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Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll
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Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  344 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Since Barbie's introduction in 1959, her impact on baby boomers has been revolutionary. Far from being a toy designed by men to enslave women, she was a toy invented by women to teach women what-- for better or worse-- was expected of them. In telling Barbie's fascinating story, cultural critic and investigative journalist M. G. Lord, herself a first-generation Barbie owne ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Walker Books (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Richard Kramer
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Barbie is already made of material that will never decompose, but she is lifted to real immortality by the dea-ex-machina of the sublime writer/critic/memoirist/historian MG Lord, who proves a point I have always struggled to make, which is that one doesn't need pubes or a navel to make a real impact in the world. The book is hilarious, but only when Lord wants it to be. It is also as deeply serious as Leon Edel's five volume biography of Henry James. It takes the measure of this odd object who ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I’m not sure why I picked this book up. I do not have any strong feelings toward Barbie. I am neither a collector nor am I a basher of this plastic doll. I understand the appeal for young girls to want the doll and I have some very fold memories with her. There was something fun about changing her outfit whenever I wanted and letting her have a different career every day. In fact, the less items that you have, such as the dream house or pink corvette, the more imagination that you can use with h ...more
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Forever Barbie by M.G. Lord, a Kindle book I started reading on August 9th. I was in a bind about if I should read a non-fiction biography or a sociological/social commentary book. .... Bingo.

This book's writing style is surprisingly cheeky and really well-documents Barbie's physical and occupational changes to the times, right down to the rotation of her torso in 1967 and the examples of pseudosexual accessories that Barbie used vs Ken's (i.e. Barbie's boxy purses with bananas spilling out of i
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
I'm doing a project where I try to read books from all kinds of genre. Poetry, art, fiction, non-fiction, etc.

This was my women's non-fiction choice for October and I thought I would have to slough through it like other non-fiction that I've read this year.

I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book. It had everything! Sarcastic humor? check. Feminists? check. Making fun of old-fashioned homemakers from the 50s? check. And when it got to the part of My First Barbie and the ugly Western Barbi
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
As others have said, this is great fun but the author reaches a bit to make her points. Loved, loved, loved her account of playtesting the "Barbie Queen of the Prom" board game with a variety of top-level career women and committed feminists, and watching them "devolve into back-stabbing, predatory cartoon mantraps out of Clare Booth Luce's The Women" in their scramble to be popular and score boyfriends. ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it
A fascinating look into the economic, social, and emotional repercussions of the Barbie phenomenon. Mixing anecdote with interview and archival material, Lord presents a fleshed out portrait of Barbie's claim to fame and her effect on the culture she originally set out to mimic. Intelligent, investigative and informative. ...more
Jan 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is not at all what I expected. There is no follow able timeline, no continued thought process, no progression chronologically. Verbose and confusing bouncing around of topics and years.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
3.5* Nice, even-handed approach to Barbie and her history. I think I would have liked it a lot more if there were a new edition -- a lot has happened with Barbie in the 25 years since the writing.
Elaine Fultz
Weller Book Club early 2000s
Laurie Glenn Norris
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Got me examining my 1963 Barbie for the first time in years. May spring for a new outfit for her.
Jan 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Not sure why I finished this book it was so bad. The writing was poor, the structure confusing, the insight so-so. I did learn some interesting things but it would have made a better article than a book. Highlights:

- Barbie's proportions "were dictated by the mechanics of clothing construction. The doll is one-sixth the size of a person, but the fabrics she wears are scaled for people".
- Barbie was created by a women and-in my opinion-was a more quality product when women were running the line
Jul 17, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a daily special from the Nook Book store and I bought it because I collect Barbie. I don't know what to expect from this book, but was excited to read it. However you can tell by the one star rating that I did not enjoy this book.

First off, its dated. This book goes about as far as the early 1990s. That's almost 20 years ago. A whole lot has changed in that time.

Two, this book needed organization. The writer should have spent more time organizing the book into a timeline, or something.
Aug 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
I thought this would be interesting but instead it was very dull! There were a few illuminating points, but only a few in the entire book. I was relieved to finish this most scattered essay of arguments.

Her chapters were random and didn't lead on from one another, it seems like she just started writing without any sort of a plan. The pictures, too, were irrelevant most of the time or corresponded to a completely different part of the book.

The beginning of it was written quite objectively, like
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I was expecting a breezy history of Barbie, but this book really includes some in-depth psychoanalytic theory and history. I appreciated the deeper look at Barbie's symbolism as a both a cultural object and an individual experience. It definitely feels uncomfortable to think of Barbie as something with connections to, for example, ancient fertility sculptures, but it was also helpful in placing her in a larger context of our views of the feminine vs. femininity vs. womanhood. This book made me w ...more
Martha Bode
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
An in-depth book chronicling the history of the most famous doll. In a day when you can google the facts quickly, this book took a long time to tell the Barbie story. The facts are intriguing enough, from her start as a german porn symbol to a multi billion dollar icon who has had multiple careers and fabulous clothes. The author delves into the deep meaning behind Barbie (did you know there was some?) to the detriment of an otherwise fascinating history. Sex symbol? Fertility Goddess? Work of A ...more
Apr 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Forever Barbie started out like just my cup of tea- a sociological look and gender construction and culture through the evolution of a disputed plastic icon. Unfortunately, the book devolved into a disorganized collection of interviews with obscure performance artists and lots of assumptions on the part of the author that Barbie is so popular because with her pointed toes she resembles ancient fertility icons. The solid cultural criticism of the first few chapters became a hodgepodge of disparat ...more
Sep 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
I hate leaving books read unfinished, but this one just made me quit within a few chapters. Maybe was because of my lack of knowledge about marketing, history background information about corporations in USA; or else. I recommend reading this book to people that are interested in economics, marketing history in USA. It was difficult to read for me because it has a lot of jargons that I am not familiar with. Is not written for the general public. Plus, I think it was boring because I could not fo ...more
Josephine Ensign
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Who knew that Barbie was modeled after a German porn doll? Before reading this book I thought that was just a feminist urban myth. MG Lord does a good job of delving into the complexities of the Barbie doll effects on our collective psyches. I'm still proud of the fact that I beheaded all of my older sister's hand-me-down Barbies, but I now have greater appreciation for what it was exactly that I was beheading. This is a very engaging read and my favorite of Lord's books. ...more
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
Pop culture and unintentional sexuality keep this book moving along. Or maybe it was intentional, the way the doll was first made with a submissive "down and to the side" glance on her face, then changed to Barbie looking straight ahead.

I never had any such thoughts while playing with my Barbies. I enjoyed them; wonder what that says about me?
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a good biography of Barbie the doll. That said I wish the doll would fall off the planet. I think this doll sets up little girls to think in order to be accepted in life we have to look like Barbie. Every lady on the planet is not blonde with a perfect body and hair and clothes. We are all special no matter how we look.
Bo Abeille
Nov 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Barbie buffs
Shelves: 2007, 2007-bios
This was a wonderful biography written by a woman who related her own Barbie memories to a sympathetic retelling of Barbie's history. I really enjoyed reading something that didn't take issue with Barbie since I love Barbie so much myself. ...more
Nicole G.
Tracks the history of Barbie, through her highs and lows, and kind of gets into the artistry and the mythical ways one could look at her. I don't care much for Barbie and what she stands for; however, she morbidly fascinates me. ...more
Mar 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
Never was a big Barbie fan. Got about half-way through Lord's attempt to make this doll a feminist symbol and fails badly, in my opinion. Those angled feet that can only wear high heels are NOT the fertility goddess' progs. ...more
Apr 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
This reads like a PhD dissertation from someone specializing in feminist studies. It's not that the topic or the ideas are bad. Dissertations just aren't the kind of reading I enjoy. Had to drop this one ...more
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it

Fascinating book by cultural critic M.G. Lord (and first generation owner of a Barbie doll), tracing Barbie from 1959 to the present. Funny and provocative insights on what Barbie means and why she arouses such passions pro and con. Gave me a lot to think about, and it was most entertaining.
Dec 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: would i? not sure
Shelves: chicklits
Reading this book in high school set in motion events that cumulated into my only arrest, to date.

Long story!
Mar 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Tried to read it. Maybe I wasn't in the mood, but despite the photos, the writing seemed dense and the book seemed way too long. ...more
Mar 18, 2009 rated it liked it
So far, some good history, but way too much psychology! It's just a doll!! ...more
May 13, 2009 rated it liked it
It's not what you think! Sex, corporate espionage, and class warfare--a fascinating read. ...more
Jenn Theyellowdart
Sep 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Boring. I am usually enthralled by the history of this doll, but unfortunately this author bored me to tears.
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M. G. Lord is a cultural critic and investigative journalist. She is the author of the widely praised books Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science, a family memoir about Cold War aerospace culture, and Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. Her latest book, is The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty ...more

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“Sometimes mothers blame Barbie for negative messages that they themselves convey, and that involve their own ambivalent feelings about femininity. When Mattel publicist Donna Gibbs invited me to sit in on a market research session, I realized just how often Barbie becomes a scapegoat for things mothers actually communicate. I was sitting in a dark room behind a one-way mirror with Gibbs and Alan Fine, Mattel's Brooklyn-born senior vice president for research. On the other side were four girls and an assortment of Barbie products. Three of the girls were cheery moppets who immediately lunged for the dolls; the fourth, a sullen, asocial girl, played alone with Barbie's horses. All went smoothly until Barbie decided to go for a drive with Ken, and two of the girls placed Barbie behind the wheel of her car. This enraged the third girl, who yanked Barbie out of the driver's seat and inserted Ken. "My mommy says men are supposed to drive!" she shouted.” 1 likes
“Between 1970 and 1971, the feminist movement made significant strides. In 1970, the Equal Rights Amendment was forced out of the House Judiciary Committee, where it had been stuck since 1948; the following year, it passed in the House of Representatives. In response to a sit-in led by Susan Brownmiller, Ladies' Home Journal published a feminist supplement on issues of concern to women. Time featured Sexual Politics author Kate Millett on its cover, and Ms., a feminist monthly, debuted as an insert in New York magazine. Even twelve members of a group with which Barbie had much in common—Transworld Airlines stewardesses—rose up, filing a multimillion-dollar sex discrimination suit against the airline. Surprisingly, Barbie didn't ignore these events as she had the Vietnam War; she responded. Her 1970 "Living" incarnation had jointed ankles, permitting her feet to flatten out. If one views the doll as a stylized fertility icon, Barbie's arched feet are a source of strength; but if one views her as a literal representation of a modern woman—an equally valid interpretation— her arched feet are a hindrance. Historically, men have hobbled women to prevent them from running away. Women of Old China had their feet bound in childhood; Arab women wore sandals on stilts; Palestinian women were secured at the ankles with chains to which bells were attached; Japanese women were wound up in heavy kimonos; and Western women were hampered by long, restrictive skirts and precarious heels. Given this precedent, Barbie's flattened feet were revolutionary. Mattel did not, however, promote them that way. Her feet were just one more "poseable" element of her "poseable" body. It was almost poignant. Barbie was at last able to march with her sisters; but her sisters misunderstood her and pushed her away.” 1 likes
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