Blonde, bland, busty Barbie - the embodiment of evil is back
Hamleys' prediction of bumper sales of the 50-year-old doll is depressing, says Rowan Pelling.
Like my mother before me, I firmly believe in an axis of toy evil: a conspiracy of heavily advertised cheap plastic tat seeking to corrupt children's imaginations. And if, on this axis, Transformers are Hizbollah and My Little Pony is Kim Jong-il, then Barbie is indisputably playtime's very own Osama bin Laden.
Barbie, the Osama bin Laden of the toy world Photo: Getty
The vapid-faced mannequin has spent 50 years as the symbolic head of a sinister worldwide movement, verging on a religion, that celebrates blonde, bland, busty beauty as the acme of human achievement.
I am not sure which depresses me most: a world in which every woman wears a burka, or one in which every woman looks like Barbie. So the news that Hamleys is predicting revived sales this year, as part of an increased demand for classic toys, is uniquely depressing.
I blame Bratz for catapulting Barbie into a rose-tinted nostalgia niche. These other dolls were so utterly pernicious, so thoroughly trashy, that they deserved a category of pure evil all of their own. Beside Bratz, Barbie suddenly looked wholesome, in the way Dannii Minogue looks like an untouched beauty alongside Jordan.
Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't want to write off the whole of doll-kind. I had a Sindy when I was at primary school, but she wore a gingham skirt and a preppie jumper and her breasts didn't look as if they came gift-wrapped from the cosmetic surgeon. In those days, a child's doll looked like a child; she didn't look as if she turned tricks at the weekend.
I am hardly alone in my Barbie-phobia. In 1993, the Barbie Liberation Organisation was so incensed by Teen Talk Barbie's burble of "I love shopping!" that it swapped the dolls' electronic voiceboxes with those of Talking Duke GI Joe figures. Parents and children were suitably baffled when Barbies yelled, "Vengeance is mine!' and GI Joes simpered, "Let's plan our dream wedding!"
On the internet, you can find instructions as to how the operation was performed. And if you see me sneaking around Hamleys in December with a tiny screwdriver, you'll know what I'm up to…
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Fortunately, I am the parent of small boys, so am unlikely to face repeated calls to purchase Three Musketeers Barbie, this Christmas's hottest hottie. Yet it was only one day into the school holidays that tempers started to fray over my five-year-old's rampant demands for toys: "I waaaaant Indiana Jones Lego!" he screamed, kicking my shins, in the middle of Cambridge's crowded John Lewis.
I found myself saying, "If you keep doing that, I'm going to murder you!" He went still for a moment, and then yelled, "Mummy, please don't kill me!" The store went silent. But my mood lifted in Waterstone's, when I saw a kind-faced young academic leading his sobbing daughter by the hand. As they passed, I heard him say softly, "If you carry on like this, Chloe, I am going to throw your necklace into the bin, too."
Even in a university city, the power of reason stands scant chance in the face of a bawling infant.
Sorry! I have been giggling since I saw Barbie's announcement that "Vengeance is mine!"
Thank you to the BLO (and to Rowan Pelling)!