I’m so glad I never had to turn to Barbie for career inspiration when I was 12. Especially after catching glimpse of the “I Can Be…” Barbie series upon making what turned out to be a very wrong turn in Wal-Mart with our 3-year old daughter.
Kamryn has been obsessed with this anatomic marvel ever since we rented “Barbie of Swan Lake” from RedBox. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, I highly recommend you do so whenever you get the urge to torch 81 minutes of your life.
I started babysitting when I was 12. From what I understood of the task, you were supposed to hang out with the kids and play games or watch television for $3 an hour until the parents eventually returned to give you a ride home. The fridge was yours to raid and all you really had to do was make sure the house was still standing and most of the kids were still around by the end of the evening.
I was awesome at that.
I babysat for three different couples when I was younger and I found it to be the easiest way to score cash outside opening birthday cards. But it’s a good thing I learned all about babysitting from my mother, and not Barbie, because if I had ever caught a glimpse of “I Can Be a Baby Sitter” before I agreed to be one, I would have turned down the opportunity and missed out on years worth of easy dough.
While second nature to me as a parent, the thought of monitoring children while they did their business would have been horrifyingly uncomfortable to me at the age of 12. I’m sure the kids I watched went to the bathroom occasionally, possibly while still in their jammies, but I certainly didn’t need to know about it.
Left to Mattel’s interpretation, you’d think being a babysitter is all about levitating toilets and spending the bulk of the evening in the bathroom. Not to mention the fact that Barbie is the worst babysitter ever considering the child has been propped on the toilet fully clothed. Although I suppose it’d make for one awkward packaging design if Kelly doll’s skivvies were at her ankles.
How much of one’s time is spent in the toilet when babysitting? On any given night, let’s pretend even three minutes are spent assisting a child on the toilet. THIS is what Mattel thinks best captures the essence of babysitting?
Why not show impressionable minds what it’s really like being a babysitter. Feature her with a television set, some fish stick TV dinners, and a gaggle of random toys that are tossed and scattered about the room. Maybe add in some spilled chocolate milk, a frizzy-haired frazzled Barbie, and a few sweaty children who are just coming off a sugar high.
If you’re going to try and capture a job, a career, or an activity, focus on what best encompasses the experience. Like what you spend the bulk of your time doing. Not one miniscule task in the grand scheme of things.
Take “I Can Be a Pet Vet” Barbie for example. She comes with a cute little puppy, some grooming equipment, a scale, and a ginormous rabies shot. It’s not like Pet Vet Barbie is sitting there analyzing a miniature stool sample or expressing some mutt’s anal glands with “Real Squirting Action!”.
Then there’s “I Can Be a Pony Doctor.”
What you get is a pristine Barbie (‘cuz working with horses is actually a very clean endeavor), a grooming table, a medical bag, and a cute little pony with a broken leg. What you don’t get is Barbie giving the cute little pony with a broken leg 50cc’s of barbiturates while an “Elmer’s Glue” Ken doll stands nearby with a fistful of cash.
I think what’s most disturbing about the “I Can Be a Baby Sitter” toy is that the toilet makes actual flushing sounds and even features solid poop in the toilet. When you press the lever, the poop flips up and gets covered by a small disc to simulate clean water. Over and over you can make this girl poop in the toilet. As though she did nothing else all night but watch TV and eat fish sticks.
And if babysitting toileted children isn’t fun enough, there’s always “Poop and Scoop Barbie.” There’s really no better way to deliver comedic value than to just copy and paste the product description. Sometimes, things are as funny as they’re ever going to get.
“Finally, Barbie has a dog that eats and makes a mess! Tanner the dog is soft and fuzzy and her mouth, ears, head and tail really move! You can open Tanner dog’s mouth and “feed” her dog biscuits. Comes with a dog bone and chew toys that Tanner can hold in her mouth, too. When Tanner has to go to the bathroom, Barbie doll cleans up with her special magnetic scooper and trash can. Poseable Barbie doll included.”
Life would be so much easier if our dogs pooped magnetic lumps of nastiness. Cleanup would be a breeze so long as they didn’t crap near our fridge.
But all is not lost on the “I Can Be a…” Barbie series, for they also championed such careers as Baby Doctor, Pediatrician, and TV Chef. Unfortunately, they also set these careers back 30 years for women and set men everywhere up for disappointment.
When my wife and I took the kids to the Museum of Play in Rochester, there were cases and cases filled with Barbie dolls from yesteryear. Back in the age when Barbie seemed to do more than wear tight skirts and focus on the hottest makeup and fashions. The Barbies back then seemed to revel in a wide range of cross-gender career options. They didn’t aspire to be eye candy at traditional jobs or land themselves a Ken and a pink Corvette.
At the museum, we saw “Astronaut Barbie” who was dressed in a full-body astronaut suit complete with helmet. She wasn’t in a cocktail dress holding a tray of Tang for the men folk piloting the shuttle.
We saw “Doctor Barbie” in full scrubs and a surgeon’s mask. Not today’s “We Can Be Doctors” playset featuring a scrubbed-out Ken doll and his trusty assistant Barbie who was wearing high heels and a short skirt.
There was “Race Car Driver Barbie” who was covered head to toe in a fireproof racing suit. She wasn’t scantily clad in lingerie pimping out GoDaddy.
We also saw “Firefighter Barbie” and “Balance Beam Barbie” and “Gold Medal Barbie.” Each tastefully dressed and inspiring to young girls who wanted to be more in an age when men often wanted them to be less.
What happened over the last 30 years?
Even 1960′s “Nurse Barbie” came complete with a full nurse dress, overcoat, hat, normal shoes, and a diploma. A diploma!
But alas, judging by where Mattel is headed, I believe it’ll get worse before it gets better. Probably to the point where the next generation of Nurse Barbies will come with stripper pumps, misdemeanors, and a John named Ken.
It’d be funny if I wasn’t right.