Just when I began to think I’d seen it all at recess, last week I met Recess Barbie. There were actually two of them, held by two little girls who were sliding them down the slide, making them fly, jump, dance and try out playground equipment. While I’ve gotten used to the company of stuffed toys at recess, I must admit, Barbie came as a bit of a surprise. I’d forgotten she was so outdoorsy.
But of course these Barbies are a far cry from the paragon of style and perfection that beckons from the plastic window of Barbie’s pink box in the store. That’s retail Barbie, with her blue eyes, perfect long blonde hair, perpetually pointed toes and a spray-on tan the “Real Housewives of Orange County” can only dream about. In case you need a refresher, check out the link below for the original TV Barbie ad:
I must admit the focus on the Bride’s Bouquet at the end of this 1959 TV ad is really quite a shock, as are the lyrics to the “Barbie Theme Song”. I’m not planning to go on about the questionable messages Barbie, with her improbable physique and perfect grooming, may send to little girls. It’s been done. Enough said. Despite the controversial signaling about womanhood and just about everything related to it that comes from Barbie, the advertised Barbie is not actually the one we end up with anyway. Unlike “Barbie We Bought”, “Barbie We Got” looks more like the picture below once she’d hangs around the house for awhile.
Her hair quickly devolves into something that looks like a nest for tiny rodents, and her clothes, if she wears any at all, look as if she’s going to a cheap cocktail party – or the beach – or both at the same time. There is no wedding in the offing for “Barbie We Got”. She has other things to do.
The Recess Barbies I met last week are definitely “Barbies We Got”. They don’t care if their hair is a mess and show little concern that they’re impossibly over-dressed for the playground.
Recess Barbie just seems happy to be out of the house. To their young owners, the Recess Barbies are out for some playground fun, and as you can see, they had some. Never mind that these two look suspiciously disheveled. That’s just what happens when you’re too busy playing to comb your hair.
This is the thing about the Recess Barbies. Held in the hands of two little girls who could care less about Barbie’s reputation or tawdry attire, they take on an innocence and joy that makes it easy to understand why Barbie has prevailed for over 50 years. She’s flexible, durable, nimble, and adapts to all play situations with ease. She actually has the edge on the Indiana Jones, Batman etc. action figure gang in this regard. Once out of the box, Barbie gives up all that grooming perfection and cheerfully gets on with her business. Maybe that’s her real message, though we need to overlook a few things to find it.
Happy Valentine’s Day.