Feel the glamour and the pain,” urges ”Ken” in Aqua’s top 10 hit ”Barbie Girl.” The zeppelin-busted doll experienced both. Nearing 40, she dated the King (as a Barbie Loves Elvis edition that debuted at Graceland) and poured herself into Marilyn Monroe’s Seven Year Itch dress.
But imagine the embarrassment when new friend Share a Smile Becky couldn’t fit her wheelchair into the Dream House elevator (renovations are under consideration). And then to see in the book Barbie Unbound such parodies as Teenage Pregnant Barbie, or hear that Puerto Rican Barbie looks ”too Caucasian”?
As Mattel scrambled to protect its major moneymaker’s image — including a trademark-infringement suit against Aqua’s record company, MCA, which countersued for defamation (both are pending) — the toy maker faced its biggest assault from an unlikely source. In May, irate about overproduction driving down collectibles prices, a trademark suit against fan mags, and a reissue so poorly coiffed it looked like Hedge Clipper Barbie, angry collectors held a boycott. (In response, Mattel said that it had already reduced collectible Barbies by 15 percent compared with 1996 and offered to replace the bad-hair heads for free.) Meanwhile, due to ”changing times,” Barbie is slated for a makeover, including (bummer, Ken) a breast reduction. Annus horribilis? Not totally: 1997 saw the manufacture of the billionth Barbie.