Celebrate Barbie in a Blender Day

Tracey Barnett © March 2007

The problem with this country is that nobody celebrates Barbie in A Blender Day. [July 27, for those who want to pencil it in their calendar.]

Why don’t we all gather in our 3cm waists and hail artist Tom Forsythe who won a $1.8 [USD] million pay out from a lawsuit brought on by Mattel.

Seems they didn’t like his series of pictures called “Food Chain Barbie” which included a portrait of Barbie about to get -well, blended.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued for Forsythe’s right to exercise free speech, and the judge agreed, calling the suit “groundless and unreasonable”.

Here was a case when a giant corporation put its elephantine legal weight against one man, hoping he would go running into submission for not showing Barbie pretty in pink. Moral of the story: Never mess with an artist.

Frequently asked questions and comments are now answered beautifully on the Barbie in a Blender Day web site: “Will this damage my blender or void my warranty?” and my favourite that doesn’t seem to lend itself to reply, “I prefer the clean, crisp slices of Barbie-in-a-food-processor.”

No matter what you may think of current American policy, you’ve got to honour a nation whose judge responded to another Mattel-instigated lawsuit against Aqua’s satiric song “Barbie Girl” with, “If this were a sci-fi melodrama it might be called Speech-Zilla meets Trademark Kong.” It’s a fact, they must be teaching Peter Jackson in American judge school.

What you don’t see in New Zealand is that American policy is decided on T-shirts in the street:

“I never thought I’d miss Nixon”

“That’s okay, I wasn’t using my civil liberties anyway”

“January 20, 2009, End of an Error”

“Read Chomsky”


“Dixie Chicks for President”

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” [with a picture of Abraham Lincoln featured]

You can stock your loo with Bush toilet paper imprinted with the quotes, “Bring ’em on”, “We need an energy bill that encourages consumption” and “They misunderestimated me”.

Flip on late night television and hear half a dozen talk show hosts with an opening monologue roasting not just the president but candidate wannabes and Supreme Court justices, right alongside jokes about Britney Spears’ head.

Host Conan O’Brien said in a recent nod to our part of the world, “Earlier today, President Bush spoke on the phone with the Prime Minister of Australia. When the Prime Minister told him it was tomorrow in Australia, Bush’s head exploded.”

This is just the tip of diversity of raucous American perspective you don’t see in well-mannered opinion pages here. This isn’t just about George Bush; it is an American time-honoured political tradition to take the piss. Political self-flagellation is The Great American Way.

New Zealanders may not know that Clinton’s nickname was “Bubba”, an affectionate or derisive southern good old boy term, depending on your party affiliation. When George W. Bush became prominent, he garnered the nickname “Shrub”, being the foliage offshoot of the elder Bush.

That’s why it is slightly confusing for this American ex-pat to live here. When is the last time somebody told a good head-exploding Helen Clark or John Key joke on national television?

Okay, Winston Peters still looks great as an oversized puppet head but I want real people telling me a punch line that involves the Secret Brethren, the Topp Twins and smacking. If Americans can turn free speech issues into Barbie in a Blender Day, think what a laugh riot Kiwis in Afghanistan can be.

Feilding lawyer, Rob Moodie, now legally known as “Miss Alice” keeps turning up to the Court of Appeals in an Alice in Wonderland outfit to protest what he calls the “old boys judiciary”. He is an Eating Media Lunch sketch come true. Okay, he did get his picture in the papers, but barely a peep in the cultural radar. I want him on a tea towel.

I want to be able to buy a Pita Sharples doll at the Warehouse that says, “This is not a mullet” when you comb its hair. I want a key chain sporting a tiny Thai tiler visa.

The Rotorua rape cases have been painful for everyone involved but instead of splashing red paint on the courts, can’t somebody send me a T-shirt with, “Is that a police baton, or are you just happy to see me”?

My pink pumps off to you, Barbie. You are teaching us how to let off political steam, sometimes in the places where it hurts most culturally. Her new “Barbie Crystal Meth Lab”, as featured on The Tonight Show recently, is tops on my wish list, and I’m proud. That’s a sign of robust cultural health.

Just don’t tell my Pita doll, he already thinks it “Barbie on a Bender Day”.

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