Why Mexican Barbie Represents Transnational Resistance

Why Mexican Barbie Represents Transnational Resistance
By: Keira B.Larrier

The transnational commodity analyzed in this article is the Mattel Barbie. Most places where Barbie has been sold have shown little to no resistance accepting Barbie’s image, however, some cultures surprisingly chose to resist some of her ideal features, such as body type and clothing, in order to portray a more local image, ultimately rejecting the dominant image of Barbie. In the Yucatan region of Mexico, Barbie has been altered in a way that reflects traditional styles of clothing and body appearance, specifically the alteration of her makeup. Local communities have also produced their own images of this doll in Mexico, at a more affordable price, that embodies less Americanized values.


Mexican Barbie in Cultural studies can be looked at through the theoretical lens of Marxist theorist Raymond Williams, who would today most definitely regard this as an emergent culture. Cultures are beginning to resist images imposed on them, instead creating dolls that will enforce traditional values respected within that culture. Barbie offers hope to other cultures, proving that images that promote negative effects in young girls do not have to be reproduced, instead each culture has the choice to create an image of what they deem beautiful and have it dominate the market in a way that is more affordable for locals.

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Done and Over

Now that I have handed in my theories paper it is safe to reveal what I wrote about. One of the aspects that I have not talked about is how globalized Facebook has become. There are over 213 countries that use Facebook and on top of that there are over 1.15 billion monthly active users. What is scary is that this statistic does not account for amount of times some one logs onto Facebook per a day. I know for me, I check FB between 1-4 times a day. Once before I start homework, and again throughout the day. My statistics do not compare with some people who long onto Facebook over 50 times a day.

Secondly, Facebook has become globalized in the sense that I am Facebook friends with people from around the world. Some of my worldly friends include, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Germany, Australia, Kenya, Nepal etc. This also shows that even in developing countries there is an access to Facebook. This embodies Antoio Gramscis theory of cultural hegemony.

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Summer Camp and Globalization

Throughout my case study research and writing, I have found that American summer camp as both a cultural institution and practice fits well into multiple theories. However, when it camp to synthesizing these theories with a broader conclusion about the nature of culture and globalization, I had more difficulty. Originally I thought that traditional summer camp might be a practice unique to the United States, but I found that other countries send their children into the woods as well. Still, the consensus from all my research was that summer camp is an institution that was nonetheless founded from and within American society.

So I asked myself: what does summer camp say about the uniqueness of American culture? And even further, what can we learn about the United States during an era of globalization from a theoretical analysis of summer camp? How do the effects of globalization (interconnectedness, Western dominance, technology, exploitation) play a role in the establishment and continuation of summer camp?

Ultimately, I was able to form a thesis I think encompasses the answers to many of these questions: From a theoretical standpoint, camp may be at once a fragment and an engine of dominant culture, a supposedly “liberated” arena in which the ruling class ultimately still exerts its own values and ideals. The prevalence of dominant ideology within American summer camps ultimately reflects the narrowing scope of subaltern expression and efficacy in the face of globalization.

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Rowing Today

While finishing up my case study, I realized that  I took a predominantly historical approach to the cultural impact of rowing.  So I thought about looking at rowing in a more contemporary sense.  Rowing still holds its roots in being a predominantly white elite sport for males, but there have been changes to this tradition that have been seen.  With established NCAA sports, the issue of gender equality in sports as come up.  With football being an overwhelmingly dominant sport in almost the development of crew as sport for women in college has increased a great deal.  Title 9 requires gender equality in sports and the incorporation of crew for women in many larger schools has steadily increased as a result.  This steers away from the traditions of crew and brings a new dynamic to the involvement of the sport.  After it went from being a strictly elite sport for males, this transition greatly diversified the rowing community into what it is today.  Although it has kept its competitive nature, the dynamic and availability of crew has change tremendously, reducing its past reputation of being such an elite sport.

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Final Post on Hashtags

In my final post on hashtag I wanted to talk about what I concluded from all of my research.  I have realized that hashtags and social media are not actually what we thought they were.  They are mostly a complete disappointment to the sharing of ethnicities  and the promotion of individuality.  These hashtags are used by businesses and mass marketers to find where the trends are and make money off of them.  The world is conforming to one ideology.  It is that of the dominant class.  And the sad part is that 40% of hashtags come from America.  Commercials and businesses that use hashtags are usually from America.  American companies and citizens are pushing their culture on to others around the world saying look this is how we live don’t you wish you could! In the end it is not only Americanizing the world, but it is doing so through corporations and branding.  The worst part is no one is stoping to question it!

The theorists were right in saying that we are all interpellated into society.  We all follow the trends and the ways of the dominant.  The only people who don’t are outcasts or not what everyone else deems normal.  During this case study I wanted to think that hashtags can help the youth culture to understand the world and therefore making it a smaller less intimidating place.  Making it a world that they would want to travel.  Instead they are consumed with advertisements and the way they are “supposed” to look when they are younger.  I was pretty bummed about it and have a whole new look on society as a whole.

#AllDone! #Thanksforreading

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Theory of the Odd Barbie: Barbie’s Controversial History and Image

The article Who Created Barbie and Why?, which I reviewed from HowStuffWorks.com, gives me an exclusive perspective on the earliest years of Barbie. Ruth Handler, the owner of Mattel, originally intended to produce a doll that accurately represented the mature female body. However, she ironically based her doll off of the German Lilli Doll, which was a promiscuous sex symbol. Ruth later changed the doll’s eye position and removed its make-up to alter this sexual appearance; although the doll’s body proportions remained the same.

Over the years, Barbie has held many positions and occupations which have intensified her celebrity status. Barbie has come to occupy the human world, becoming more than just a doll, but a symbol that has penetrated the physical world with ideologies of femininity, womanhood, and sexuality.

One of the most radical roles that Barbie has filled is being with child. As one could imagine, there was a wave of backlash from mothers everywhere when the pregnant doll was first introduced. If we take a step into Barbie’s history we can see that Barbie herself was actually not the first Mattel doll to be pregnant, but it was in fact her younger sister, Midge.

The pregnant Midge doll sports bright pink stud earrings and a silvery wedding band on her left hand – although I believe some early versions of the doll did not have this feature. It is important for me to note that later it became imperative to portray this doll a being married. This change was made so that her pregnancy could be deemed legitimate in the eyes of angry mothers.

As time passed, Mattel has tried to evolve Barbie’s appearance in order to reach multiple audiences and ethnicities. However, some Barbies didn’t survive this process because they were deemed too radical, and were promptly pulled off the market. Mattel has also released some dolls without thinking about the audience or the time, and as a result some rare and interesting Barbies have come into existence; thus here are a few examples of the more controversial Barbies:  

Pregnant Midge


Barbie was a doll who supposedly had it all; so in her development, of course she would need to have a family at some point. Mattel thought it would be best to approach the matter first with their Midge doll: Barbie’s teen sister. Midge had a magnetized belly with a little plastic baby inside. Although the doll was pregnant, her figure was still inexplicably thin; after the baby’s delivery and removal of the belly, her original frame was still intact. When little girls felt it was time for Midge to deliver baby, they could just reach in and pull the baby out; which is honestly a bit extreme and unrealistic. Later, Barbie fans would dispute that because Midge was originally marketed as a teenager, having her pregnant was not the greatest idea. Knowing this, one could consider the Midge doll as the first “Teen Mom” that was marketed to young girls.

Oreo Barbie


Another peculiar release from Mattel was Oreo Barbie, which was unleashed as a cross promotion with Nabisco. Following their controversial, and perhaps ignorant, trends, Mattel made an African-American version of the doll. Tactlessly, Mattel didn’t seem to do their research on pop culture at the time, because “Oreo” is used as a derogatory term that belittles someone for seeming “black on the outside and white on the inside”; as well as equates a person’s intelligence with whiteness. The black Oreo Barbie appropriately caused an uproar from the consumer body, forcing the doll to be pulled from shelves.

Wheelchair Barbie


In the spirit of encouraging inclusion, Mattel released Barbie’s friend Becky, who was wheelchair bound, in 1997. This was a seemingly great idea to include the handicapped demographic, because many children with disabilities lacked representation in the toy market. However, a disappointed teenager with cerebral palsy pointed out that Becky and her wheelchair would not fit in Barbie’s Dream House. If Mattel really wanted to be all-encompassing with their funding, they would have released a version of the Dream House with a ramp, or other options of wheelchair accessibility, to ensure that all patrons could have a realistic play experience.

Growing Up Skipper


Skipper was introduced about five years after the original Barbie doll, as Barbie’s little sister. In 1975, Mattel thought maybe it was time for Skipper to do some “growing up”. Interestingly enough, the functions of the doll included having the “Growing Up Skipper” doll gain an inch of height and grow breasts when her arm was turned. Thus, Mattel came across as promoting the ideal that a young girl’s maturation process consisted solely of getting taller and growing breasts, rather than gaining respect or maturity. Of course, this doll was not well-received by parents and had to be discontinued like so many others.

Applying Barbie’s controversial history to theory, I refer to the work of Louis Althusser. Althusser states that the concept of reproduction is mainly instilled within educational and religious institutions, places where ideology is primarily produced. This claim also supports that reproduction is essentially the acceptance of subjugation, which is promoted by various institutions as a natural/universal practice or behavior. Through material practices, such as consumerism, the ignorance of the conditions of life is maintained. The idea of girls playing with Barbie dolls is generally accepted, and this behavior is seen as natural. The common assent of this idea builds an imaginary relationship between the subject and the real conditions of their existence: effective social reproduction. Even though Barbie possesses a female body type that is unnatural and unattainable, the doll is still a model of the female body that has become accepted in today’s society as an appropriate role model for young girls. The fact of the matter is, Barbies were created by men; and it is this idealistic image that patriarchal society wishes females to attain and uphold.

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How has Facebook evolved?

The idea of Facebook has altered a lot from when it was ofiginally created. The News Feed has brought about the most of changes and will continue to be the biggest factor of change. However, tied along to this change is the acceptance of change. Unlike when the News Feed was first presented, users really enjoy Facebook for what it brings to peoples lives. The ever-evolving News Feed is what people want to read when they first log onto Facebook. And it is for this that Facebook will not ever stop.

My potential thesis is this: the debate is ongoing however the result is evident; Facebook stands by its mission that aims “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (Facebook.com) and this can only be done by maintaining the ‘strict’ security settings that are currently in place.

So far, most of my information has come from Danah Boyd, who has helped with the information concerning the history, and background of the implementation of the News Feed.

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Extreme Sports Narrative

In doing my research on the culture surrounding non-traditional sport, it is impossible to ignore the significance of film and footage. No matter if it’s a Warren Miller ski film, or a free short film by Redbull on mountain biking or whitewater kayaking, film acts as a cultural text. As the sports themselves have developed over the years (with newer technology and thus new physical limits) so has the text.

I recently read an article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/sports/skiing/skiing-films-now-have-stories-to-match-the-stunts.html?_r=0) in the New York Times in which David Sax brings us the term, “Ski Porn”, videos in which there is just pure intense skiing mixed to fast paced music. This can be found in with any sport, in fact, I’ve watched my fair share of “ski porn” and “paddle porn” in my day. But one thing I’ve noticed, especially as Film is a part of what I study here at SLU that the industry for this type of film has been changing. The editing software has gotten better, the cameras have improved in quality, and everything you need can be found at an affordable price for the budding cinematographer. The style of action sports filmmaking has also changed. Directors have become more creative and have discovered that the stories behind every adventure are what viewers really want to see.

The market for action sport filmmaking has seen a huge influx of new production companies due to low film equipment costs. In his article, Sax talks about “McConkey” the biographical film about a revolutionary skier who recently passed away (mentioned a few times before in this blog). The author says of “McConkey”, “While the footage of his cliff jumps and wing-suit flights are as thrilling to watch as ever, what affected me about the film were McConkey’s awkward Christmas video messages to his estranged father and the interviews with his widow and mother.” I am a big fan of narrative action sport films. To me, when the film introduces characters as more than just performers, we are able to empathize and form a personal connection to the athletes. The fact that these films are now being evaluated by professional film critics and well-respected writers shows advancement in the culture of extreme sport.

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Red Obsession

Last spring, the Tribeca Film Festival featured a documentary highlighting China’s insatiable thirst, called Red Obsession. Directed by Warwick Ross and narrated by Russell Crowe, this explores the growth of wine from grapes in the far West, chateaux in Bordeaux, and the bottles on tables in China–and the implications for the global market. The preview for the video won’t embed, so here is the links to the preview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arV7KEaC6KY
An interview with the director: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UBu_ho48cQ
And more from NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/04/23/178452056/tribeca-diary-red-obsession

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A Doll,Celebrity,Theorist, & Culture

Jennifer Lopez Interview – JLo Honored with her own Barbie Doll What do BARBIE, JLO, and APPADURAI Have in Common? By Keira B.Larrier The image of Barbie is important in American Society because it signifies femininity and womanhood, and it … Continue reading

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