STFU, Ken: Why The Barbie And Ken Reconciliation Is Terrible For Americaby Chiara Atik on February 14, 2011
Yesterday, I saw a billboard on 8th Avenue with Ken’s mug on it, and the words “BARBIE, I WANT YOU BACK.” And the whole thing made me terribly, terribly angry.
When I was little, my mom never wanted me to play with Barbies, because she felt they promoted an unhealthy body image, or something. (“Whatevs!”, I said then, and still say today.) But as an adult, this whole campaign strikes me as far more destructive than tottering heels and a skinny waist.
This isn’t a campaign aimed at having the two reconcile their differences (not that the differences were ever made clear in the first place), or giving it another go, together. Ken simply decided (with very little reasoning that the public has been made privy of) that he wanted Barbie back, and then launched a mass-marketing tactic (billboards! tweets! the swaying of public opinion!) to get her to accept him again. Ken’s voice has been the dominant one throughout all this, and Barbie has had frighteningly little say in her own fate.
As absurd as it seems, given that Barbie is a plastic doll and I am an adult, I felt indignant for her when I saw the billboard yesterday. Though the reasons for their 2004 divorce aren’t known to the public, there must have been reasons, and Ken must have been, at least partially, at fault. Billboards, music videos, tweets, and other public displays of affection seem manipulative. And I started thinking all these irrational thoughts, like “Well of course Ken wants BARBIE back, what is Ken without Barbie? What has HE been doing the last 7 years!”
Obviously this whole thing is a marketing ploy, by Mattel, by that TV show, by Match.com, by every corporate sponsor somehow getting publicity through this thing. But there is real romance in the world! There are real couples, separated by real, not nebulous, things and reasons and obstacles. And when these real couples still love each other, or find each other again, against all odds, that is what should be celebrated on Valentine’s Day. Those are the stories little girls should be hearing and sighing about.
Here’s the video, if you can stomach it. Be warned: the song that’s playing the whole time is actually, nauseatingly called “Everybody Needs a Ken.”