Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Barbie - OK so I'm a little obsessed

I didn't have a Barbie doll as a kid. I found her mile-long legs and major boobage a bit too much to handle, and instead was content with a redheaded, slightly tomboyish pre-teen doll named "Angie." All my friends who did own Barbie ended up torturing her in various ways: taking scissors to her hair, thus transforming her into unintentially "punk rock" Barbie, poking holes in her boobs with pins, unscrewing her head and other body parts. It was not unusual, in my childhood, to sit around someone's bedroom surrounded by an array of severed limbs, headless torsos, and staring blue eyes under ratted hairdos.

Still, I couldn't help but be elated when I heard about "Computer Engineer Barbie" -- the newest, and most revolutionary version of the doll since gay leather guy Ken. Computer Engineer Barbie is outfitted with a pink laptop, a shirt with binary code stamped all over it, and a pair of designerey specs (also pink), among other accessories. True, it's a little nauseating to see her tossing her blond locks back so as to make way for a bluetooth. But when I think about a nine-year-old girl geek in training opening this gift and seeing her inner self reflected by such a glamourous, iconic doll, my heart soars.

The whole thing has caused a major stir among techies, who are raising all manner of interesting questions about her high plastickeyness and her new career move. Claire Cain Miller notes in the New York Times "Bits" blog that this is a major step forward from the days when Teen Talk Barbie infamously declared "Math class is tough." And Infosmack's Greg Knieriemen blogs that it could make geeky women in the real world "self-conscious" to see the blonde bombshell take on such a techy career. 

As the BBC wonders, are Barbie's wedge shoes practical for someone who will be crawling under desks in order to hook up cables? To which tech journalist Beth Pariseau retorts, "since when has Barbie been about reality?"

Exactly! And therein lies I suppose my new obsession with Computer Engineer Barbie. She is and always has been the stuff of fantasy. When I was little, I liked to play out all manner of daily lives with my dolls. Well, here's a new story for this new Barbie:

Barbie sets her alarm for 7:30 a.m. and leaps out of bed to beat the early morning rush at her local Starbucks. Ken, who works part-time as a male model these days, rolls over and goes back to sleep. Fine with her. She jumps in her Barbie Dream Prius and zooms off onto the Hot Wheels highway to the office park.

She arrives at work just in time to be called in to intervene in a major meltdown at the data center. Someone was up late and now the VMs are waaay overprovisioned. Silly overzealous Lego boys. She'll put things right. Grabs one of their leftover helmets and dives into the virtual zone headfirst, ensuring that there are no more bottlenecks between servers and storage.

She starts by swimming between each zero and one and making all the changes in the living ether of binary code inside the toyland server. It's like sorting out a bowl of spaghetti-O's, she thinks to herself. Her earlier years as a spoiled teenager in Malibu have well prepared her for such tasks. She used to get so bored she would pile up her soup noodles in all kinds of patterns. Partly an attempt to delve into the potential for a unified field theory, and partly a way to pass the time before Skipper got home and they could continue their ongoing chess game.

Now she swims to the surface, and enters the monitor from the inside. The code is all in mirror language, as she's on the other side of it. She enjoys the challenge of interpreting it from this point of view. But wait, could it be lunchtime? Time to have a cheeseburger with extra fries. Sure, this could mean that her waist will grow to an entire inch in circumference, but what's Ken going to do about it? He needs that shared health insurance plan.

Good luck, Computer Engineer Barbie! Or, put another way: 01010111011001010010000001101100011011110111


VaNessa Duplessie said...

Love it Sunshine. I hope my daughter, who isn't blond, will one day grow up and realize she can be whatever she wants to be.

After all, if Barbie can continue to transform after all these years then all girls can, right?!

Sunshine said...

Thanks for the comment, VaNessa. I do wonder what this will or will not do for young girls. We discussed the topic on my recent podcast, and overall the response from my guests was that it was nice from a symbolic point of view but that was about it. Guess we'll find out.

Jame Ervin said...

I remember astronaut Barbie from when i was growing up. I think my sister had that one. I had Barbie's 9-5 office/apartment. It flipped around and one side had an office with a computer, the other side was a cool city apartment. For me that meant Barbie was in her executive suite by day, and cool apartment after a night out.

In addition to the typical haircuts, we played Barbie Olympics and Barbie ski resort. Using our Barbies to execute double handsprings or using a toy football helmet as a ski lift fashioned out of the stair case banister.

When I was growing up, I felt like Barbie had a range of careers, and this is no exception. Except for that detour in the 90s. Barbie was a great way to imagine. Even if ethnic Barbie was really a brown version of blond Barbie.

I hope girls continue to give Barbie new lives however they see fit. Whether that means self made tattoos, Barbie and the rockers, or pink glasses.

Caitlin said...

The shoes are way practical for crawling under desks - you can kick them off without having to unlace them, as long as they are not the buckle type.

Anyway, who said she was a hardware gal? She might be a software coder.

I hope she's not tech support - that's practically blue collar these days.

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