The Weirdest Things About Barbie And Ken’s Relationship

The Weirdest Things About Barbie And Ken’s Relationship
The Weirdest Things About Barbie And Ken’s Relationship

When Barbie was unveiled to the world by inventor and Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler, her purpose was clear. Barbie wasn’t just designed to be a doll; instead, she’s always been a symbol of independence and female empowerment. According to the toymaker, the Barbie philosophy was intended to help little girls believe that they could be anything they wanted. Ever since her creation in the 1950s, Barbie has broken gender roles and helped little girls dream bigger. However, Ken was never supposed to be in the picture. Consumers desired a more traditional product, so Barbie’s boyfriend was created due to pressure from the public. 

Unintentionally, Ken became an icon overnight. He was handsome and charming. Combined with Barbie, the two of them made one heck of a power couple. Now, after the release of the hit film “Barbie” by Greta Gerwig, there’s more of a spotlight on the most fascinating (and weirdest) facts about Barbie and Ken’s relationship.

They were designed after real-life siblings

Strangely enough, Barbie and Ken were named after the founder’s children: Barbara and Kenneth. She did so as a tribute when she noticed that her daughter was no longer interested in playing with baby dolls and instead expressed an interest in paper fashion dolls. Since her daughter inspired the idea of the cutting-edge woman doll, it makes sense that she would honor her, but it is a little weird that dolls marketed as a couple were actually brother and sister in reality. 

Ken was created because of angry consumers

Although Barbie was originally designed to symbolize girl power and be totally self-sufficient, consumers didn’t like the idea of a doll that was a single woman. No matter how many fashion looks she served, the public thought a man on her arm was the most important accessory.  Although producing Ken was a risk for Mattel since male dolls traditionally weren’t bestsellers, Barbie’s dream guy came out in 1961 and has been a fixture in Barbie Land ever since. 

There are versions of Ken and Barbie’s meet-cute that conflict

According to the debut Barbie commercial, Ken and Barbie met at a dance, where she saw Ken in “perfectly tailored clothes” for the first time. However, Mattel later stated that the dolls met while filming their first commercial! While that explanation is more meta, what we know for sure is that these two have known each other since 1961, and they fell in love immediately.

They never actually consummated the relationship

At some point, couples have to get down and dirty. It’s a natural part of love. However, since they weren’t actually designed with any private parts. Mattel executives had conflicting opinions about this – while Handler wanted him to have a small suggestive bump in the area, higher-ups in the company disagreed. As time passed, he developed a bump, but per Gerwig’s movie, Barbie and Ken have no idea what sex is, so it must not exist!

Barbie and Ken never got married or had kids

Although it looks like a picture-perfect fairytale from the outside, these two never went down the aisle or had kids, and this is all thanks to Ruth Handler. While the public attempted to domesticate Barbie as much as they could due to expectations of women in society, she was intended to be a symbol of choice for kids, and hence being a homemaker was just one option that was available to them. 

Handler wanted young girls to feel they had as many options as possible, so rather than developing her own babies, they gave her seven siblings as well as a few babysitter Barbies. In 2002, a pregnant Midge doll with a removable pregnant tummy (an infant was revealed underneath) was developed, but it was very controversial and was discontinued in less than a year.

Is Ken the gay BFF of Barbie rather than her partner?

We’ve already discussed whether the two are siblings, but this plot twist would be pretty surprising given the heteronormative history associated with the dolls. However, an easter egg in “Toy Story 3” shows Ken as Barbie’s platonic friend who is obsessed with fashion, and we can’t forget the Magic Earring Ken, who represents queer counter-culture, wearing a mesh shirt and a suggestive ring-like necklace. The doll was discontinued due to the controversy, but he’s still extremely popular and has a legacy.

Barbie and Ken broke up dramatically

Not all unions are meant to be forever, and in 2004, Mattels VP of marketing released a statement saying that “Like other celebrity couples, their Hollywood romance has come to an end.” Barbie moved on with an Australian doll named Blaine, who enjoyed boogie boarding as a hobby. Sadly, Blaine was discontinued in 2006, and Ken was re-released with a new look in an effort to win back Barbie. This occurred because many Barbie fans were unhappy about the breakup of the ‘it’ couple and wanted them to be the endgame. In 2011, they got back together. 

Barbie’s ambitions are more impressive than Ken’s

Barbie has a ton of iconic careers, inspiring women to have greater economic opportunities. The entire Barbie line’s resume is impressive and includes jobs like veterinarian, astronaut, and surgeon. On the other hand, Ken has had a few careers but has mostly been a beach bum. While Barbie has many assets like boats, cars, and the Dreamhouse, Ken will always live in her shadow since his girl has always been the breadwinner. 

The Ken and Barbie relationship has been used for problematic concepts about gender

In reality, they’re just dolls! But they also symbolize a lot more, and although Ruth Handler’s original intentions were good, Barbie has been used as a pawn to depict some upsetting gender stereotypes. In a commercial in the 80s, an ad showed two girls playing with Magic Curl Barbie, a curly-haired doll who could have straight hair with a unique styling product. One of the girls said Barbie should change her style since Ken prefers it straight, and when her friend says Barbie prefers her curly locks instead, the other replies that Barbie should make Ken a sandwich! Not very empowering. 

Although there have been upsides and downsides to this doll (especially when it comes to Ken), she’s made many children feel more empowered and represented over the years, and that’s not a bad legacy to leave behind. 

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