Following is the front cover for my next book, Victims and Villains: Barbie and Ken Meet Sherlock Holmes, and the text for the back cover. It will be published by Ramble House (www.ramblehouse.com) later this year.
On March 9, 2009, the infamous Barbie doll turned 50. As for her companions, the curiously asexual Ken and the forgettable Skipper (what kind of name is that for one’s baby sister, anyway?), nobody seems inclined to bake cakes with candles for either one of them. Barbie’s the star, at least for feminists and professors with time on their hands who have argued ad infinitum that this doll is turning our daughters into prepubescent sex maniacs, enthralled by her perky and anatomically impossible physique. But less hysterical researchers have recently noticed that little girls don’t seem at all inclined to emulate Barbie. They do, instead, hack off her oh-so-perfect hair, melt her dainty fingers over purloined cigarette lighters, and generally use her and her cohorts as subjects for grisly acts of mayhem. Kill them! And make ‘em suffer.
The innocence of childish impulses toward the dastardly is, of course, the real charm of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Hanging. Stabbing. Poisoning. Death by snake. One poor fellow even “blanched.” To read the most famous of Holmes adventures through at a sitting only increases one’s admiration for the ingenuity of the author who finds such varied and engaging ways of tumbling his victims into the hereafter. How much more gruesome pleasure is thus afforded by the sight of Barbie and company done to death over and over again in living color and three dimensions. It’s almost as delightful as spending an afternoon mutilating Barbie—or the truly dreadful Ken—with lighters and scissors! Sex? A passing fancy. Violence? Ah, that’s the ticket!
Karal Ann Marling
Professor Emerita, American Studies and Art History
University of Minnesota