In 2019, the Barbie doll turned 60. Plasticity in body and persona allowed the Mattel toy company to position and reposition their high-achieving money-maker as relevant by exploiting social trend, political movements and historical shifts. As a complex international celebrity and feminist bête noir, Barbie is a mirror helping us to reflect on ourselves.
This lecture is based on my book, Plastic’s Republic, a poem collection centering on the Barbie doll as an enduring cultural icon. I will examine her creation, her impact on female beauty and discuss how her mouldable nature made her a “capital doll” and free market diva. Following the book’s themes, I will elaborate the philosophical, feminist and social issues she engenders and discuss how Barbie became plastic surgery’s prophet by spawning “plastic positive” humans. Finally, plastic’s reach extends to the dollification of romantic relationships via silicone sex dolls and ends (un)naturally in our plastic infused lives and smothered oceans.
I will follow the lecture by reading from Plastic’s Republic.