Meaning’s Mutate, Plastic Doesn’t
It’s been 10 years since Aqua’s hit “Barbie Girl” exploded in the US. It was their only really successful song here in the states(though they did release at least one other single from their “Aquarium” album, a song called “Lollipop”) and was actually the number one single of the year. The group’s lead singer at the time stated she had never owned a Barbie doll, and refused to appear as the doll in the video, instead appearing as herself in a parody of the blonde icon.
The song’s lyrics are extremely sexualized, but even more they seem to emphasize the point of a Barbie: to be an object of desire. Girls want to BE Barbie, and all Barbie really wants in the world is her Ken. The message always struck me as satirical, the idea of a girl being completely and wonderfully happy so long as she didn’t have to do anything but look pretty and please her equally plastic boyfriend.
A look at the other monster singles of that year reveal an interesting dynamic in music at the time. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, fronted by the powerful and independent Gwen Stefani, “You Were Meant For Me” by guitar strumming chanteuse Jewel, as well as “Wannabe” and “Say You’ll Be There” by girl power icons The Spice Girls were among that year’s top singles. You know who isn’t featured on that list? Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson or any of the blonde bimbos we’ ve come to know and “love.”
Ten years later, the song that was once parody and satire has been covered in a way that fails completely. It conveys the message of the song as positive, exemplary. “Barbie Girl” is not longer social commentary, it is a fucking MISSION STATEMENT.
You may be aware of a scuffle I got into in the comments of a recent blog. During that time the point of view being explained by my opponent was that young women don’t have strong role models and that it is the media’s fault. That more girls know Paris Hilton than Hillary Clinton.
I’m not saying she was completely wrong. I never did. It disgusts me that there are people out there who strive to be like Paris or Lindsay Lohan, girls who are content to be gorgeous trainwrecks, who are out to please and be pleased, who seem to be all surface and no substance.
I don’t blame the media. While the media is an influence on society I think it is more actively a reflection of our society’s view points. And society has, in recent years, stood against powerful women.
Up until last year’s midterm election, the United States government was controlled by the conservative right. President Chimply and his rag tag group of rich white people and women who appear to hate and despise their own gender were running rampant over a number of issues. How did they come into power? People agreed with their politics.
Also there was a stolen election in there, but really, who cares, right?
The point is, our society has backlashed against women who are capable. A woman who doesn’t always appear happy and delightful is a total bitch, a woman who speaks her mind is stepping out of place. A woman who attempts to seriously protest an unpopular and unwinnable war with the point of “If mothers ran the world there wouldn’t be any god damn wars,” and she is censored. The days of Buffy and Xena are gone, replaced with the “real life adventures” of rich and snotty girls being naughty.
So that’s where we stand. Young women are not being encouraged to take a pink ribbon off their eyes. Instead, they’re being taught to say “You can touch, you can play, if you say I’m always yours!”
She could turn her head all the way aroundlink Linda Blair in The Exorcist.Her bare high-heeled feet were begging to be nailed,Jesus-style, to a cross. Mothers saw their daughters’ dollslevitate above pink carrying cases,then tip upside down, arms straight out to their sides.Barbie’s an angel, cried the little girls who loved her,who would mortgage their souls to be like her,who would do anything she asked.-Denise Duhamel