Barbie and La Nouvelle Vague (part 3)
Iâ€™m on the porch rifling through Barbie posters and notes on what she would prefer when running away to a deserted island. I know Barbie would want to be with Ken. The way â€œMarianne,â€ played by Anna Karina in â€œPierrot le fouâ€ (â€œPete the madmanâ€), ran away with â€œFerdinand,â€ played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, to live in the French Riviera. The couple ran away for two different reasons, and their fears kept them together. At the end of the film, I like to reinvent different outcomes. Perhaps they should have stayed in town.
This argument applies to play with Barbie as well. I take her outside of the box, adjust her arms and legs, and am free to imagine Barbie in a variety of ways. She is Kenâ€™s girlfriend getting ready for date night when I put black high heels on her. She is Midgeâ€™s friend getting ready for brunch when I put strappy sandals on her. She is Skipperâ€™s sister getting ready for a yogurt run when I put sparkly flats on her. I assign Barbie various identities, and each time the fictional truths may be compared to real-world cultural representations.
My adjustments to Barbieâ€™s identity are necessary. For many she seems such a frivolous thing. Questions about her importance reinforce the idea that Barbie encourages the creative interpretation of identity. I cannot escape her. I have spent so much time alone with her. Some have not understood, but many have been supportiveâ€”my man included. (I say â€œmanâ€ because after a certain age â€œboyfriendâ€ just doesnâ€™t seem to be able to sustain the weight of an adult relationship.) Things changed along the way. I changed when I got close to the essence of Barbie. I got close to myself. I learned to trust myself. I learned about the superficial sting.
I also know that Barbie is â€œplasticâ€ and â€œanatomically incorrectâ€â€”like some â€œrealâ€ women that I know. But, sheâ€™s gotten a â€œbad rap.â€ I know that I â€œjust canâ€™t changeâ€ the opinion of some. That sometimes it just â€œis what it is.â€ That Barbie is made for â€œartâ€™s sakeâ€ and that some â€œartâ€ is inspired by Barbie. That Barbie â€œinspiredâ€ the long list of female characters of La Nouvelle Vague. Consider Artist Nickolay Lammâ€™s â€œcomparison of bodies.â€ Lamm suggests that the â€œaverageâ€ womanâ€™s body is â€œno match.â€ In fact, Lamm found â€œunrealistic measurements of 36-18-33, compared to the typical 19-year old girlâ€™s 32-31-33â€ (Revealed: What Barbie would look like as a Real Woman). This explains why Barbie canâ€™t stand-up on her own.
Iâ€™ll admit, I â€œagree.â€ She sends the â€œwrong messageâ€ to â€œimpressionableâ€ girls. Barbie is not for the â€œweak.â€ I learned this my â€œfirst yearâ€ in Chicago. We went to some â€œpop-upâ€ art gallery on a Friday night and there was Barbieâ€”â€œdecapitated,â€ lying in the â€œmiddleâ€ of the room, on the â€œfloor.â€ I asked the artist â€œwhyâ€ heâ€™d done this. He calmly, â€œsippedâ€ red wine out of a mason jar, said â€œI used to do this to my older sisterâ€™s Barbie when I was a kid.â€ He then joked about Barbieâ€™s â€œpowerâ€ to revert him to â€œchildhood.â€ This has always stayed with me. Barbie brings out the angry adolescent in every adult.
Who is not disappointed, enchanted, or tempted by Barbie? Most days, in the world of Barbie, the view from the porch provides a narrow balconyscape which hosts the angular silhouettes of red-tipped bricks. Sometimes we have company and they join us on the porch. In these moments the table is cluttered with wine glasses, water crackers, cheese platters, Barbie, Midge, and Skipper. On an eventful evening, Barbie is a kaleidoscope twirling from hand to hand. Soon we are scampering. There arenâ€™t enough hours. There is never enough time, just the way time ran out for â€œFerdinand.â€
Soon, I feel the twin twinkle of goodbye kisses. Itâ€™s just me at the door. At the heart of La Nouvelle Vague is a breathless, powerful glance because it is difficult to turn away from the beautiful tragedy. It is difficult to answer and dispute the fullness that Barbie deserves. I only rarely come close to completing the lanky jigsaw puzzle. I cannot really see the end. The journey is mine, this Barbie pink path that leads to the unknown, the pink purgatory.
Jamie Kazay teachesÂ in the English DepartmentÂ at Columbia College. A California native, she holds a BA in English from California State University, Northridge and an MFAÂ in Creative Writing, Poetry from Columbia College. She co-curates the Revolving Door Reading Series and is currently reading of a lot of Camus, Derrida, and Dorothy Allison. Her collection,Â Small Hollering, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2011.