The Dance! Workout With Barbie video — an exercise tape for girls starring a moving, talking Barbie doll — has become a big hit. I’ve seen it, and now I’m afraid to have children for fear they’ll get their hands on this thing.
I never had my own Barbie doll when I was a kid — my older sister Peggy did. I had an off-brand doll named Tammy that was more big-boned. My sister Patty had a Midge doll that our Siamese bit in the chest. Midge showed courage and resumed a full and rewarding life. People magazine wasn’t around back then, or I’m sure Midge’s tragedy would have been all over the cover. Anyway, we girls loved playing with those dolls. We did their voices and we bobbed them up and down across the floor — that’s the only way Barbie ever walked. Sure, she had nice clothes and an idealistic plastic body (just the one I would want if I were plastic). But, for me, Barbie’s personality was defined by my sister Peggy.
I know a lot of women now say that they felt they somehow didn’t measure up to Barbie’s supposed bodily perfection and were left with feelings of inadequacy. While I can see how that could happen, I wouldn’t have traded places with Barbie for the world. Need I point out that, even when things were going well for her, she slept in a carrying case in the closet? The case was covered with luggage tags from places like Paris, Rome, and Hollywood, so she had evidently traveled to glamorous ports at one time, although when she lived with us she just went in the station wagon from Massachusetts to visit my grandmother at a trailer park in Alabama for two weeks every summer. Some people might have been put off by the Barbie Dream Cars or the Dream House; I thought the kitchen was small. Besides, she has no genitalia. And please, don’t forget about the closet.
So, Barbie never really bothered me at all until this goofy Dance! Workout tape came out in April. Even so, it’s not her fault. She’s a doll, for heaven’s sake. Someone else is doing her voice — her lips never move. Unless the producers threatened Skipper or something, I just don’t believe Barbie would ever say or do the lame-o junk on this tape on her own. She’s a doll — she doesn’t need to work out.
In fact, Barbie’s not even in most of the tape. There’s an exuberant young real girl named Kim who leads a bunch of 7- to 11-year-old girls in a dance routine while some grown woman does Barbie’s voice from off-camera shouting embarrassing lines to the girls like, ”You’ve got the look!” If this woman felt even a little comfortable with herself she wouldn’t be annoying young kids with repressive comments about there being one acceptable look of which she is the arbiter, while hiding behind a doll.
Even from an exercise point of view, this tape falls short. It’s supposed to teach kids a variety of aerobic steps, but the dancers on camera were clearly in prenatal dance classes. They go so fast no young Barbie fan could ever keep up. If you felt inferior when Barbie got a Dream Car and you didn’t, just think how bad this workout tape can make your kids feel. Peggy’s Barbie must be rolling over in her carrying case. F