Four years ago, executives at Mattel were on the defensive for having made a Barbie doll that said, "Math class is tough!" This year, the company has put out a teacher Barbie that is dressed in a frock with numbers on it and can say, "Great job!" and "Try it again!" There were lots of them left on the shelves this holiday season.
Still, using Barbie as a teaching tool is a brilliant idea. Since every female from 3 to 10 is drawn like a moth to a flame to the spike-heeled playmate, why not have her explain a few things about women past and present in real life? Already there are Barbies from around the world (Japanese Barbie, Norwegian Barbie) and Barbies from great eras in history (Greek Goddess Barbie).
According to my top-secret and highly placed sources deep inside the Barbie think tank, new proposals are fairly leaping off the drawing board.
Cro Magnon Barbie: Young girls learn anthropology while playing with a Barbie whose fluffy blond mane tumbles from an enlarged cranium. They can punch a sparkling ring into one of her colossal knuckles, which drag along the floor next to her hot pink heels. Accessories include fire sticks, a wooden club and a real leopard-skin handbag. Two-story, foldaway Dream Cave sold separately.
Adam 'n' Eve Barbie: Barbie and Ken come naked with detachable fig leaves, an apple, and a battery-powered snake that tells them "Sin is good." The Color Change Apple turns Barbie's lips Delicious Red. It then opens up to reveal a key to a closet containing a tuxedo and a taffeta-and-lace wedding gown.
Sexually Responsible Barbie: It's never to early to teach young girls that if they want the freedom of living in their own condominiums, they'd better learn some responsibility. Comes with a 2 1/2-inch suitcase full of birth control devices. The talking Barbie says "No" in several ways, including, "If you want to play the game, you have to suit up;" "No, thank you;" and "Stop. I'm just a doll."
Splittin' Up Barbie: Features teacher and firefighter outfits for Barbie while she puts Ken through medical school and law school, after which he takes up with Skipper, boots Barbie out of the Dream House and files for custody of Baby Sister Kelly, who is then kidnapped by Barbie who charges Ken with child abuse and files for support. Comes with a law library, two judges, one sheriff, eight lawyers and eight psychologists--all with matching fraternity rings!
Welfare Reform Barbie CD-ROM: Girls use their computers to help Barbie get off the dole and get back to work fast. If the computer fails to find Ken and attach his wages, the girls go swap meet shopping for plastic high-heeled mules and maid and waitress uniforms. Comes with a tube of real lipstick and a year's supply of macaroni and cheese.
Talk Show Barbie: Barbie and Midge dress up for an appearance on a TV talk show. Barbie thinks she is going to get support for her problems but is ambushed by Midge, who reveals that Barbie was adopted and complains that the company executives always loved Barbie more.
Downsized Barbie: Barbie lands a job as an executive at Mattel only to lose it again as the company merges with Hasbro. The 3-inch doll comes with a shoe repair kit, a tiny box of Kleenex and other small parts. Not recommended for children under 3. It is a choking hazard--and very hard to swallow.
* Also contributing to this column was Amanda Smith, age 15.
* Lynn Smith's column appears on Sundays. Readers may write to her at the Los Angeles Times, Life & Style, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a telephone number.