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Title: Playing with Barbie : doll-like femininity in the contemporary west
Author: Whitney, Jennifer
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 796X
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2013
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In the winter of 2009, Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday. The occasion was marked with all the pageantry befitting a debutante, starlet, or modern-day princess. Lavish parties were hosted in her honour, and fashion models impersonated the doll on the catwalk. Luxury brands created limited edition Barbie products—from cosmetics to cars—to commemorate the milestone. And, at the height of the revelry, the plastic doll even underwent ‘plastic surgery’ in order to squeeze into a couture pair of birthday stilettos. Taking this distinctive cultural moment as its starting point, this thesis examines how the Barbie doll’s complex and indefatigable cultural presence is understood in Western popular culture. A range of media and industries engage with representations of the doll: advertising, consumer, and celebrity cultures; the fashion, beauty, and cosmetic surgery industries; music; reality television; social networking; and pornography. This thesis interrogates how these media and industries, and the discursive practices therein, reproduce images and narratives of Barbie as a uniform and idealised representation of white, affluent femininity in the West. However, as her birthday celebrations suggest, Barbie is also written as a ‘real’ girl. This thesis also interrogates this narrative of ‘realness’ as it helps to explain why the doll has remained relevant for over 50 years, while complicating readings of her position as a uniform cultural object. Moreover, while Barbie is being portrayed as a ‘real’ girl, popular culture narratives also present ‘becoming Barbie’ as an achievable goal for young women and girls. Motivating this research throughout is the question of how such a referential relationship reinforces and destabilises constructions of the feminine subject in our postmodern and posthuman times.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General) ; HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; P Philology. Linguistics