Batman and Robin Meet Barbie!

When I was five, my mother gave me a Barbie doll. I'm pretty sure I was the only little boy on my street who regularly played with one. It's not as bad as it sounds, really. It's much, much worse.

I think she found it in a box of stuff at my grandmother's house. It might originally have been Mom's doll, or one of her sisters', but that's not really important. What matters is that she decided to bring it home and throw it into a toy box shared by a first-grader and his kindergardener brother. My brother and I weren't into fashion dolls -- Superheroes were our thing. We had a lot of the Mego dolls: my brother favored Spider-Man, but I was always loyal to the Darknight Detective himself, Batman. Thus Barbie became our designated crime victim, a plastic go-to girl pulled out of the toybox only when Batman and Spider-Man needed a maligned innocent to avenge.

I say "avenge", rather than "protect" or "rescue", for a reason, and it's the reason that makes this story especially bad. We could only use Barbie as a murder victim, because our mother gave us a doll with no head or clothes. It was our very own Serial Killer Victim Barbie.

Batman and I spent many afternoons after school examining Serial Killer Victim Barbie's naked, decapitated corpse in the mobile crime lab, then hunting down her killer. (Even without her head, Serial Killer Barbie was taller than Batman, and barely fit in the lab van.) I doubt it's normal for five-year olds to spend that much time thinking about serial killers (or headless nude fashion models), but I managed to grow up without becoming a serial killer, a superhero, or a Barbie collector. Another childhood trauma, narrowly dodged.

In fact, I'd completely forgotten about Serial Killer Victim Barbie until a a discussion on Plastic reminded me. As explained there, the Nine Circuit Court has reaffirmed artist Tom Forsythe's right to use Barbie in his Food Chain Barbie art, despite Mattel's accusations of copyright infringement. Mutilating and misusing Barbie is now (as it should be) officially recognized as art by the U.S. government.

Of course, nobody recognized me as an artist when I was doing it. In fact, the lunatics who ran my grade school put me in a special education art class that year because of attendance problems. (I missed so much school due to illness that I never finished art projects.) Maybe if I'd been encouraged in my artistic interests, I could be making money with Barbie art like Forsythe, but instead those nitwits had me cutting shapes out of newspaper in a room with the slow kids and the fire-starting delinquents. (I do read the newspaper a lot, come to think of it.) Dammit, I was robbed of my potential by an uncaring and clueless system! I'm a maligned innocent! Where's my lawyer?

Damn it all. If only Batman was still here to avenge me.

Posted at 11:22:50 PM EST on 04 January 2004 from Trenton, MI