Does This Barbie Make Me Look Fat?

Thumb6 Happy birthday, Barbie! The hot, plastic blonde has turned 50 and was feted with her own fashion show at NY Fashion Week. (It took me a minute or two, but I do believe that is a real human model in the link's photo, not a giant Barbie doll. Uncanny, though!)

Ah yes, but if you watched the vid of the fashion show and thought, those dresses are great but Barbie was much more buxom than the runway models, maybe you need to be introduced to the newest Barbie... Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Barbie.

The cheerleader has smaller bosoms, skinnier legs, a more vapid stare (perhaps hunger?), and hip bones that portrude from her frame. In other words--she's just like a real model! AT LAST!

Unfortunately, the wet rags over at Commercial Free Childhood don't agree. They have given the   new Barbie their TOADY award saying:

"The Barbie Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Doll teaches girls Barbiecheer  to focus on their appearance, to aspire to an eating-disordered body, and to play at being sexy before they’re even capable of understanding what sexy means."

Look guys, I think we all need to see the silver lining on this new cheerleader Barbie. A) She's obviously overcome a lot of physical limitations to be able to stand--let alone dance!-- on those bird legs, so good for her! and B) she's somehow still got energy even after the tape worm has ravaged her once hourglass figure. Poor girl. She's obviously in the special needs category, let's leave her alone.

Or not:

"In collaboration with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, Mattel created a Barbie Doll that makes standard Barbie look like a clerk at Wal-Mart. Complete with toothpick legs and shorts that don’t qualify as shorts on several levels, Cowboy cheerleader Barbie will surely inspire thousands – perhaps millions – of little girls to vomit their cafeteria pizza so they’re still sexy in their P.E. shorts."

Well, there's one thing she's good at-- Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Barbie made the real NY fashion models look fat, for that alone she definitely deserves an award!  Congrats!


Naming The Octuplets, Collector's Edition (Beanie Babies?)

Nadya Suleman, the mother of the octuplets, is reported as favoring names from the Old Testament.  Her mother, who's got the patent on passive-aggressive communication, told Us magazine:

the girls' names sound nice but are "pretty unusual."

 Baal-zephon? Zaacai? Habazinaiah? Gomer? More unusual than Mormon names?

As of now, the little miracles are known as Baby A, Baby B, and so on, all the way to H.  Baby name sites are abuzz with the possiblities for the 6 boys and 2 girls.

Mega-family, the Duggars, opted for the  same first initial for all offspring, which makes monogrammed hand-me-down  easy, but lacks imagination.

The Texas octuplets were given traditional Nigerian  names, as if they weren't unusual enough.

David Carter, thinking ahead, suggests Suleman get cracking on registering those domain names.

Choosing a child name is an act so fraught with social anxiety. The Salon Table Talk board regularly castigates any name deemed to be uneek and kre8tive, and they went on for days about the Palins.  The forums at Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing are very fun to read.

I think she should stick with the ABC theme, and call that last little bugger, Hellzapoppin.

Idle thought--now that Michelle Obama put the kibosh on Sasha and Malia dolls,  why doesn't Ty come out with Octuplet Beanie Babies? Collect 'em, swap 'em, trade 'em with your friends.

Octuplets09 copy

The Pink Plague

2241235924_acd32675ee The Daily Mail's Sarah Harris calls it "the pink plague": the all-pink, girly-girl toy aisle. The pink wave, she suggests, leads kids to "get 'hooked on the girl colour' from a young age" and then to be "duped into buying products that encourage them to grow up too quickly, such as lip-glosses and Playboy pencil cases." (I thought Playboy was for boys, but maybe things are different across the pond.) The princess issue comes up too.

But what bothers me is the superficial issue: all that pink. I hate it. I've never liked pink. I wouldn't even wear Schiaparelli "shocking pink"--the only acceptable kind--until I was in my mid-40s. Why are we telling girls they have to like pink to be feminine? Why can't they like red or green or (dare I suggest it) blue?

And don't even get me started on the evils of pink ribbons. Just because I had breast cancer doesn't mean I like pink. This site makes me queasier than chemo did.

Photo by Flickr user MeL, under Creative Commons license.

What's In A Name? A 'palimpsest For Parental Aspirations,' Actually.

Img20l[1] First up, I have no babies. I have a dog named Pete. But the subject here today is hip baby names. And why one hip name multiplies into a nation of Rubys, Jacks, Dakotas, and Jaydens seemingly overnight. One researcher says we need look no further than the Pei Wei next to the CVS.

Psychology Today reports that Cleveland Kent Evans, a professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska and past president of the American Name Society, has this theory:

"Evans believes that our homogeneous strip-mall culture fosters the desire to nominally distinguish our children.

He cites a boom in unique names dating to the late 1980s but says the taste for obscure monikers developed in the 1960s, when parents felt less obligated to keep certain names in the family."

And as our own Virginia Postrel wrote in the  NYT, "a smaller proportion of all names are concentrated among the most popular. So there's a constant need for new names, as formerly unusual ones become too common."

I must confess I like some hipster names. (My sweet, adorable niece is Emma which was #1 on the baby names list in 2006.) But , nothing scrapes chalkboard of my soul more than pretentious names like (sorry parents) Atticus and Emerson. They have the same effect on me as MacKenzie and Madison, both of which I loathe and are everywhere. 

P.S. Madison was the punch line of a joke in Splash. I remember the audience laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of such a name. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO REMEMBERS THIS?

Anyway, mom-to-be Jill Bass in the Psychology Today article said "We don't want to go the Jake, Zak and Tyler route. It will sound like one of those year-2000 names. We don't want to sound as though we were trying so hard."

Ah yes, I know what she's talking about, e.g. names that end in "den," as in Caden, Braden, Aiden, Jayden, and Brenden, where unsuspecting parents are actually sentencing their child to a lifetime of classrooms chock full of the Jennifers, Kellys, and Jasons of my youth.

Go to England and chances are you'll meet any number of Kates, Emilys, Davids, and Desmonds on the same day.  No one minds the repetition there. So why is it suddenly so hard to name a baby? Because, silly, what would the neighbors think?

 "While a name may be a palimpsest for parental aspirations (hence the concerns of savvy parents that they not appear to be striving too hard)..."

[Ed. note: ah! No wonder there are so many 'simple' names today- Ruby, Jack, Emma, Nick...they say, 'We're simple people, but we're still so with it.']

"...a name also reflects high hopes for the child himself. Choosing an uncommon name is perceived as an opportunity to give your child a leg up in life, signaling to the world that he or she is different. In Snobbery, cultural critic Joseph Epstein argues that a child named Luc or Catesby seems poised for greater achievements than selling car insurance."

So if you can figure out a hip name that's actually different than the other hip names your neighbors have already given their children, bully for you! Michael Sherrod created a book of Bad Baby Names: The Worst True Names Parents Saddled Their Kids With, and You Can Too! and found out that kids with crazy names including Ima Hogg, "did get a little tired of hearing the same jokes, but they liked having an unusual name because it made them stand out.”

Anyhoo, The Daily Beast has 10 ways to avoid hipster baby names. But if you're actually looking for hipster names hit Nameberry's list. And for a list of truly the worst names in the world, look no further than this contest through the NYT.

But after writing and researching all this, I have to say naming your newborn Jennifer or Jason today might be the way to go... they'll be the only ones in their class with that name and all the Reeces and Elles might just think that's pretty darn cool.

Tots: Hot Or Not?

Hey Virginia, don't you write for Forbes? Maybe you can help me figure out what's going on over there. Apparently now they are not only ranking the richest people in the U.S., India and everywhere else in the world, they are now listing "Hollywood's 10 Hottest Tots."Shiloh


The AP's explanation:  " celebrity children 5 years old and younger based on media attention and their parents' popularity."

Apparently Suri Cruise is numero uno and--get this-- only three of the six Jolie-Pitt kids. Ouch. Apparently Maddox didn't make the cut. WHAT!?!? I protest! He practically started that band!

Anyway, this makes my mind wander over to the recent Motrin add that was killed by Twitter moms. (Forbes has this story too!) The ad, see it here, starts out "Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion." Turns out moms don't like to think of their babies as fashion statements and they don't want to think they look tired and "crazy" because they carry the baby on their body. 

It's actually pretty hilarious when you realize the Motrin takedown was started with just one woman's Twitter (article here) in which the The Longmont Times points out, "The ads came at a particularly bad time, Gates noted. This week is International Babywearing Week, according to Babywearing International."

But back to our hottest tots. I'm seeing a huge disconnect here. I mean, I get that Forbes loves them some lists. Hello The World's Most Expensive Houses, The World's Billionaires and Top 10 Real Estate Markets Most Likely to Rebound, and that's just for starters. But hot tots? This I do not get.

Their rationale for the Hot Tots list is this:

"With a growing need to generate magazine sales and Web traffic in a softening economy, media outlets are increasingly turning to stars that are both much-loved and highly reliable...But as the economy heads toward what many predict is a recession, these adorable kids--and the desire to chronicle their upbringings--may become more important than ever. Simply put, fawning over celebrities and their picturesque families may be just the sort of distraction people need."


The article ends with this little ditty, "Los Angeles-based Kitson boutique owner Fraser Ross sees the benefit these children provide retailers, 'Kids are becoming the new designer handbag.'"

OK, nuh-uh. Nononononono no. I'm seeing a huge disconnect here. Let's set aside the fact that the Kitson quote is so stupid I don't even know where to begin. Also forget the fact that the people who supplied the quotes in the Forbes story are upscale boutique owners, gossip rag editors and the owner of a paparrazi company; let's just focus on the list itself. How is it in any way supposed to help brands tap in, and thus cash in, on what consumers desire when, as seen from the Montrin backlash, this is the very last thing they want? Apparently moms don't want babies just to add to their personal glamour. Whaaaaa?!?!? I know, you're all shocked.  (Wow, I feel like I just came to the same sarcastic conclusion that the VW Routon's ad agency did. Great minds and all....)

Hey Forbes, I get that maybe you're trying out stories that are maybe a bit more recession-friendly, but why not try this one on for size: The top 10 money-making mommy blogs. That might help your readers a bit better and avoid a Twitter backlash in the making. 

Because as the lede in the Longmont Times said, "When Amy Gates spotted an Internet advertisement that she felt trivialized mothers who "wear" their babies...and posted her beef online on Saturday night. "

OMG, ya'll! Do NOT tell the Kitson owner!

[The black-and-white kids? From left to right: Robert, Moira, Malcolm Jr. (Steve), Timothy, and Christopher Forbes, October 1957, from Google's new Life archive.]

Glamour Toys

What do you find when you search Amazon Toys for glamour? A lot of Glamour Cats party supplies, sparkly dress-up accessories--including parts for Mr. Potato Head--and a hair salon for Troll dolls. A sample (and a friendly reminder to do your shopping via DG's Amazon links and other advertisers):

Real toy glamour isn't a style, however, but the promise of escape through play--escape that looks especially appealing in commercials like these baby boomer classics.

When Did Snow White Get So Dirty?

I don't know about where you live, but the teen pregnancy rate in Texas is appalling. Every 10 minutes a teen gives birth and a quarter of those births will be the teen mother's second child.

Now comes a study from the RAND research org that says, "Exposure to some forms of entertainment is a corrupting influence on children, leading teens who watch sexy programs into early pregnancies."

But, hey, I grew up on Dynasty and Dallas and my all-time fave ever Falcon Crest (those trumpets! The swelling score! Brilliance!) and I wasn't exactly gunning to have the high school quarterback's spawn. So what's changed?

Personally, I think what the study calls a "corrupting influence on children" is something that's pummeling little girls at a much earlier age than we really notice. Take Disney, for example. They have updated the look of their princesses and guess what? They ain't exactly spring blossoms anymore.


Look at the eyes (and mouths) of these modern princesses. In the 1937 classic Snow White, our protagonist's eyes were either innocently surprised or softly gazing. Today's Snow (and her cronies) now give a come-hither stare that I find more than a little disconcerting.

David Johnson writing for Inside Animation, notes that the 1930s Snow White had several different, subtle looks. Turns out the first artist to draw Snow White was a man named Ham Luske and his Snow had a very cartoony look to her.

"Her head was large for her body, as were her eyes, large almost round-shaped orbs... Other anatomical features were likewise over simplified...because Ham evidently saw her that way," Johnson writes.

Snowwhite But drawing a cartoony Snow White didn't allow for the full range of emotions Walt Disney wanted, so Grim Natwick was brought in (these names!), the same guy who had created Betty Boop in 1930. Johnson says it was Grim who made Snow so fashionable "with a kind of thirties model face, with its plucked and highly-curved eyebrows." (FYI: Johnson says you can watch the change from cartoon in the first dwarf scenes to fashion plate to another, more lifelike girl at the end drawn by guy named Campbell. You can kind of see that here with these stamps of the movie.)

In addition to making Snow White fashionable, Grim also "began to absorb more and more of the actual live model" into his drawings, writes Johnson, who happened to be a 14-year-old girl named Marge Belcher, who was 16 when they finished filming. Take a look at that face--it's not exactly the childlike countenance Disney princesses have these days, is it?

Look at Snow White on the Disney Princess official website, Sure she's been hipped up a bit to fit into modern times and, apparently, that included her waistline--it's smaller than Barbie's! (Go download Snow White's wallpaper and then ask yourself, are the dwarfs even feeding her?)

Princessbounce Look at the innocence of the 1937 Snow White. Compare that with the newest Disney movie out Tinkerbell (although, granted, Tink has always been sexy.) Disney used to use 14- to 16-year-old girls as their models. Now what are they using? I'm guessing 30-year-old strippers.

I give you exhibit A: something's definitely up with this bounce house. Look at the folds of Snow White's skirt. Is this for a child's party? And I wish I knew what diet she was on, because her breasts have certainly grown since the '30s.

So, look, maybe it's time to stop blaming Gossip Girl for all the world's woes and take a second look at those vixens that at one time seemed to be the harmless princesses next door.

Although that Chuck Bass, he is sure fun to hate.

[All images © Walt Disney, reproduced for direct commentary under fair use.]

The Pre-School Glamour Of Playing Princess

Anna Margaret.jpg
This glamour girl is my cousin's daughter Anna Margaret, age 2, dressed for Halloween--at her insistence--as Princess Aurora, a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty.

Why do little girls love to play princess? Yes, Disney has turned princesses into a multibillion-dollar business with thousands of products. But the play long preceded the business. In fact, Disney's princess line was inspired by seeing girls lining up for a "Disney on Ice" show wearing their own non-Disney princess costumes. What is it about the idea of "princess" that so appeals to girls in a 21st-century republic? What does it mean to them to be a princess?

Peggy Orenstein's 2006 NYT Magazine story is the most in-depth examination of the question (and the business) that I've found. It's a good read, but ultimately unsatisfying. Orenstein brings too many political preconceptions to the topic and, while she quotes her princess-loving daughter to good narrative effect, she offers almost no information about what girls who play princess themselves think it means to be a princess.
I suspect that princess play is less about imbibing traditionalist stereotypes and more about being the center of attention and something more than a child--the feminine version of the appeal Michael Chabon ascribes to superhero comics: "to express the lust for power and the gaudy sartorial taste of a race of powerless people with no leave to dress themselves."

For my book research, I'd like to hear from the little princesses themselves. Ideally, I'd find some brilliant, scientifically rigorous research by a child psychologist. But I haven't so far. So, since preschoolers are not the easiest interview subjects, I'm enlisting adults who know little princesses (preferably those older and more articulate than Anna Margaret) to ask them for me--Why do you like to be a princess? What does it mean to be a princess?--and write down the answers. If you know--or were--a little princess, I'd appreciate any answers you can send me, either in the comments, by email to, or mail to 2355 Westwood Blvd., #362, Los Angeles, CA 90034.

The picture to the right is from a window display promoting a local outfit where kids can write and produce their own books. The only thing more glamorous than being a princess is being a writer.