A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Kill her. Dead. End of brand.

As a child, the only toy that ever proved satisfying to my creative needs was Barbie, and not in the girly-girly “Yayyy, dollll!” type-of-way. I loved Barbie because it provided a creative outlet I didn’t find in videogames, sports, and boardgames. I could design her house, give her haircuts, glue fabric to make her clothes, create complicated plots starring my very big Barbie collection, and even sit her drown on my bed and draw her in my little sketchbooks.

Looking back, as funny as this sounds, Barbie’s impact on my life was drastic.

It was during all those hours bending over my dollhouse changing the colors of the walls, arranging the intricately designed furniture, and making my dolls clothes that I decided I want to be a designer, and although I was so young, it is one of my most vivid memories. I was spending the day with a childhood friend of mine, Aseel, and while we were sitting on the floor glueing beads and fabric to make dresses and spraying glitter on tiny chairs, the conversation moved to what we wanted to be when we grew up. That day I learned a new word from Aseel- “designer”, a job where we can almost play with furniture and clothes forever! We both loved the idea so much that we decided then and there that that was what we were going to be when we grew up.

The next many years saw Aseel and I preparing for our dream. We poured our effort into taking art classes together, sitting for hours with scissors and paper exchanging tactics we learned, making cards, dying our hair bright blue to look “artistic”, sitting on her family computer pouring over ‘MS. Paint’, and we even took painting and ceramics classes.

I lost contact with Aseel when I was around 16, then I saw her in the mall last year and we chatted for a few minutes, and to my delight, I found out that she was also studying design at some university in Dubai.

I find it amusing that we both got what we wanted, we both became designers, but Barbie, our childhood muse, is seeing red.

I’ve been reading about her decline for years now and witnessing it as my baby cousins replace Barbie’s graceful beauty with the aesthetic ugliness of Bratz. Today, a radical idea is being proposed: Kill her. Dead. End of brand.

Could it really be? Is Barbie really dying? Has she stopped providing creative energy to little girls?


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  1. kinzi

    Roba, how fun to have this in common with you!

    I LOVED Barbie! I played with Barbie until I was 14, and my first ‘job’ was sewing Barbie clothes that I sold at a boutique. They were all period costumes, the best seller from the Elizabethan era. She also climbed the tree with me and read books, too :)

    My sis-in-law and I are Barbie hunting every week at garage sales, creating a “Barbie City” for the ten little nieces (and for me to bring back to Jordan for my daughter’s doll house – the same one my dad made for m. But Max Steele has replaced Ken for her generation).

    Sadly, the reason all the Barbie stuff is selling at garage sales is that the girls are playing with Bratz. I can’t stand the seductive, rebellious attitude behind Bratz marketing. There won’t be any in our house.

  2. I’m so sorry you are having to witness the decline of a childhood treasure, but surely you didn’t expect Barbie would last forever?

    I mean, I could say much of the same things about almost every icon that I grew up with. Except Barbie has been a larger phenomenon.

  3. Aww

    vivid memories of Ruba with glue, design and I’m sure there was Askimo somewhere in the middle! Ya3ni I could tell it’s you without looking! HEHE

    I totally hate Bratz. I think they’re Estoobed and I seriously don’t understand the Anna-Nicole Smith look. I’ve discussed this with a friend before, and we agreed that it’s somehow made outrageous and catches the attention of adult males! LOL
    Little Haifas, where’s the harm to us? LOL

    But I wouldn’t give barbie to my daughters, I’d give them those authentic vintagie plushies.

    the one I hate more than anything:
    Dollfie Dolls…
    URGH — Hideous creations…

  4. Anonymous

    yes i played with barbie lots. my brother even had the ken remote control car, (ooooooooufff new technology back then) and if i was good, he let me put barb in his car while he drove it. :)

  5. Anonymous

    What is the difference between you and the Palestinian Childern?! Jesus! I was waiting for a post about what is happening in Gaza and West Bank two days ago! All what you are talking about is Barbie and Detour and .. all this shit! Christ! Sigh!.

  6. Curious commenter

    Roba, what do you think of Fulla? Had you played with her instead of Barbie as a child in Riyadh (am I correct, that’s where you spent your childhood?), do you think you would have had another career choice?

    As a man, however, I’ve never quite understood the fascination dolls offer but to be honest, boys’ toys are not (if at all) much better LOL.

    For those who don’t know Fulla:

  7. anonymous, do not expect to see this space as some sort of moral newspaper that covers news or my own feelings about news. Yes, what is happening in Gaza is heartbreaking and thought-consuming on so many different levels, and not blogging about it does not make it any less important- it’s just not something I have the words to express for at the moment.
    Furtherly- how do you know that I wasn’t planning on writing about Gaza? I actually was, as soon as I had the words. Now I probably won’t due to your comment.

  8. Curious Commenter, Fulla came many, many, many years after I stopped playing with Barbie. Barbie was banned in Saudi Arabia is 2002 I believe, which was why Fulla was made. I was already done with highschool by that time :)
    What do I think of Fulla? A dirty attempt at ground rooting the conservative shift that has taken our socities by storm in the past decade. I don’t like it.

  9. i was waiting too for some thing about gaza from you, but it’s true some times its hard to find the right words and some dont have the words ever, that dosen’t mean s/he cares less than any other person that blogs long articals about it,
    and roba please do write something

  10. sorry for that Roba :) iam sure Barbie will stay forever, they cant do anything all people and all kids love barbie, adults too :)even my childhood without barbie, i spent it playing footbal in the street with our neighbours :) this was fun to me :D

  11. aha!

    glitter, fabrics, glue, cloth, barbie, haircuts..

    Now I know the “origin of eyecandy” in roba’s design talk comes from :)

    Very interesting indeed.

  12. I love the Bratz, I loved Barbie as a kid. She is having a rough time right now I am sure she’ll bounce back. It always happens there are lulls and no they won’t kill off Babs -articles just do this to rile people up. Mattel might even imply a few things to get people mad and say Oh No they Are NOT going to kill Babs and then get people to buy more out of that feeling of childhood memories lost. So I don’t think anyone has to really worry

    Bratz World

  13. Barbie is a classic, it has been proven in many researches and studies that she single-handedly inspired generations of young ladies to aspire to become (and eventually really become) strong woman with leading careers (in the US & Europe, that is). Her positive role in “woman’s Lib” is also noted and credited.

    Bratz is doing the same thing today, but unfortunately in a very negative way. While living in London, I was shocked and surprised by the ‘little’ girls who I thought to be 15-16 and who turned out to be 11&12, wearing make up, having long nails and dressing like Bratz! I have nothing against people of all ages wanting to express themselves in anyway they want (through attire or music or anything else) but heavy makeup on a ‘child’ looked freaky. Bratz are Superstars, Rock stars, movie stars… They have movies on DVDs, musical albums and singles, they are rebels and punks. Barbie was a air hostess, a lawyer, even a doctor & vet, Bratz are trouble makers -and that reflects in what kids want to be today.

    It’s not enough that children nowadays are brainwashed with rubbish reality shows and see nobodies become “SuperStars” on TV very easily, now even in their supposedly innocent playtime, they are aspiring to become like silly Bratz and ‘idols’ on TV. Shame…

    Long-gone are the days of using imagination to build universes from plain old Lego blocks and/or a single Barbie doll.

    And as for Fulla -obvious marketing & social aspects aside- our unoriginality shows even in a doll that cannot be more Arabic.. for God’s sake, is it too difficult to make her look less like a barbie? give her a logo that doesn’t use the same font as the barbie logo? use different colors and designs, other than shameless copies of the ones on Barbie merchandise?? When will we stop copying the west? when will we come up with original stuff? it’s not like we can’t…

    Even if Barbie dies, nobody will deny she lived a good and inspiring life, and for the lucky ones like my sister and you Roba, you’ll have your happy memories to hang on to – it’s the future generations and the things they will hold dear, that we have to worry about!

  14. I used to work at one of the finest toy shops in amman. I actually sold a toy for prince faisal’s only son :)… kids from different backgrounds came to this shop.. but i’ll focus on the girls here.. the private school girls used to come to the shop and ask me this question: antiiiii (i usually stop her and tell her to call me Lubna instead),,, 3indkom bratz?? I would just point directly to the Bratz corner… during summer times i had little girls from the gulf.. they’d say: “law sama7tiii,, fi 3indkom fulla? i’d say: sorry 7abebti,, bas fulla lissa ma weslatna, iza bet7ebi fi Barbie,, w Bratz! I never got a girl who came asking for Barbie:( It was really sad. But do you know who used to ask me for Barbie? I remember clearly, this old grandma.. she came asking for 6 different looking barbies,, and 6 “barbie babies”:)… she had 6 differnt granddaughters.. and she promised to get them barbies:)
    I really was heart broken then… girls now find Barbie a very naive doll… they find Bratz the cool doll… I wish this can change,, it’s like girls aren’t gonna grow up as their previous mothers, grandmothers and grand grand mothers:(
    sorry for my long comment,,, i couldn’t find a straight forward comment:S

  15. Curious Commenter

    Roba, thanks for your reply. In fact I knew Fulla is a newer invention from a time when you must have already been way past your playing with dolls heyday :). Just though if the product had been available earlier etc.

    By the way, your blog is one of the very best anywhere. I appreciate your intelligence and the fact that you open a gate to contemporary Jordanian culture and society to outsiders.

  16. Ahmad, haha, now I’m so inclined to send you some stuff I’ve done just to shock you at how unglittery and unornamented it is :P

    Mr. Tea, good points about Fulla. She’s really just another act of bland uncreativity rubbed in our faces.. ahhh…

    Lubna, that sucks :( I’ve seen my cousins throw away Barbies and play with Bratz but I didn’t know it was this bad!

    Curious Commenter, thank you very much! Always nice to get positive feedback :)

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