Sweet Talkin’ Ken is speaking to my inner Barbie

Growing up, hours of my childhood were spent roaming the colorful aisles of shopping superstore Target.

The aisle that brought me the most joy was the Barbie aisle. Pink covered every plastic box in the Barbie section and just the sight of the color made my brain release endorphins that only the long-legged plastic beauty could induce. Barbie alone knew all my secrets, all my desires, all my dreams and all my sins. However, our friendship was destroyed by the digital age. When I was 11, my parents bought me my first GameBoy and Barbie was now seen as a molten piece of plastic with synthetic hair. I threw my former friend in a shoebox and opted to spend hours attached to a screen filled with new adventures.

Last month, Barbie came gracefully back into my life when my mother gave my

3- year-old niece my old doll and the sight of her brought back the same endorphins that filled my body ten years ago. I grew possessive and jealous and snatched the doll out of the clueless child’s hands.

After a long lecture from my mother about “learning to grow up and to stop being crazy,” I took my niece to Target to roam the same toy section I once held sacred to find her own perfect Barbie doll.

The smell of fresh plastic and cardboard filled my nose and the splash of pink warmed my entire body. I was home. I watched my niece skip happily down the aisle, carefully examining each doll and grabbing several boxes at once, unsure of which doll was the perfect one.

I followed her, looking at the new versions of my old friend that have popped up. But as I was looking at Barbie’s new accessories (since I had last trolled the aisle she had upgraded from the plastic dog to a plastic laptop) a blue colored box caught my eye. It was Ken! Barbie dumped Ken in 2004 and after the breakup Mattel took Ken off the shelves. But this year Mattel not only decided to get the perfect plastic couple back together, they decided to give Ken a makeover. Barbie didn’t just upgrade her electronics but also her former boyfriend!

The new Sweet Talkin’ Ken doll was everything the Ken doll of my childhood wasn’t. The new doll had real hair instead of a sad painted plastic cap and this doll finally answered my curiosity of what kind of underwear Ken wore. Painted on his plastic lower body was a pair of briefs. But the best part of this doll was now Ken could talk!

At first I was weary of the idea of having Ken talk. The whole point of Barbie’s male counterpart was that he was basically an accessory. The whole point of Ken was that he was the one man that didn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t talk! He was the backup dancer to Pop star Barbie, the nurse to Doctor Barbie, the silent intern to Lawyer Barbie, the arm candy to Hollywood glamour Barbie.

My doubts for the new doll were thrown aside when I read the full description on the box. “YOU make me talk” was the sweet headline that caught my attention. I could make a man say exactly what I wanted to hear? Finally! Mattel calls the new Ken “The ultimate boyfriend for every occasion,” well of course he’s the ultimate boyfriend! Not only can you control his every move, now you can even control what he says!

After all, it would be nice to finally have some control over what a man said. Especially since the GOP where 53% of the party are men, has said a lot about controlling a woman’s body. Their latest wailings about the rights of women comes in the form of the Protect Life Act. The bill passed through House representatives in October. The controversial bill that some online bloggers have begun calling, “Let Women Die Act of 2011”, would prohibit women from having the choice of paying for insurance plans that would cover the costs of an abortion and would also protect hospitals that would deny offering abortions even in cases of women in need of emergency pregnancy termination to save their lives or in the case of rape victims.

Their original anti-abortion bill No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, aka HR3, passed in the House in May but was blocked by the Senate and the same is slated to happen to the Protect Life Act. HR3 blocks federal funding for organizations that perform abortion procedures such as Planned Parenthood and allows the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether or not a taxpayer had an abortion. The GOP has blindly made this bill about funding abortions but it would also cut funding to cancer screenings for women, basic checkups, birth control and prenatal care.

Since the GOP seems to have a lot to say about my body and what I do with it, it only seems fair that I should be able to control what comes out of their mouths. Alas, they have yet to make a Sweet Talkin’ Barack Obama doll so I doubt a series of Sweet Talkin’ GOP dolls are around the corner.

Record whatever you want Ken to say by pressing on his chest and playback the recording by pushing on of three buttons found on his back. Mattel gives you the option of playing the recording in your own voice, a deep voice or a high-pitched voice, although I find it quite strange that Mattel would think that Ken would be sexy with a voice equivalent to a chipmunk’s. Perhaps that option is for when Ken and Barbie get into a tiff, “I will not wear the purple ascot to match your dress! I want to wear the green bowtie!”

I purchased the $20 doll in hopes that it would become some sort of symbol of women empowerment for my niece. Days later though, I found the doll completely naked and shoved behind her toy chest his flowing blonde hair colored blue by a marker. A Cinderella doll I got her last Christmas wore his clothes. I guess she got my message.


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