James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘housing crisis’

Barbie’s birthday bash

Posted by James McPherson on March 9, 2009

Barbie, the iconic American toy sex symbol, turns 50 today. CNN tells us that 8 million people collect Barbie items, that the doll is “owned by 90 percent of American girls ages 3 to 10 and sold in 150 countries” and that “Barbie attracts 50 million visitors to her Web site each month.” Barbie has inspired generations of girls, becoming one of the first “career girls.” She apparently has held 108 different jobs, including “a police officer, a doctor, a veterinarian, an astronaut and a presidential candidate.”

In that last case, John Edwards apparently was modeled after the Ken doll. … Ah, there I’ve done it, illustrating one of the reasons that Barbie is criticized: because of our too-common tendency to unfairly judge the intelligence of people (especially women) on their appearance. That’s why good looks (and geography) quickly led to perceived vice presidential lightweight candidate Sarah Palin as “Caribou Barbie.” One key difference was that Barbie originally was a dumbed-down version of a toy German sex object, while Caribou Barbie was a seemingly dumbed-down version of a female Democratic presidential candidate.

Back to Barbie the icon: Of course it’s not just toddlers and pre-teens who have gone ga-ga over the doll, as evidenced by the fact that three of the five main sections of the Barbie site are titled, “Press Site,” “Barbie Grownups” and “Barbie Collector.” Barbie’s popularity and her anatomically impossible proportions have brought the doll widespread attention, and, not surprisingly, inspired copycats.

Most famous among them are now-53-year-old Cindy Jackson (whose body now contains more plastic than does a real Barbie), and perhaps the Bratz dolls (who, naturally, also have a website) that may soon become unavailable because of the designer’s Mattel/Barbie connection. Barbie also provided the media with a name for two bank robbers.

As part of Barbie’s birthday celebration, Mattel paid a designer to create a real-life Barbie Dream House overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The house includes “an original Andy Warhol portrait of Barbie valued at over $200,000 and a chandelier–designed by ‘Project Runway’ contestant Chris March–that’s made up of over 30 blond wigs and took more than 60 hours to craft.”

It’s good to see that Barbie, at least, can still afford housing.

Below you can see the first Barbie TV commercial, followed by a funny Sarah Palin spoof:

Posted in History, Politics, Video, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Economic health and inhuman services: Thanks to money woes, death may take a holiday

Posted by James McPherson on March 2, 2009

Mixed with all the bad economic news, a bit of good: the expense of killing someone may actually force states to put the death penalty on hold. As with much else in America, the decision to take capital punishment off the books comes down to money rather than any of the factors that should have ended it long ago, such as:

  • the fact that revenge killing is a barbaric practice that has been eliminated by the rest of the civilized world (why liberals might oppose it);
  •  the fact that it puts the power to decide life and death in the hands of state employees (why conservatives, who don’t trust government to handle even their money, should oppose it);
  • and the fact that we KNOW that bad eyewitness testimony and other factors have put innocent people (virtually always men of color) on death row (why everyone should oppose it).

Yet we still execute people here, even justifying it under religious pretexts. I’d be willing to be that many of the “pro-life” folks gearing up to oppose the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as new secretary of Health and Services are all in favor of ending the lives of those who most scare them. And by the way, I do get it–I agree that there are people who deserve to die, even people that I might be willing to kill myself. That doesn’t mean that you should be willing to grant me the right to bump them off, and I’m certainly not willing to grant that right to you.

Another economic side note, which might irritate those who are suffering the losses or potential losses of jobs and homes, or those heavily invested in the stock market: CNN reports that  gadget-hungry folks are among those forced to change their habits because of the economy. Wah and boo-hoo. Still, as the story also points out, that the new buying habits affect the ability of gadget makers and sellers to stay in business, potentially putting more people on the street.

On the other hand, one bit of good news about having to postpose the buying of a new big-screen TV: If things continue at the current rate, you may soon be able to pick up a new one while looting after everything collapses–assuming you have the gas to get it home and the electricity to operate it.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »