Girls from all around the world have entered Barbie’s fabulous world, falling into it as you fall into the Sleeping Beauty’s dream, from 1959, year in which the production of the first model of the most famous icon doll in the world begins. Barbie, American origin, is a symbol of a whole western seductiveness, with backcombed blond hair, blue eyes, hyper voluminous eyelashes, athletic and slender body, so slender and tapered to remember a space missile. She was sold – according to Mattel that manufactures and distributes her – into a billion pieces in 150 nations of the world. A demonstration of an unmatched success for what it is, as a matter of fact, a toy for girls, although cataloged among the most effective social phenomena.
Capable of penetrating any language, social, anthropological and cultural barrier (we have seen Barbie in the hands of Arab, Indian or Japanese girls, where else was built the first model, under the lead of her US creator, Ruth Handler), this young sexy and career muse with jointed legs has attracted the attention of Italian spectators in recent times, through an exhibition held in three cities: at the Museum of cultures of Milan, at the Vittoriano in Rome and Palazzo Albergati Bologna. Besides being naturally appealing, imitating an adult in body – and this is her great revolution for her time! – Barbie has many virtues that distinguish her from any doll. Unlike her colleagues, she has never faded in the female imaginary, thanks to a clever mix of modernity, dynamism of features and movements, universal language – English, indeed, American – liking, malice, kindness and, last but not least, an incredible wardrobe. Barbie not for nothing is the icon able to inspire the hottest designers, Italian and French ones. Often have a dedicated line, in addition to the house, the long-standing boyfriend Ken and the car. It is a sport sedan, to be sure. The old logo has not changed, but she only had a makeover as well as a woman would have an adjustment. She pretends to be, and is, an ideal, with that body, and that smile, but Miss Barbara Millicent Roberts (real name) is one of us. Of how many others can we say it? None.
So, as the glossiest of Zelig, Barbie goes in and out from the clothes of celebrities year 2016, see Kate Middleton version, while her line suits the taste of the times that crosses: so today we have the curvy, the tall (beanpole?) and skinny.
Is Barbie free and beautiful? No rules of conduct? Well, in short, she is always born in the 50s, when the dream was to marry the prince charming. Here then, in a special section of the exhibition, the Wedding Barbies space.
After all is said and done, though, if there’s one that can be said to be emancipated from cultural and family influences, in the variegated world of toys, it is her, from the top of her six-footer. Nobody, not even Ken, has been able to bring her to the altar. Barbie is for girls and always will be.
Cover: Barbie wears the outfit Evening Splendour, 1959 (Collectors edition)