Barbie®, biopolitics, and the body bizarre: Body modification in American Mary

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

Abstract

One of the most significant cultural icons of the Twentieth century has been Mattel’s doll, Barbie. When the doll first emerged, Barbie bucked more conservative gender patterns: she was a career girl who, initially, did not possess or have any need for domestic appliances, her accessories and outfits spelled out one thing: independence.

In American Mary (Soska and Soska, 2012), a young surgical student, Mary, experiences a brutal rape after being drugged by one of her superiors at a party. Through a combination of rage and finding that she can make more money in the liminal world of body modification, she turns away from medicine completely. The eponymous Mary performs several modifications on Ruby Realgirl, who wishes to become a ‘real live doll’ based on the ideal type of Barbie. Crucially, and contrary to our expectations about what this might involve, the transformation to a Barbie-like standard of beauty included the removal of as much of her genitalia as was functionally possible.

Had Ruby’s body been the result of a congenital condition, it would certainly be classed as disabled – in need of medical intervention, or as the oppressive object of professional scrutiny and social pity. However, as body modification it functions quite differently. Despite being socially dysfunctional – in relation to cultural expectations around sexuality and reproduction – Ruby’s body eludes easy transformation into an object of knowledge or aesthetics. As a chosen state and identity, it also defies straightforward categorisation as ‘disability’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2018
EventSchool of Education and Social Work Research and Scholarship Conference 2018 - University of Dundee
Duration: 28 Nov 201828 Nov 2018
https://www.dundee.ac.uk/esw/events/2018/18-11-28-annualresearchandscholarshipconference2018.php

Conference

ConferenceSchool of Education and Social Work Research and Scholarship Conference 2018
Period28/11/1828/11/18
Internet address

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Keywords

  • Barbie, cinema, body modification, gender, disability,

Cite this

Simpson, M. (2018). Barbie®, biopolitics, and the body bizarre: Body modification in American Mary. School of Education and Social Work Research and Scholarship Conference 2018, .