Write of Passage

Willett's Baltimore Transitions / Expressions

Willett .

Willett .
Baltimore, Maryland,
June 15
Write of Passage, Inc.
Willett Thomas is the President of Write of Passage, Inc., a 501(C)(3) communications, training, and publishing organization formed in 2010 to assist underserved artists and writers. She is also a freelance writer, writing in and about Baltimore. She recently relocated to the neighborhood of Greenmount, where the exterior shots of the HBO series, The Wire were filmed. She's pleased to report any rumored resemblances to the television series are greatly exaggerated. *** Like us at Facebook ;-) http://www.facebook.com/WriteofPassage

Editor’s Pick
MAY 28, 2010 9:04AM

Say It Loud, I’m Slutty Black Barbie & I’m Proud

Rate: 45 Flag

I got my first Barbie when I was six.  She was white.  By seven, I had received my first of several black Barbies, all given to me by my numerous aunts for birthdays, Christmases, and/or for simply being a good girl, often receiving the same model within months of each other. 

These dolls were Barbies sure enough: high-arch feet, almond shaped eyes, pointy noses and pouty mouths. But being black Barbies, and this being the sixties, most sported shorter hair styles similar to Diahann Carroll's in the groundbreaking 60s televsion series Julia. This worked. It worked best of all for my brother who liked to chew on their heads. Black dolls with short hair and mouth sized heads proved soothing to baby brothers, especially teething ones. This is how I saw it. My mother on the other hand attributed my brother’s cannibalism to these Barbies’ uncanny resemblance to her sister, Sherri -- and she would go on to insist, “He loves his Aunt Sherri.”

Even so at age seven, I understood that if there was indeed a correlation between loving someone and chopping the noggins of those dolls who resembled that person, I knew this was strange, and understanding this, I felt sorry for my brother, his predilection, and for my mother in general.

My brother's bicuspiding tendency was put in check the following year when the aunts were able to get their hands on the longer hair versions of black Barbie, along with all their accessories. In the 60s, black Barbie had it going on: hair, clothes, cars, homes (no redling here). Today, black Barbies have everything any little black girl could want in a plastic role model, just like their white sisters.

This being the case, it should come as no surprise at Back to Basic Babie Collection -- MattelMattel’s decision to launch a new line of Barbies called "Back to Basics.” They’re multiracial, saucy and off the chart hip, displaying Lady Gaga-like fashion forwardness, along with ‘how'd they do that,’ weave-fabulous hair extensions.

But unlike Aunt Sherri lookalike Barbie, Basic Black Busty Barbiewhose heavily endowed upper torso (okay, gigantic boobs) were best explained as hormones gone amok, this particular basic black Barbie appears surgically enhanced, endowed with doll sized (but no less eye popping), perfectly formed grapefruits atop her plastic breast plate. Good golly, Miss Molly, somewhere down there, Russ Meyer must be gyrating in his grave.

Though a kid, I remember the 60s well. It was a great time for being a girl: Easy Bake Oven, Chrissy with the hair that grew from a hole in the top of her head, the Hoola Hoop, Little Kiddles, the list goes on.  And remembering this, I just want to go on the record to say:  Basic Black Busty Barbie, I had a basic black Barbie back in the day, and you, BBBB, are no Aunt Sherri.

What next Mattel, a line of Back to Basics Ken Sugar Daddy dolls?

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I saw this story earlier in the week and just rolled my eyes. Hey, at least you had a Barbie. I grew up with Midge. This black busty Barbie business is Mattel on crack.
You're right, Kathy. Something really crazy (more loopy than usual) must be happening over at Mattel.
I like her little hip swing there. I love Barbie. I don't care. I love Black Barbie, tan Barbie, Malibue Barbie, Ballerina Barbie. And let me tell you something, toys are not as good now as they used to be. Except for Barbie.
I don't even wanna know what's going on at Mattel.
The first black doll in the Barbie line put out was not a Barbie at all, but a black version of Barbie's cousin Francie. It was called--not making this up--Colored Francie.

It didn't sell well, and is a highly prized collector's item today.
Jeeze, I guess "back to basics" means "bra-less. Holy cow, I don't know if I'd be purchasing that model for my kid in any color.

I love this post, btw. It's familiar and plays into my life-long confusion with almost all cultural icons, which I have simultaneously pined for and regarded as off-the-charts weird...
When Mattel puts the Big Boozy Bowling Broad Barbie on the shelves, I'll buy one for my six-year-old boy. Until then I guess we'll just have to bake brownies in his Easy Bake and watch Faster Pussycat.
C'mon somebody - where's the Tyra Banks reference?
Growing up, all my Barbies were blonde and blue-eyed. I learned quite quickly that as a dark-eyed, dark-haired Latina I somehow was "lacking".
Though I never buy Barbies for my girls, it seems the weapon of choice for other family members. They end up collecting dust, my girls don't give them more than a cursory glance.

There is something seriously wrong with these dolls and the message they send.
If they roll out a Pimpin' Ken replica 1973 Buick Riviera with purple metallic paint I'll consider buying one as an investment...
Jeez. I just typed this fierce comment, hit something on my keyboard and sent it into oblivion. To summarize: it's Dolly Parton's fault.
I've done some freelancing at Mattel and have insider information re: Barbie. The larger bust body form was originally developed for the most recent Superhero series (Supergirl, Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Black Canary), to get the dolls to fill out the costumes in a manner that was more in line with the comic book illustrations, which tend to have very large, round breasts. Subsequently, Mattel is now leveraging the larger bust body form for several other dolls when the fashions call for it. Just saying that the Barbie Basics doll pictured is not the first Barbie to sport slightly more prominent gazongas.
Of all the Barbie dolls I owned as a child, my favorite one was the only black one, Christie. I thought she was beautiful, and she got the starring role in all of my doll games. She was the brilliant doctor, the bravest cop, the intrepid reporter, the stewardess who saved the airplane (hey, it was the '7os, lol). Christie was the best Barbie doll in the world, and this is coming from a white chick. I have a lot of good memories of that doll. :D
Sorry about the double-posting, readwillet! I also want to say that in defense of Mattel, it should be pointed out that Barbie is not a "baby-doll", a "mommy-doll" or a "little-girl doll". She is essentially a fashion doll. That being said, Barbie offers consumers a number of lines from which parents should carefully choose depending on their child's maturity and interests. There are "princess" lines for the very young, "Disney" lines, "career" lines, "history & culture" lines, licensed lines (ie, High School Musical), young fashion lines, and spectacularly creative, expensive dolls for adult collectors featuring things like designer fashions, lingerie, retro-Barbies and celebrities.
My Bratz doll just burned my Barbie with a Newport!
I didn't get a Barbie. We were too poor for name brand toys. For the record, I am certain that your Aunt Sherri could absolutely karate kick this new Barbie to a pulp even if she still had your brother's spit in her hair.

I watched ever episode of Julia as a girl and thought she was incredibly stylish.
@M. Chariot -- Thanks for the update. You almost sound like an agent for Mattel ;-) At six, I just wanted a Barbie. My mom had the issue with her endowments, while my aunts just wanted to see that I got the latest and greatest.
I think Basic Black Barbie may have had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, 'cause I swear, that's what my chest looks like now, complete with that disconcerting gap in place of cleavage.

Some of the Barbies in the group photo look like they're on their way to the bondage club.
@susanmilhalic -- Maybe Mattel is more progressive than I thought. Perhaps Busty Barbie has had some reconstructive surgery. I guess the all that deep cleavage made me think otherwise.
I love this. I stole my sisters Barbie and lit it up with lighter fluid. I was grounded for a month, but it was so cool watching her light up! Great Post!
Barbie has been getting slutty the past few years, I've noticed that she often looks like she just got off her shift dancing somewhere in Vegas. This Barbie is almost classy in a "hostess" on the strip sort of way. Little girls don't seem to notice this, my niece just wants to dress her's up in as flashy as possible outfits and her Ken has a one piece suit (with a sleeveless top) that would make a Chippendale dancer proud!
My Barbies wore working woman's clothes in the 70's in shades or yellow and orange...that is until one of my aunt's gave me the panty and bra collection, which I often paired with the knee high boots.
Give the kids a little fantasy time!
This was fascinating and funny. Congrats on the EP. You so deserve it.

I too chopped noggins in my day.
read willett,
Good Job! I never had a Barbie nor did I ever want one. Even as a little girl I always knew she was a crime on some level.
This article entices me to publish my Barbie poem ... that I wrote last year on Barbie's 5oth birthday! Though I'm sure ... I would do so at the expense of most of my readership.

Congrats on the EP !
@Scarlett -- I forgot Barbie was 50. She's certainly accomplished a lot. And you can't say she does keep things interesting. Also, most important, I'm glad you're still OSing.
I liked SNL's BIKER CHICK BARBIE who came complete, along with other accessories, a Restraining Order Against Her BF.
Like Kathy, I had a Midge - b/c my mom was too cheap to buy a Barbie, and didn't really approve of them anyway. The boob thing is definitely out of control with the one in the pic - I don't care what color she is!
@Blue in TX -- I've never heard of Midge. She sounds more like a woman for today rather than the 60s.
There's something so trippy about her figure and that dress (!) with the Basic Barbie Basic Barbie type all over the back of the box. Is Basic the Mattel work for Black??? I remember the old Barbie torsos--and this is just as godawful but in a 2010 kind of way.
This was wonderfully funny - especially the part about your baby brother! As for the new Barbie - the very first thing I thought when I saw the picture was "boob job." Et tu Barbie...?
@Pavanne -- My brother's 42 now and 6'4, but I'll always see him as my baby brother.
@ame i -- I must be mean too, because that is funny.
Can't wait to share this post with a friend of mine who has a barbie blog ( she's a baby boomer) Interesting information shared here. rated~~
@Ollie's Daughter -- You're so right, a lot good historical info from OSers.
I liked her clothes. I could have cared less about her actual face and hair. Although I eventually liked the long hair, I could cut it or pin it up.....I know, I was weird, but seriouly it was about the clothes. R.
Looks like she has implants. But then I guess Barbie would. lol
I'm with you, this looks like surgically enhanced Barbie. What are they thinking? Really enjoyed this piece.
Oh my! The other day I happened upon some "bad plastic surgery" photos of celebs, and they had several photos of unlikely grapefruit boobs. I remember thinking that these poor famous people were simply out of touch with what actual women looked like. They don't even know anyone with real breasts anymore. Now all little girls will dream of someday sprouting grapefruits out of their chests and probably start saving for the surgeries by selling lemonade and babysitting from childhood.
I remember all these things, though I grew up in a thoroughly white environment. I hadn't thought about Julia for decades.
I remember all these things, though I grew up in a thoroughly white environment. I hadn't thought about Julia for decades.
Only in America you get to have an isle full of toys, barbies and get the nerve to complain - I grew up in Africa where most children made their own toys ;)
My daughter and her friends used to do all kinds of imaginative destructive surgery to their Barbies up in the attic playroom. They seemed to have had a profound hostility toward Barbie. Or maybe not. Maybe it was just the same kind of motivation that caused me to explode my old airplane models with firecrackers when I was a kid.

Sometimes boredom with one's toys sets in and then destruction begins...