12 Oct. 2018
In 1997, a band by the name of Aqua wrote a song called “Barbie Girl.” This song was originally supposed to be different than the doll, but the relation was too close for people to ignore. The barbie doll was made to be for children to play with and interact with, but the song sexualized the doll. The Mattel company did not appreciate that their barbie doll was being represented as a “blonde Bimbo” as stated in the song. According to The New York Times, Mattel attempted to sue Aqua for sexualizing their doll and altering the original song. Their lawsuit made its way all the way up to the Supreme Court but lost because the lyrics were not exactly the same. The song Barbie Girl puts women down in many ways through their double-meaning lyrics and music video.
In the Aqua band’s version of the song, the Barbie doll is made to look like a sexual object. In the chorus, the female sings lines that make us females feel as though our only duty in life is to be beautiful and please the opposite gender. Dressed like a “barbie doll” with a tight pink skirt and a flower bra top with tons of makeup on, she begins by getting in a pink car with three other guys and they start to sing. The chorus starts off with “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world/ Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.” The first two lines are saying that as a human she has achieved the Barbie look. “She rejoices at a plastic life but fails to give us any reason to believe that life is fulfilling her needs on a real level.” (Gemmill). By saying this phrase, it is showing that getting plastic surgery to look better or like a Barbie doll “With abnormally tiny waists and enormous breasts” (songfacts) is what every girl should do. It gives us very unrealistic standards to beauty and how we see ourselves. When little girls see these videos and hear the song lyrics then they start to believe that that is all girls are about, their beauty. The next lines portray that women have no control over their bodies and the guy (ken) can do whatever they please. “You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere/ Imagination, life is your creation” are also lines that are in the chorus and also the most famous. She is giving full authority to a guy to use his imagination and do whatever he wants with her body. These lines are repeated multiple times throughout the song which makes them even worse for the children to hear. They stick in their young minds and it will always be there whether they believe that it is how girls should act or not. They start to believe that they are objects that can be used by the male gender because throughout the whole song the female (Barbie) is telling these things to the male singer (Ken).
Apart from the chorus having wrong messages in it many of the other lyrics throughout the song make the song seem more sexual than the doll makers intended it to be. “Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please” is a line that is giving permission to be used as an object. Because the song meant to be as a conversation with “Barbie” and “Ken”, when she says these lyrics she is agreeing to be a “doll” for him that doesn’t act for herself which is said in the song specifically. “I’m your dolly”. It is putting an image in little girls’ minds and little boys that this is how girls must behave.
After these lines Ken claims her as his doll which he can fool around with. “You’re my doll, rock’n’roll, feel the glamor in pink/ Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky.” He gives her commands of where to kiss and touch him making her seem like a sex “doll”. In the song he also makes the assumption that because she is a girl she must like the color pink. Most little girls grow up believing that their favorite color is pink because that is how the Barbie doll was dressed with and she lived in a pink house. When these kids grow up they start to learn sometimes that it is okay to like blue or green even if you are a girl. As a child I never played with dolls and my favorite color has always been blue but that doesn’t make me any less of a girl. Based off of the Barbie doll show I would be considered a guy and that is why most little girls end up not liking those certain colors.
In the song they specifically focus on blonde girls because that is what Barbie was. “I’m a blond, bimbo girl, in the fantasy world” was all that she was seen as because it is what they called her. The word bimbo means a beautiful woman that is not smart and also perceived as a willing sex object. Many people are also used to the refence of “a dumb blonde” making all people who look a certain way fit into the category of a bimbo. This song was always shown with the barbie doll and it made it seem to the little kids who had the blond hair and colored eyes as if they are also dumb and will not do anything in their lives but always be “dumb blonds”. “Barbie dolls are unrealistically proportioned, which her critics claim leads to self-esteem and body image issues in young girls.” (Songfacts). The terms “bimbo” and “dumb blond” is only said toward women because men are always believed to be the rational and smart gender, while women are only objects used for sex and other pleasures.
Apart from the music lyrics being completely subjective to women the images in the video are no better. The video starts off with a beautiful woman with tons of makeup and a tight pink skirt and a flower bra. She is standing in front of a pink house standing in the middle of a bunch of flowers. A guy (Ken) comes with a pink car and just tells her to come in and she goes. She gets in the car with a guy as soon as he calls her like a hooker. Then when Ken is singing his part he winks at the camera because it is how men are supposed to get a woman’s attention. When he starts to invite her to the party, and she does not agree with him at once he shows frustration. It seems as though she had to say yes to him because otherwise he would get mad. The girl (Barbie) is simply supposed to obey his command because he is the guy and she is the bimbo who has no thoughts of her own.
This whole “Barbie Girl” song is objectifying women from the inappropriate lyrics that they sing to the video that and how they perform in it. Most of the things in the world are already trying to make women believe that they are only objects that are there for the pleasure of guys. Barbie is a toy that every little girl that can afford had because it was role model doll. When the little girls saw and heard how this perfect doll was living in a fantastic plastic life, they wanted to live in it as well. Children retain everything they hear and see therefore it was wrong that they were exposed to this as children because they learned how to behave like Barbie.
Elliott, Stuart. “Years Later, Mattel Embraces ‘Barbie Girl’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2009, mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/26/years-later-mattel-embraces-barbie-girl/.
Lord, M G. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York: Walker & Co, 2004. Print.
Gemmill, Allie. “‘Barbie Girl’ Is A Feminism Black Hole.” Bustle, Bustle, 14 May 2017, bustle.com/p/barbie-girl-is-still-a-horribly-anti-feminist-90s-pop-song-20-years-later-56597.
“Barbie Girl by Aqua – Songfacts.” Song Meanings at Songfacts, www.songfacts.com/facts/aqua/barbie-girl.
Francis, Becky. “Gender, Toys and Learning.” Oxford Review of Education, vol. 36, no. 3, 2010, pp. 325–344., http://www.jstor.org/stable/25699588.