Judy Garland, Barbie, and the Nightingale

Sometimes a post begins with just one image. In this case, it’s this one, via my friend Gina:

Okay, so any character/person translated into Barbie becomes instantly inhumanly skinny and sexy (ever notice how Barbie is a sort of totalizing idea? Barbie in any form, dress, color, character. Even Barbie as Katniss Everdeen.)

But the Judy Garland/Dorothy Gale Barbie is especially disturbing because of Judy Garland’s own sad story. She was started on diet pills at age 8 or so. One writer notes:

Louis B. Mayer and the MGM studio at first had a hard time finding an image for Judy. She was too old at 13 to be a child star and too young for adult roles. They changed her appearance by inserting nose discs in her nostrils and caps on her teeth. They called her an “ugly duckling” and “hunchback” and chubby.

The addiction to pills–not just diet pills but stimulants and sleeping pills–led to her death by accidental overdose at age 47.

And so, to immortalize her in the form of an unearthly, oversexed iconic doll is, to me, beyond creepy. It kind of reminds me of the tale of the emperor and the nightingale, where the emperor decides he prefers the mechanical nightingale to the real one.

It’s as if Hollywood, with its ridiculous expectations, insisted upon turning that beautiful girl, with her beautiful voice, into a plastic thing that conforms to certain norms of beauty but that can’t laugh, scream, talk or cry.

Or sing.

2 thoughts on “Judy Garland, Barbie, and the Nightingale

  1. I’m glad — in a sad sort of way — that you were able to use this. Excellent post. You nailed it. What the cultural powers-that-be did — and are still doing — to Judy Garland is just plain evil.

  2. Such a great job, Rachel. You have once again opened my eyes to the ways people get commoditized, in this case the specific way Judy Garland was treated as a commodity. Improve the product to improve the bottom line! Sick.


    P.S. If you have time, today Jenny Rae Armstrong posted a guest piece I did that stems from a human trafficking conference my son and I went to: http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com/2012/06/12/rape-drugs-roadside-stands-and-human-trafficking-there-are-no-innocent-bystanders/

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