Why Do We Destroy Our Barbie Dolls?


When I was about 9 years old, I went through a random decapitation phase. For some reason, I found it quite delightful to pop the plastic heads off of my Barbie, Skipper, and Ken dolls.

Perhaps it was due to boredom; I was outgrowing Barbie and was more interested in the mechanics of how she was put together than how she’d look in a new glamour gown. Also, a Skipper head on a Ken doll was pretty much the most hilarious thing I had ever seen. “I’m drinking milk,” my Skipper-Ken would threaten my other Barbies, “And someday, I’ll be bigger and stronger, and you’ll be sorry!”

Neil Steinberg of Forbes attempts to answer the strange question, “Why Do Girls Mutilate Their Barbies?”, hitting on everything from inner-Barbie hate to boredom to a need for self-expression. “A young girl bakes her Barbie doll in the oven. A San Francisco bar invites patrons to have at the dolls with knives. A New York artist drives nails into Barbie, calling it sculpture,” Steinberg writes, “What’s going on here? How did Barbie, history’s most popular doll, celebrating her 50th year as a beloved plaything for girls worldwide, become an object that females of all ages cut, burn, bend, spindle and mutilate? And what does it all mean?”

Plenty of us have admitted to dismantling our Barbies in one way or another; chewing her delicious feet is the most popular admission, though chopping off her hair, seeing if she can “fly” from the car window, and letting her get “a tan” in the microwave are also on the list. Our own editor, Tracie, attempted to electrocute a Barbie last year, with mixed results, and then settled on just lighting her on fire.

Jezebel heroine Sarah Haskins describes her destruction of Barbie as a natural part of growing up: “I’m sure my mom was happy when, soon after we chopped off Barbie’s locks to reveal a biker-gang look, my sister and I phased Barbie out,” Haskins writes, “But I don’t think she had anything to worry about in the first place. We always knew that Barbie represented an absurd fantasy. Because she was so clearly not real, we were as likely to aspire to Barbie’s proportions as we were to take to the ring with Hulk Hogan.”

As Haskins notes, Barbie is, essentially, a bizarro blank canvas for many girls; her shape and proportions are already ridiculous enough; for many of us, dying her hair and giving her “tattoos” and attaching her arms where her legs used to be was just an outlet for curiosity and creativity, though typing all of these things out makes it seem much creepier than it actually was at the time.

As Steinberg notes, in 2005, Dr. Agnes Nairn concluded that the “mutilations” taken against Barbie were a symbol that she was, essentially, a “hate figure” for young girls. “The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving,” Nairn wrote, “The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity, and see the torture as a ‘cool’ activity in contrast to other forms of play with the doll.”

Others aren’t so sure that girls are going Patrick Bateman on their Barbies out of hate as much as, as I suspect for myself, out of boredom: “It seemed the obvious thing to do,” says mechanic Sharon Allen, “Barbies were just so boring. I never really liked them. You couldn’t really do anything with them—except, of course, melt them.”

So what say you, commenters? Were your motivations for mauling your Barbies due to Barbie hate? Boredom? Or, perhaps, just a taste for oddly-shaped, no shoes ever-fit, rubbery-plastic feet?

You Always Hurt The Ones You Love [Forbes]
Barbie’s Little Secret [WashingtonPost]

Earlier: It’s Barbie, Bitch
Weekend Homework Assignment: Kill Barbie
Our Barbie Electric Chair Is A Bust, We Interview The Inventor
Growing Up, Everyone Did Dirty Things With Their Barbies
Chew Toy

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