How did Mattel protect the honor of Barbie dolls?
Who would have thought that the obsessive pop song “Barbie Girl” of the Danish-Norwegian group AQUA could cause a loud trial with the producers of the most famous doll in the world! However, before touching on the conflict itself, I will start with a small historical background …
There was a woman in the USA named Ruth Handler and she had a daughter named Barbara. One day, the mother began to notice that little Barbara did not really want to play with the blush dolls with which the children’s dolls of that time looked like. Instead, the girl with her friends prefers cheaper and “adult” in appearance paper dolls. Former Soviet children probably still remember the magazines from which it was possible to cut out a doll figure, as well as all sorts of dresses that could be tried on a doll. Observation led Ruth to the idea that it would be nice to start producing similar “voluminous” dolls to boot with a diverse wardrobe. And since the woman and her husband owned the Mattel company for the production of toys, she could easily put her idea into practice. I must say that the idea was not super-original. A similar doll, Lilly, has already been produced in Germany, which Ruth took as a sample. In 1959, the public was presented the first two models of Barbie (named, as you might guess, in honor of her daughter) – blonde and brunette, dressed in black and white striped swimwear.
Since the new doll was quickly gaining popularity, manufacturers Lilly sued the “plagiarists” to court. To save themselves from further headaches, Mattel did it simply and securely: in 1964, they bought out all the rights to Lilly and even closed its production. Gradually, the “Barbie world” grew. In addition to clothing (sold, by the way, separately from the doll), the company began to produce furniture and other items of the doll interior. Next to Barbie, her boyfriend appeared – Ken (now named after his son Ruth), and then a host of girlfriends, cousins and sisters. As for the song AQUA, then, according to the band members – Klaus Norrein, Søren Rasted and Lena Nyström, they wrote it after visiting the exhibition of kitsch art (from German. Kitsch – quick work, bad taste, “cheap”). The song “Barbie Girl” and the video for it came out frankly mocking – Ken and Barbie looked like complete morons, obsessed with glamor, parties and sex. The single has become one of the main dance hits of 1997, and the motive is so tied to the ears that the song has more than once been included in the lists of “worst” and “most annoying”. Some critics even saw in the melody “Barbie Girl” a similarity to the song of the band REAL McCOY “Another Night” of 1993. However, the problems with AQUA sneaked up on the other side … Interestingly, on the cover of the single, the band prudently wrote that the song was not sponsored by the doll makers and represents, no less, a “social statement”. I must say that in this the company Mattel fully agreed with the group: she took the song Barbie Girl not as an advertisement, but as an insult.
The company and so constantly criticized. First, because the doll forms in girls misconceptions about the proportions of the human body and provokes anorexia. Then – for the promotion of gender cliches. Especially got the “talking” model Barbie, released in 1992, which uttered phrases like “I love shopping”, “Let’s go to the party” and (oh, cry, Sofia Kovalevskaya!) “Mathematics is so difficult.” Well, now, it means that the company was offended, so much so that in 2000 it sued MCA Records, which released the single AQUA. They say that the group unlawfully used the trademark and blurred Barbie’s bright image, depicting her as a fool (see the line “I’m a blond bimbo girl”, i.e. “I am a silly windy blonde”) and as a sex object (see lines “Kiss me here, touch me here”, “You can undress me anywhere”). Shot from video clip of Aqua “Barbie Girl” Photo: Shot from video clip of Aqua “Barbie Girl” They did not lose AQUA and immediately filed a counterclaim, accusing Mattel of defamation and a biased interpretation of the song. All these squabbles could be stopped only by the US Supreme Court, the judge of which issued a decision in 2002: since the song is a parody, claims about copyright are meaningless. In addition, the decision contained a rather unusual for legal documents phrase: “Both parties are invited to cool down”. Subsequently, this trial was even included in Naomi Klein’s book “No logo!”, Which was devoted to a monopoly in the field of copyright. After all, it comes to the fact that individual companies privatize even the words and shades of color! Nevertheless, “Mattel” did not calm down and still left the last word. In 2009, in the commercial for the new collection of “flexible” Barbie dancers (the dolls could perform up to 12 different movements) they used the entire same song AQUA – of course, with the modified text. Only the introduction remained the same: – Hello, Barbie! – Hi Ken! – Do you want to ride? – Of course, Ken!