THIS ITEM IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER ONLY AND WILL BE RELEASED ON 12 NOVEMBER 2024.
The Unauthorized History
For readers of The Secret History of Wonder Woman and DisneyWar, a fresh new history of Mattel's Barbie.
In June of 1952, German publishing tycoon Axel Springer was sending a new paper to print: a four-page broadsheet he'd dubbed Bild Zeitung. The paper - image-heavy, emotional, and primed to contend with a burgeoning competitor called television - was almost ready, save for a narrow blank on the second page. With minutes to spare, Springer commissioned a one-block cartoon of a petite blonde with a predilection for rich men. That blonde was named "Lilli." But in a span of seven short years, she would be reborn in plastic, across an ocean, and under a different name: Barbara Millicent Roberts.
If Barbie began as a blank space, the world has spent seven decades filling it in. No doll has elicited more adoration from fans, more hatred from detractors, more eyerolls from the indifferent. To boosters, she is the ultimate symbol of unabashed girlhood, an 11.5-inch figurine shot to the moon before American women could get credit cards, an evolving illustration that, per one tagline, "we girls can do anything." To critics, she represents an inane vision of femininity that was going out of style just years after she was "born" - an homage to impossible body proportions, an emblem of Eurocentric beauty standards, a bimbo built on an empire of polyethylene. For everyone else, Barbie is to dolls what Xerox is to copy machines, or Kleenex is to tissues. She is, for better or for worse, an American icon, and one that has outlasted more coups, rivals, and beheadings than any dictator.
Barbie's conquest over the American toy market did not happen by accident. It is the byproduct of meticulous marketing, occasional backstabbing, squadrons of designers with strong opinions on coral lip shades, and covert corporate maneuvers - many of which replicate, in miniature, the economic trajectory of the country Barbie seems to represent. Barbieland: The Unauthorized History is a new history of Mattel's Barbie and a wry investigation into why she's still around.