GI Joe And Barbie Pondering The Meaning Of Life and Death/ Muses

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From the feminist perspective Barbie Dolls have been an easy example of unrealistic body image expectations, but as a writer I credit Barbie with the first real story lines I ever had. My young aunt went off to college and Europe, married a wimpy guy and half-forgot about her original Barbie collection so when my grandmother decided to move into our basement after my grandfather died (bad idea) she threw a lot of stuff out. She sent my aunt’s beloved cat to the pound and kicked the massive Barbie collection to the curb. We kids scooped up as much of it as we could. Home-made couches, an actual home-made house with lights that worked and ceramic plates along with trunks full of retro, extremely well-made clothes for the stiff-legged early model Barbies and the “wig-lady” Barbie who came with three 1960’s style wigs!

Our version of play went like this:

1. Line up the dolls and take turns picking your favorites.

2. Pile every bit of furniture, clothing, accessories into a heap, shout 1-2-3 and then grab as much as you can as quickly as you can. This method added to the economic drama of the game. The cute boy doll had to live with his poor family under the rocking chair, but all the rich girls loved him.

3. Spend around two days setting up house, quietly scheming the twists and turns of the actual game. Once my sister and I made the original Ken doll (we called him Peter Parker) be in a hipster band. We recorded his music into our cassette player and had him perform it once our friends got back from vacation one summer. It was a smashing success. Once we took the Marie Osmond doll we had, painted her green and made her a witch.

4. Play the game. The playing of the game never really competed for fun with the grabbing and setting up part. The process of building worlds and plotting lives held us captivated for hours and days–sometimes with breaks for meals and sleep the only time away from the imaginings. One year we made thousands of Play Dough pieces of food for the Barbies–watermelon, hamburgers and hot dogs. That took days.

My brother wasn’t allowed to bring friends into the house after a few near misses breaking my father’s stereo system, so he set fire and blew his army men up in the yard (his friends were banished from the yard then).

So this weekend when we visited The New York State Military Museum and Veterans’ Research Center in Saratoga Springs I was surprised to find this weird set of displays based on real events yet strangely similar to our childhood imaginings. This game is a little more intense.

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I was so mesmerized I didn’t even notice the stands holding the GI Joes up when I took the picture.

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http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/about.htm

15 thoughts on “GI Joe And Barbie Pondering The Meaning Of Life and Death/ Muses

    • Haha. I know. It was unexpected in an otherwise very serious military museum documenting New York’s involvement in war through out the 1700’s-present. Not that they were having a joke with GI Joe, but the doll holding his own drip was pretty graphic and weird.

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      • The whole thing is just so weird. I cannot stop looking at them. It’s like we are peering, unseen, into some weird parallel universe where people are actually dolls.

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    • Oh, yes, the smell! It probably lowered our IQ’s and put us at risk for various diseases, but I love them still. Do you remember the plastic cases with little latches that never held enough stuff?

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  1. Does that GI Joe have a pee IV? You are mixing your plastic icons – Farb! See, I took your book recommendation seriously. You are a smart one that is confirmed.

    Dolls? I got a ratty Barbie and a GI Joe in his sort of foot locker box – neither one was new – they were someone’s cast offs, but for me they were normal toys. While, I was happy to have them, I wasn’t inspired by them. You had a great time with your dolls – nice that you took play to that very devoted next level!

    Hi Ho,
    Elephant

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    • I was lucky enough to have a best childhood friend who was up for any crazy thing I decided we needed to do. I guess we were both a little intense but we laughed a lot, too.

      Farb? So are you reading Confederates in the Attic? What do you think of it?

      What inspired you as a kid?

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      • I just finished Confederates in the Attic. It was interesting, and I would recommend it, but it was maybe more about the topic than I wanted (I got tired of the battle field visits and his summaries of the attitudes in each state and city). Not that it wasn’t very good – I would have enjoyed an edited version.

        I did enjoy the farb vs. hardcore topic.
        Elephant

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      • I can see your point. The battle visits definitely didn’t interest me as much as the different types of people who get caught up in reliving the past. We always had a lot of fun watching other people get crucified for a farb-y button. Most re-enactors are not jerks though. The ones with superior attitudes were disliked by most and are that way at the office, I imagine. Of course what’s the point of doing the reenacting thing if you’re going to be slipshod about it–but there’s a balance. 🙂

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  2. There were some cool little girls around when I was growing up but I think I could have had fun at your house……. your brother sounded like fun as well. We blew up a bit of stuff as well.
    Terry

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    • Haha. My father was a local cop and he’d stop home during the day with my mother sewing or doing some intense cleaning–completely unaware of the fires in the yard! My father was very concerned with keeping up appearances of normality while my mother liked calling us “street kids.” I’m not even sure what she thought that meant. 🙂

      What sort of stuff did you blow up? Did you get caught?

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      • Amazingly we never got caught. Letterboxes were a favourite but only one a year as we did not want to attract too much attention. Our favourite [and most stupid game] was throwing milk bottles like hand grenades. Large firework in bottle, throw into vacant block of land, dive into long grass for ‘cover’. It’s a miracle that any of us grew up at all! Mind you, we never set out to hurt anyone we just liked seeing stuff blow up.

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