December 18, 2005


Barbarism begins with Barbie, the doll children love to hate (Alexandra Frean, 12/19/05, Times of London)

BARBIE, that plastic icon of girlhood fantasy play, is routinely tortured by children, research has found.

The methods of mutilation are varied and creative, ranging from scalping to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving, according to academics from the University of Bath.

The findings were revealed as part of an in-depth look by psychologists and management academics into the role of brands among 7 to 11-year-old schoolchildren.

The researchers had not intended to focus on Barbie, but they were taken aback by the rejection, hatred and violence she provoked when they asked the children about their feelings for the doll.

Violence and torture against Barbie were repeatedly reported across age, school and gender. No other toy or brand name provoked such a negative response.

That can only be because they don't make real G.I. Joes anymore--that poor bastard has been tortured and killed more ways than an adult could dream of....

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 18, 2005 8:59 PM

The people who conduct this research were obviously never children. I'm not so far removed from childhood that I fail to remember how kids threw Barbie around the room, decapitated her, and smashed her body in the oven door.

Oh wait, that can't be true -- Rousseau said otherwise. Sorry.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 19, 2005 12:37 AM

If this discussion is serious, it is quite troubling. Mock torture and mutilation were never part of our childhood experience. Warplay, weapons-play, exposure to military and hunting culture, as well as fishing, very much were.

Is there a connection here? Perhaps those whose upbringing shelters them from working out emotions of violence and death are the ones who are at risk of becoming sadistic monsters.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 19, 2005 2:41 AM


Didn't you have magnifying glasses or firecrackers?

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2005 7:26 AM

Lionel trains were great for wrecks because they would keep on running. Tonkas and Buddy Ls, well the pile-ups were incredible. Toy boats - many sank under the fire of shore batteries hurling really big rocks.

The destruction was endless.

Posted by: Mikey at December 19, 2005 8:50 AM

Yet the boys who perpetrated these horror, are now pillars of the community, excellent fathers and husbands, and paying the taxes that keep us all going. 'magine that?

Posted by: erp at December 19, 2005 9:58 AM

My first thought was what kind of mind would even think of doing research on this subject - and spend scarce resources doing so. Is this the best subject they could think of to study? I prescribe a big session of doing something in aid of the community instead - maybe doing research in the direction that leaves swirl when they are hit by the wind. The applications are just as beneficial as this crap.

Posted by: dick at December 19, 2005 10:27 AM

GI Joe: I used to pull off his head, sandwich top and bottom with little helmets, and pretend he was a high-tech flying-head soldier that shot laser beams from his eyes. Alternatively, a grenade was always landing right behind him (in his head-on mode) and the force of the explosion (my hand, or foot) would hurl him yards.

Plastic Battleships: Build them, make sure the seams were water-tight, balance them, and float them on the pond out back. Then march 50 yards up the hill & try to sink them with a .22 rifle (no scope, please).

Posted by: Twn at December 19, 2005 10:38 AM

Remember when the feminists used to get all up in arms over Barbie? Now they're all buying their little girls those horrible Bratz dolls. What did Lileks call them? "Porn star training dolls" or something like that. Those things give me the creeps.

Posted by: Bryan at December 19, 2005 10:49 AM

The full article explains that the beginning, excerpted above, was simply a hyperbolic hook:

[All emph. add.] “The children never talked of one single, special Barbie. The girls almost always talked about having a box full of Barbies. [...] Barbies are not special; they are disposable [...]” Dr Nairn, [one of the researchers], said.

She added: “On a deeper level Barbie has become inanimate. She has lost any individual warmth that she might have possessed if she were perceived as a singular person. [...]”

Previous research from the US into Barbie abuse suggested that prepubescent girls destroyed the doll because she reminded them of adulthood at a time when they were still clinging to their childhood, but Dr Nairn found no evidence of this.

She also dismissed the idea that overweight little girls might be jealous of Barbie for being the girl who had everything, including a tiny waist. It was more likely to be a simple reaction against a toy that the children had grown out of, she said. [...]

She and her colleagues Christine Griffin and Patricia Gaya Wicks concluded that, while adults may find a child’s delight in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls to be disturbing, from the child’s point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity, in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling.

In other words, as Orrin and others have said, all of the talk of "hatred", "rejection", and "torture" is overblown - it's simply kids playing roughly with an uncherished and unanthropomorphisized toy.
No worries.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 19, 2005 2:10 PM

Plastic battleships (and aircraft carriers):

Filled with something flammable for ballast (like gasoline), set afloat and then afire, would put out some great black greasy smoke as they burn and melt to the waterline. Hide some little "lady finger" firecrackers in the superstructure and you can get some nice explosions, too.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 19, 2005 2:39 PM

Or consider the unhappy (at least in my neighborhood) existence of Stretch Armstrong, he of the bright red gooey innards. Dozens of hours of sadistic fun.

Posted by: jefferson park at December 20, 2005 3:37 PM

oj: We used firecrackers to make a can mortar out of a length of cast-iron pipe. Quite realistic. Throw the lit firecracker down the tube, drop an empty can after it, and bloop!

Look, plenty of tweety birds met their maker at the business end of slingshots and Daiseys, but that was fair chase. This torture business gives me the creeps--it's not as though the dear tykes are trying to get Barbie to tell where Osama is hiding.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 20, 2005 6:16 PM

Lou Gots:

There was no "torture".

The person who wrote the article threw that in to make you read it, but if you read what the actual researchers said, (in my post above), it's clear that the kids viewed the dolls as inanimate hunks of plastic, and they no more "tortured" them than a person "tortures" a nail by subjecting it to repeated hammer-blows.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 7:46 PM