Barbie complex. Girls have never seem more glamorous straight out of the shiny retail box. Can somebody be that pretty and be so unreal? The original Barbara didn’t think so. Her quest at self-promotion in the different permutations of Barbie doll paid off for her, quite handsomely. After gazillions of sales and propaganda the genie is out of the bottle. Barbie is with us to stay. She is become one of the guys. She is us. Or rather I should I say, Barbie has become the prototypical person whose capital resides in mere looks, sex appeal, and a seemingly perfect anatomical proportions. Qualities that we all covet.
Many years ago the pop group Aqua had the audacity to glorify Barbie in song. I remember little girls at parties dancing to the tune and brandishing their Barbie dolls, in the hopes perhaps that they too one day might have a share in Barbie world. Today when I played that song on YouTube I was perturbed by an eery feeling:
I am Barbie girl, in a Barbie World
Life is plastic, it’s fantastic
You can brush my hair,
Undress me anywhere, your imagination
Life is your creation
I am blonde bimbo girl in the fantasy world
Dress me up, make me tight, I am your dolly
I am bothered by the idea of life as plastic or by the notion of exploitation. One of the oldest plots in life goes like this: boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl live happily ever after. Hmmm. There are bound to be intrusions nevertheless. Boogeymen interject all the time. The happily- ever- after adverbial phrase can mean that so long as you downgrade to the level of a toy, then my happiness is going to be secured. So let’s keep it that way. Today I think we are in denial about this form of human predation and slavery. People being used and letting themselves be abused by a system and ethos that wants to squeeze every ounce of pretty in the name of control, capital, and concupiscence. Once your goods are milked out and away, then off you go to the slaugheter.
We aren’t bothered my mere existence as long as you can accomplish the grand achievement of being pretty. If you failed school and your resume is rather mediocre than stellar, well, the deficiency can be offset by a beauty investment. Those that have it as a natural endowment have it made and need do nothing except to throw it out there in the wild for the world to be shocked and awed. Just let the lion out of the cage and the sheer force and weight of beauty will take over as sure as gravity keeps your wig glued to your scalp. Those of us who are challenged by a lack of aesthetics are forced to work overtime just to peruse a piece of the beauty pie even if we never get to taste it.
American society values pretty girls, glitz, and glitter. We forgive beautiful and grant them all the breaks, bonuses, and perks. Beauty gets the biggest camera lens, the best angle, the most clicks, and the largest social media following. The faintest presence of beauty can easily overcome the worst case of boredom and uninspired drudgery. When beauty beckons us, it is damn hard to resist its allure and promise.
Yet under closer inspection I can’t do nothing but shake myself off from Barbie’s fantasy world. Beauty of the Barbie variety is one of those perpetual illusions that have us enthralled and engaged in the multibillion dollar industries whose pockets are well lined up to our thirst and hunger for mere good looks. The chain that makes up beauty has links made of pride. Pride is a hard thing to break but as long as the going gets groovy we are going to keep swinging at it.
Beauty is not all that bad and I don’t believe that it is all confined to the eye of the beholder. Beauty does exist out there independent of the beholder. Perhaps the reality of its existence is a witness to the Creator who designated his craftmanship as all “very good” (Genesis 1-2). Things are good because they have a function: procreation of life and sustainability as well as sources of inspiration to drive us to artistic and creative enterprises. Beauty shows us the side of God dealing with novelty, imagination, and industrious energy.
But beauty like many good things in life has been corrupted. It has become its own good and end, a means to serve and save ourselves, our lusts, our pride, our greed, and our perpetual reach to abuse and manipulate others. Beauty has become an idol for the aggrandizement, not of God, but of the self. Until we knock down the Bimbo god and demote it to its proper place, the true God will never be honored in the ways that count for a meaningful and purposeful kind of existence. Let beauty be, but let’s direct it in the way of humaneness, of goodness, and of loving. That is God’s world. It surely beats the plastic world of Barbie.