Killing Brand Barbie

by Chris Kenton on December 21, 2005

Researchers in England have just released a report that, among other things I hope, documents the phenomenon of Barbie mutilation among young girls. It turns out young girls think Barbie torture is cool, especially when it involves burning, breaking and even microwaving.

Only a neurotic parent or the NSA would find this deeply disturbing. My brother and I favored fireworks and liquid flammables for torching our toys as teenagers, and I suspect it’s a time-honored rite of passage. But what stands out in this study from researchers at the University of Bath is that Barbie leads the pack as the favored torture victim.

Researchers from the university’s marketing and psychology departments questioned 100 children about their attitudes to a range of products as part of a study on branding. They found Barbie provoked the strongest reaction, with youngsters reporting "rejection, hatred and violence," researcher Agnes Nairn said.

"The meaning of ‘Barbie’ went beyond an expressed antipathy; actual physical violence and torture towards the doll was repeatedly reported, quite gleefully, across age, school and gender," she said.

I’m usually frightened when marketers and psychologists team up to study kids, but this is fascinating. What on earth, beyond simple joys of teenage sadism, could provoke such a visceral hatred for Barbie? The mind reels.

Matel took it all in stride, however.

Manufacturer Mattel, which sells 94 million Barbies a year worldwide, said the doll remained the "No. 1 fashion doll brand." Mattel U.K. said that despite the findings of "this very small group of children, we know that there are millions of girls in the U.K. and across the world that love and enjoy playing with Barbie and will continue to do so in the future."

With sharp knives and lighter fluid.

Wouldn’t that be a cool Barbie accessory kit? 

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