Muggeridge’s Law states that there is no way that a satirist can compete with real life for its pure absurdity. But I was sure James Lileks, in his new “Backfence: The Quirk” column (Is it the Backfence, or The Quirk? C’mon Strib, make up your mind!), was kidding around when he wrote:
Barbie gets a bad rap. A few years back she got slapped for admitting something everyone knows: “Math is hard.” She didn’t say, “I cannot perform elementary addition because I have bosoms,” but that’s what everyone seemed to infer. You’d think this paper regularly had headlines like “Lack of Trigonometry Knowledge Leaves Six Dead,” and that Barbie was leading us to a world where young women would be unable to compete with Japan, where most embryos begin algebra lessons upon conception.
But Barbie isn’t stupid. As a role model, you could do worse. You could do the Bratz, which are grotesque pumpkin-headed creatures with Kate Moss coke-hag bods and bedroom eyes. And the “bedroom” in this case is a motel room on the outskirts of Vegas littered with crack vials and crumpled cigarette packs.
I know, I know: Kids grow up faster today, which is why it’s important to provide 10-year-olds with slutterific dolls so they’ll know how to dress for their photo in the escort section of the free weekly. But why Barbie gets people riled up and the Bratz get a pass — go figure.
I bring this up only to note with despair that Barbie has gone Bratz as well. For the holiday season Mattel is bringing out the “My Scene Bling Bling Barbie,” an attempt to out-skank the Bratz market by tarting up America’s sweetheart. Her lips now contain so much collagen she looks like she’d make a sloshing sound if she puckered up; her eyes are bigger, the mascara looks like she was attacked by a rabid Sharpie, and her lids have that come-hither half-mast appearance that make her look as though she smoked half a pound of hash on the way over from China.
Her accessories are blinged out, as you might expect — a silver cell phone for calling her dealer, a tiny silver purse whose contents you can imagine dumped out on a police car hood (sold separately), gauche synthetic fur that suggests they lifted the ban on trapping pimps and selling the pelts, a halter top, short shorts, pink leg warmers and high-heeled boots. Just ghastly. “Flashdance” meets “Foxy Brown” meets “Pretty Woman.” On Cinemax.
It fits the target market, though. Let’s be honest: Most kids have no sense of style. Most little boys would wear a Spiderman costume to Great Aunt Agnes’ funeral if they could. But adults are the ones pushing bling on kids, even though bling can only be worn ironically as a comment on the awfulness of bling. Adults are supposed to teach kids about style. In a way, it’s apt; Barbie’s clean-cut California classic look is out, replaced by the ugly incoherence of modern fashion, most of which looks like something Audrey Hepburn would slit her wrists rather than wear.
It’s a satire, right? A brilliantly subtle Lileksian parody. Mattel wouldn’t actually make a slutterific My Scene Bling Bling Barbie Doll, would they? No, of course not.
Then I went to Google…