4.29.2008

Operation Barbie Invasion

The Iranian leadership is engaged in a brutal, grueling war. They have identified their enemy and are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to defeat it. That enemy?

Barbie.

No, it's not a militaristic Barbie outfitted with hi-tech surveillance equipment or tactical nukes. It's just the plain old anatomically incorrect blond doll. From the NY Times we learn:
Iran’s prosecutor general railed on Sunday against the invasion of Barbie, Batman, Spider-Man and Harry Potter and demanded that the country’s young be protected against them.... Urging measures to safeguard “Islamic culture and revolutionary values,” the prosecutor, Ghorban-Ali Dorri Najafabadi, was quoted ... as saying: “Promoting figures like Barbie, Batman, Spider-Man and Harry Potter ... should alarm all the country’s officials. We need to find substitutes to ward off this onslaught, which aims at children and young people whose personality is in the process of being formed.”

Although officials in Iran regularly denounce Western culture, Western toys have been popular there, and affluent parents often indulge their children with them. The prosecutor said, “These toys, which do not respect the required norms, present dangers for the health of children and affect the survival of toy factories in this country.” ... Two years ago the police raided toy shops and put black stickers on the packaging of Barbie dolls to hide their bodies. Barbie contravenes Iran’s rule that women must cover all bodily contours. Iran’s rivals to Barbie and her partner, Ken, are Sara and Dara, who respect Islamic rules but do not enjoy Barbie’s popularity. [bold added]
"Sara and Dara", the Islamic version of Barbie and Ken, don't enjoy the same popularity? Really? I wonder if the packaging has the two dolls separated by a thick wall, with strict instructions that the dolls should never be in the same room together? Does the deluxe version come with miniature members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice?

The fact that the culture police in Iran are this concerned about the corrupting influence of Western toys like the absurdly unimportant Barbie doll, just exposes the decrepit nature of the Iranian/Islamic system. Much like the Soviet dictators were concerned about the westernizing influence of Levi's (and a correspondingly huge black market sprung up, funneling tons of blue jeans under the Iron Curtain) the Iranian leaders are railing against an external threat to try and cover up the rotten foundations of their ideology.

If in this case, a Barbie gives a young Iranian girl some hope that she will one day experience the freedom that her counterpart in Indiana has, or that one day she may be able to wear a summer dress or drive a pink car while talking to a boy without fear of public stoning, then Iran's prosecutor general is right to be worried.

2 comments:

LB said...

Great post, and remember, never underestimate Barbie!

I think you summed it up best in your last paragraph. Barbie, as a cultural icon, is a force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t matter how many stickers they put on her, they can’t destroy the image of all her bright-eyed (what’s left after the chador goes on), fun-loving, overtly feminine fabulousness.

Just think of all the feminists who tried to keep Barbie from their daughters for fear her unrealistic figure would lead to low self-esteem and unhappiness later in life. In response to this fear, plenty of more realistic “fashion dolls” have been made over the years, but none have stood the test of time quite like Barbie. Why makes her so attractive? Who wants a doll is a reflection of her real life? We want play things to act out our dreams.

I, for one, am shocked, not to mention happy and hopeful that Barbie is an ambassador of America in Iran. Even as a young girl I knew that if loving Barbie was wrong, I didn’t want to be right. Maybe it’ll work the same for some little Iranian girl.

C. August said...

I can't get the image out of my head of a Barbie in full camouflage and night-vision goggles on some Rambo-like mission in Tehran.

But you're right. As a representative of an irrepressible American spirit, in contrast to the tightly wound and violent cultural repression in Iran, it seems that Barbie is actually a great underground ambassador.

On some level, I can't believe I just wrote that. I'm going to go back to imagining Strike Force Barbie(TM) in a matching Humvee with optional 1-kilowatt laser mount.