Brace yourselves, earth-shattering understatement incoming: Barbie has never been a particularly aspirational brand for young girls. But the inception of a new app for iTunes has seen the young girl’s busty, blonde icon slip straight from her pedestal and on to the operating table.
Now, call me old fashioned (actually, please don’t I’m 22 and sensitive to ageist remarks), but in my heyday of Mattel toy utopia, Barbie used to BE the doctor. She had the stethoscope and the glasses and the fetching white coat which barely concealed her oversized breasts. But now Barbie is the one under the knife and guess who’s masterminding her nip/tuck? According to iTunes, girls aged ‘nine and up.’ Just in time too. Barbie might actually be able to get a breast reduction so she can fit into her white coat properly.
Just kidding. About the breast reduction, not the app unfortunately. This is just the sort of acrid, derisory, frankly unfathomable piece of shit that has been creeping its way out of the arsehole of the media and into the minds of young girls for years.
It’s not enough that from an inconceivably young age girls are hailed with an unrelenting pelting of images of photoshopped models, airbrushed actresses and augmented bodies. No, now they can be complicit in the maintenance of unrealistic standards of beauty and the vulgar ethos that no matter what you look like, a couple of hours on the plastic surgeon’s table and you too can be smiling with the same tart, rigid smile of Barbie’s botoxed face!
I can see it now, a shopping centre Santa saying to the little girl on his lap: ‘And what do you want for Christmas little Suzie?’ ‘I’d like a boob job, botox and liposuction Santa!’
Now this is the jewel in the crown, the description on the iTunes store: ‘This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her. In our clinic she can go through a surgery called liposuction that will make her slim and beautiful. We’ll need to make small cuts on problem areas and suck out the extra fat. Will you operate her, doctor?’
Where do I begin with the bad? The fact that the Barbie in the picture looks no larger than average size (for a 2D animation) is beside the point I suppose. Hollywood standards for ‘slim’ being what they are, if you’re not in danger of slipping through the seat belt on rides at Thorpe Park the you’re an obese monstrosity and should be confined to a bell tower like poor Quasi.
Then there’s the unsurprising conflation of the adjectives ‘slim’ and ‘beautiful,’ and the tacitly implied synonym, ‘happy.’
But the root of the veritable shitload of problems with this app, is that it instils the ideology in young girls that plastic surgery is not an extreme procedure for a symptom of wider insecurities in young girls or the broken societal image of young women. This app normalises plastic surgery for children, making it seem as commonplace and necessary as choosing outfits (okay, weapons) for my dolls (okay, Action Men) was when I was growing up.
As long as obnoxious, mind-poison like this continues to permeate the cultural zeitgeist for young girls, the media’s weight and image obsessions will never be challenged. Girls will continue to be fed this nauseating bullshit that who you are is what you look like and that can be bought and manipulated with a scalpel.
What they’re not being told and what needs to be said is that who you are, your integrity, your humour, your wit, your intelligence cannot be found on the operating table of any plastic surgeon in the world. It’s time for an Equalities Minister Barbie, stat.