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The World According To Barbie

All little girls love long, combable hair, she was told.

Apprised of the plot of "Peace, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll," duCille takes issue with Barbie's upbeat version of civil rights history -- which, as it happens, is a lot like the version now taught in the early grades of American elementary schools.


In "Peace, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll" -- one of the first books in a series aimed to offer, as one of its creators puts it, "history through the Barbie filter" -- Barbie and her African American friend Christie are both illustrated with pink skin and long, straight hair, above. "There's nothing in the art that Mattel doesn't want there," says the book's publisher.

"I call it 'hunky-doryism,' " she says. "It's a kind of 'all's well that ends well.' It places the struggle in the past tense, when actually, I think, we're slipping backward."

Red, White and Blue

Kate Klimo thinks there will be more Barbie diaries soon. Next up would be entries from the '80s, the '90s and even the first years of the 21st century. "For little girls, three years ago is history," she says.

Linda Lowery hopes there will be many more -- perhaps one for each year since Barbie's 1959 birthday. She says she didn't intend the 1964 and 1976 volumes to represent whole decades, just the particular events of those years. If she gets to write more, she expects they will deal with difficult historical issues such as Vietnam. "If Barbie is actually witnessing history, that's part of the period," she says.

For now, though, the plan is to wait and see how the first two diaries do. And when it comes to difficult history -- well, if anything remotely un-hunky-dory happened in 1976, it's clear that America's plastic sweetheart slept through it.

"Red, White, and Blue Jeans" makes Barbie's take on the '60s look like Dante's "Inferno." The 1976 plot revolves around the nation's 200th birthday. Barbie and her sisters help organize a Bicentennial celebration in their small, seemingly midwestern town. They sew costumes. They plan a disco dance. Barbie and Stacie take a road trip to Philadelphia where they learn, among other things, that the movie "Rocky" was filmed there. Sample diary entry: "Stacy thought it was boss that the boxer has the same name as her pet rock."

Nothing remotely as edgy as the passage of a civil rights bill transpires. The big crisis is a bungled quiltmaking project. Mood rings turn black, but not to worry -- the Daughters of the American Revolution are there to save the day.

Christie doesn't show up in pinkface this time. Assigned a smaller role, she simply isn't pictured at all.


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