play. . All said they damaged their dolls by cutting hair, combing it or even removing appendages,” noted the findings, in which one girl discussed changing Ken and Barbie’s heads and another cut Ken’s hair. Barbie in Mohawk and painted them with purple nails. Polish.

Such play did not occur with other types of dolls, according to the study, because, as one participant explained, Barbie “is the only one who seems perfect.”

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