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parody or porn?
“some artist's photos depicted barbie dolls in sexually provocative positions”
by lucy lediaev
pop culture

According to an on-line news story, Mattel recently lost a court battle to constrain an artist who used Barbie in sexually explicit art photos. Mattel reacted to the artist’s work as a parent might respond to a teen daughter posing nude on the pages of “Hustler.” Rallying all of their corporate might, they attacked with such force that artist Tom Forsythe has incurred almost $2 million in legal and court costs, which Mattel must now pay.

The court ruled that Forsythe’s "food chain" series of photos is parody and, therefore, protected under the First Amendment. Ironically, while protecting Barbie’s virtue with the intensity of a maiden aunt, Mattel continues to dress Barbie, whose figure can only be described as unrealistically voluptuous, in provocative and skimpy garb. Despite feeble attempts to present Barbie as a career-minded role model for young girls, her image has changed very little since her introduction years ago. In fact, the term “Barbie Doll” has become a widely-accepted description for vacuous female sex objects.

Yes, we can argue that Barbie’s appearance alone should not make her the target of sexually explicit artistic exercises, but the truth is that Mattel is appealing to some of the baser, more superficial values of American society with Barbie.

Frankly, I think Mattel needs to develop either a thick skin or a sense of humor when it comes to Barbie. Despite the fact that she has been beloved by millions of little girls over the years, she is an easy target for satire and parody. Her body build and the huge marketing blitz that perpetually accompanies her various permutations makes her any easy target for anyone critical of contemporary values.

I find it surprising that Barbie has not been subject of even more parody. Perhaps it is because she is such an easy mark that humorists and artists dont' feel her worthy of their efforts.


A freelance writer and full-time grandma, Lucy Lediaev retired recently from a position as web master, tech writer, and copy writer in a biotech firm. She is enjoying retirment more than she ever dreamed and is now writing about topics that are, for the most part, interesting and fun. She also has time to pursue some of her long-time interests, such as crafts, reading, sewing, baking, cooking, and the like.

more about lucy lediaev


wanna dress like a barbie?
barbie clothes, accessories, and perfume for real people are on their way
by lucy lediaev
topic: pop culture
published: 7.9.04


jael mchenry
6.29.04 @ 5:36p

The explicit Barbie photo is nothing new. When I was in college -- this was probably 1994 -- there was a whole Lesbian Barbie site with a bunch of terribly entertaining CompromisedMultipleBarbies photos. I guess the difference now is that people won't stop using/posting such things just because Mattel threatens them.

I remember they threw a big fit over the "Barbie Girl" song a few years ago, too. Protecting the brand, I suppose.

russ carr
6.29.04 @ 6:41p

Here we go, fans...
Barbie porn video.
Russian Barbie Porn.
Other naughty Barbies.
Forsythe's stuff is relatively tame compared to some of these. And in a fast (five minute) search of some sites, I found images that would make Mattel execs have aneurysms.

lucy lediaev
6.29.04 @ 6:52p

Good thing for us that the US Supreme Court just overturned the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), surely a misnomer, but a law that would have limited our access to a variety of materials.

I guess my amazement is not that there is more and better Barbie porn out there, but that Mattel somehow thinks that it's controllable or can be remedied with legal actions.



robert melos
6.29.04 @ 8:37p

Mattel has always denied the rumors that Ken and G.I. Joe were an item, but them I always thought Kung-Fu grip for a doll with no genitalia was kind of a waste.

A few months ago they did officially announce Ken and Barbie were breaking up, (see my column: Splitsville) but would remain good friends. Uh huh. I've heard that one before. If he's not hooking up with G.I. Joe, my money is on the Gay Bob doll.


lucy lediaev
6.29.04 @ 11:39p

I just read "Splitsville." Very nice.

Just think of the influence of these eleven inch dolls in our society. They've so infiltrated our pop culture that its relatively easy to dedicate many lines of copy to their plastic, artificial lifestyle.

adam kraemer
6.30.04 @ 12:04p

Well, sure, but you also just described "People" magazine.

kona gallagher
6.30.04 @ 3:57p

The entire time I played with barbies, we spent half of the time dressing Barbie and playing with her hair, and the other half making Ken and Barbie (or Skipper or Midge, or any of Barbies "ethnic friends du jour") totally do it. It cracks me up that Mattel is suprised that people are photographing this kind of thing. It's akin to people taking one look at Britney and Justin when they were together and saying, "oh no, she's *totally* still a virgin. She said so in an interview!"

anya werner
7.3.04 @ 12:10p

My Barbies always preferred to date GI Joe... He was much bigger than Ken, and more manly, even if his package was still a barely there molded plastic bump. Never thought to take pictures of them, though.

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