Life-size Barbie: What’s the big deal?

Life-size Barbie: Galia Slayen says her Barbie dolls were a factor in her battle with anorexia. Is that like saying video games cause violence?

Screen grab from the Today show
Galia Slayen (second from left) shows the Today show her life-size Barbie model.

Her eyes are too big for her face, her neck is too long to hold up her head, she’s so thin that researchers say she would unable to conceive a child in real life…but is that any reason to vilify the Barbie doll, that darling of kids and collectors?

Galia Slayen seems to think so. In a laudable effort to call attention to anorexia, which the young woman from Oregon battled in high school, she created a papier mâché effigy of a Barbie doll and appeared with it on NBC’s “Today” show on April 18.

Ms. Slayen, with her long blond hair and blue eyes, bears more than a passing resemblance to a Barbie doll herself. Apparently, therein lay the problem. Ms. Slayen identified so closely with her beloved Barbie dolls, she told Today, that she “figured that was what I was supposed to look like” and fell down the slippery slope of an eating disorder.

While not blaming Barbie for her anorexia, Slayen calls the idealized plastic icon an “environmental factor.” Indeed, along with fashion magazines, movies, and television advertisements. There’s really no relief in modern culture from the bombardment of unattainable female beauty images.

Scaled up to life-size, a Barbie doll would be approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall and have a 36-inch bust, an 18-inch waist and 33-inch hips. Those are pretty unrealistic proportions, to be sure. Still, that’s healthier looking than Slayen’s bizarre creation, with its handless, attenuated sticks for arms, balloon-like breasts and head that appears too small for its body.

Barbie never was meant to be realistic in appearance, or a physical goal for young women to achieve. She is a clotheshorse, a role player, and a blank canvas for the imaginative projections of enthusiasts young and old. It's sad that something that was created to be fun has caused Ms. Slayen so much grief.

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