What a doll

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By ROBERT MACPHER­SON

BARBIE has been many things in her life: A doc­tor. A pa­le­on­tol­o­gist. An as­tro­naut. A cheer­leader. A race car driver. A can­di­date for the pres­i­dency of the United States.

Now, on the thresh­old of her 55th birth­day, the world’s most fa­mous doll is stir­ring up a so­cial me­dia frenzy with her de­but in Sports Il­lus­trated’s 50th an­niver­sary swim­suit edi­tion.

In a tie-in with toy­maker Mat­tel, the topselling Amer­i­can sports weekly has cast the leggy – if anatom­i­cally im­pos­si­ble – al­lAmer­i­can doll on a mock cover, sport­ing a black and white one-piece rem­i­nis­cent of the one she wore when in­tro­duced in 1959.

“The Doll that Started it All,” reads the head­line on the cover, be­ing wrapped around some is­sues of the mag­a­zine. The hash­tag #un­apolo­getic fea­tures in the joint mar­ket­ing cam­paign, which will also in­clude ads in the mag­a­zine.

“From its ear­li­est days, Swim­suit has de­liv­ered a mes­sage of em­pow­er­ment, strength and beauty,” said M.J. Day, the Sports Il­lus­trated se­nior edi­tor re­spon­si­ble for the iconic and highly lu­cra­tive spe­cial edi­tion.

“And we are de­lighted that Barbie is cel­e­brat­ing those core val­ues in such a unique man­ner,” she said in a state­ment.

The swim­suit is­sue comes with bikini-clad Chrissy Teigen, Nina Ag­dal and Lily Aldridge on the cover, pos­ing on a sun-kissed trop­i­cal beach, smil­ing back at the cam­era, toned but­tocks well ex­posed.

But it’s Barbie – or more pre­cisely the no­tion of giv­ing her top billing in a mag­a­zine that pitches sun, sea and sex to im­pres­sion­able Amer­i­can males in the dead of win­ter – that has fired up the bl­o­go­sphere.

“This is what is known as ob­vi­ous trolling,” wrote Mary El­iz­a­beth Wil­liams at Sa­lon.com.

“You plan on get­ting mad again this year about hot, barely clothed women in a sports mag­a­zine again this year, world? Here. Here’s a plas­tic one ... a freak­ing mass-pro­duced doll.”

“Just as the swim­suit is­sue isn’t for the kids, Barbie isn’t for the grown-ups ei­ther,” added Eve Vawter, edi­tor of Mom­my­ish.com.

“Barbie is no longer just a doll. She is a sex doll. Think about that the next time your daugh­ter wants one in the toy aisle.”

Los­ing her mojo?

Alas, on the eve of the New York Toy Show, and hard on the heels of New York fash­ion week, Barbie is grap­pling with the mid­dleaged fear that she’s no longer hot stuff.

Pub­licly listed Mat­tel re­vealed in Jan­uary that world­wide gross sales of its Barbie prod­ucts fell 6% last year, and 3% in 2012, putting a drag on the prof­itabil­ity of the world’s big­gest toy man­u­fac­turer.

“We just didn’t sell enough Barbie dolls,” said Mat­tel chief ex­ec­u­tive Bryan Stock­ton in a con­fer­ence call with fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts, al­though its other doll lines such as Monster High are far­ing bet­ter.

( Sports Il­lus­trated launched the swim­suit edi­tion in 1964 to prop up circulation be­tween the Amer­i­can foot­ball and base­ball sea­sons. Now a stand-alone prod­uct, it is the best-sell­ing of all Time Inc. ti­tles.)

Barbie – whose brand is val­ued at US$3mil (RM9.9mil), a tad more than Oprah Win­frey’s es­ti­mated worth – is no stranger to con­tro­versy.

She’s reg­u­larly been faulted in the past for set­ting an un­re­al­is­tic ex­am­ple for young girls with her im­pos­si­bly lithe fig­ure, fab­u­lous wardrobe and sto­ry­book ro­mance with dash­ing boyfriend Ken.

If 29cm Barbie was a full-grown Amer­i­can woman, she’d have a 32-inch bust, a 16-inch waist and 29-inch hips, as well as a child’s size three foot, ac­cord­ing to Re­habs.com, a web­site that ad­dresses eat­ing dis­or­ders.

Lind­sey Feitz, who lec­tures on gen­der and women’s stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Denver in Colorado, con­sid­ered it “eth­i­cally du­bi­ous” to use a girl’s doll to sex­u­alise girl­hood in a mag­a­zine seen mainly by men.

“We’ve evolved from the ink draw­ings of pin-ups in the 1940s to chronic Pho­to­shop­ping and dig­i­tal body al­ter­ations of to­day’s cover mod­els,” Feitz told AFP by email.

“And now the model has dis­ap­peared and been re­placed with a plas­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a sexy girl/woman. It’s ironic.” – AFP

This im­age pro­vided by Sport­sIl­lus­trated shows the cover-wrap of the mag­a­zine’s 50th an­niver­sary an­nual swim­suit is­sue. - aP

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