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The Overcompensating Ken Doll

I sometimes stop into Chapters on my way home from work. One of the main reasons why I am so happy to be living near Pinecrest Avenue is because I am not even a five minute drive away from Chapters (and maybe only a twenty minute walk if I am feeling very amibitious). On occasion, I will slowly go through the entire store. But I always check four key sections: History, Fashion, poetry and the discount section. I usually only look through fiction when I know exactly what book I am looking for. A few days ago when I was in the discount section I came upon an interesting book titled "Forever Barbie" - a book about every North American girl's favourite playmate. It discusses how she came to be and her impact on society. Not bad for only $4.00. due to my interest in the history of pop culture and my nostalgic feelings towards Barbie, I bought the book.
It has been well publicized that Barbie is celebrating her 50th birthday this year. 1959 must have been an interesting year. It marked the end of a decade that emphasized tradition and family values and was the transition into the sexual revolution. Ruth and Elliott Handler (the founders of the Mattel toy company) must have seen what was coming when they came up with the idea for Barbie. She was very sexual in comparison with the other dolls of the time. But most importantly, she had the ability to be anything. I myself had a substantial collection of Barbie dolls. I had many versions of her. One of my incarnations of her was a ballet dancer, another a figure skater. I had rock star Barbie, downhill skiing Barbie, Barbie with Reeboks, Dream Glow Barbie (One of my favourites. When I went through my childhood toys just a few weeks ago I had sadly discovered that her head had become permanently detachable from her body :( ). To put it simply, I had Barbie in many forms. The collection I have just mentionned still does not include my two Ken dolls, My doll of Joey from the New Kids On The Block, my Midges (Barbie's best friend), Theresas (another friend), Skippers (Barbie's sister) and Courtneys (Skipper's best friend). In order to make the community that I was God to more diverse, I did give each doll their own name.
You may have had some reaction to the fact that I only had a ratio of three male dolls to more than twenty female dolls. As a little girl, I honestly didn't find Ken that interesting. His hair was as plastic as the rest of his body. His clothes were uninteresting. He was a typical man, and I had no interest in them at this point in my life. My new book, however, caused me to have more of an interest in him.
Ken came to be in 1961 when the demand for Barbie to have a steady boyfriend exploded. The big guys at Mattel were still hesitant. Why, you ask? Did I not just mention is was 1961? The sexual revolution was still under way and people were still trying to cling to tradition. Keep in mind this was only a year after Alfred Hitchcock had given his creation, "Psycho" to the world. It was in that movie that Janet Liegh became the first woman in film to wear nothing but a bra to conceal her breasts on camera. That caused a lot of controversey. The hesitation at Mattel stemmed from the question of what to do about Ken's tallywacker.
Ruth Handler, being fairly liberal minded wanted the doll to have a "bulge in his groin", but the male executives thought that this was too much. The males suggested that Barbie and Ken should simply look similar in that area (I'm serious! Get the book if you don't believe me!), but the females voted against that. so apparently, three suggestions were sculpted. They were all different degrees of bumps. Charlotte John, the clothing designer for the dolls had these things to say:

1) Bump #1 - "You couldn't even see it"
2) Bump #2 - "It was a little bit rounded
3) Bump #3 - "It really was"

Even Charlotte and Ruth agreed they did not want an actual penis on the doll. Ken ended up with a bump in that area, just a touch bigger than Barbie's (and if memory serves me correct, nothing had changed by the 1980's. I recall my Ken dolls having a v-shaped bump, just slightly bigger than Barbies.
Clearly Mattel still set Ken up to be very insecure about his shortcomings. His first garments came with long, thin accessories. "He had a hunting outfit with an enormous rifle, a baseball outfit with a very long bat, and a doctor outfit with a pendulous stethoscope. He didn't motor around in a roadster like Barbie, he drove a hot rod. The cruelest moment on his gential deficiency, however, came in 1964, with "Cheerful Chef", a backyard barbecue costume that included a long fork skewering a pink plastic weenie." (From "Forever Barbie" by, M.G. Lord). Barbie was never given these long, thin items.
I found this to be a very interesting passage in the book. As somebody living fifty years later, I have a hard time seeing why this was a such a big deal. If I could go back in time, I think I would like to see the 50's and 60's just so that I could try to comprehend where they were coming from. Aside from that, I found this to be a very interesting yet amusing fact about the history of the Ken doll. The more you know....