- Mary F Rogers - University of West Florida, USA
How are images of the body mediated through cultural signs? How does sexual stereotyping work? In what way are these themes bound up in modern consumerism? This book uses one of the most popular accessories of girlhood, the Barbie doll, to explain key aspects of cultural meaning.
Some readings would see Barbie as reproducing ethnicity and gender in a particularly coarse and damaging way - a cultural icon of racism and sexism. Rogers develops a broader, more challenging picture. She shows how the cultural meaning of Barbie is more ambiguous than the narrow, appearance-dominated model that is attributed to the doll. For a start, Barbie's sexual identity is not clear-cut. Similarly her class situation is ambiguous. But all interpretations agree that, with her enormous range of lifestyle `accessories', Barbie exists to consume. Her infinitely plastic body mirrors an infinitely plastic self that resonates with postmodern notions of fluidity, multiplicity and localised meanings.
Barbie is a hugely versatile cultural icon who helps crystallize for the reader, whether researcher or student, the range and texture of core themes in contemporary society.