Saint Barbie

Saint Barbie September 22, 2014

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Argentine artists Pool Paolini and Marianela Perelli have created a number of variations on Barbie and Ken, depicting them as versions of the Virgin Mary and other saints. I was rather relieved when I read the article and saw that these were not actual toys, since my initial reaction was to wonder, “Will kids play with this?” and then, “Won’t parents be offended when their kids take this Barbie and a Ken doll and start making kissing noises?”

I’m much more interested, for obvious reasons, in the creative combination of religious and science fiction iconography. But it seems to me that this example actually gets at something much deeper. If we look at historic depictions of religious figures like Mary or Jesus in art, we see them conformed more to ideal types in the artistic realm of the respective culture, than to historically plausible appearances from their own time. And so there is a real extent to which the Barbification of Mary is just one example of that. Indeed, perhaps the most noteworthy thing is that these religious figures and popular toys can be so readily interchangeable, with little or no adaptation of their features felt to be necessary.

 

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