Picks and Pans Review: Forever Barbie: the Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll

updated 12/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

by M.G. Lord

Barbie, now 35, is not just a doll, she's an issue. She has an unnatural (and unattainable) figure and her feet are perpetually frozen in a high-heel position. Is she a bimbo? Or, with a boyfriend, a job, her own home, and—every teenager's dream—no parents, is she an independent woman? Whichever position you take, it's hard to deny Barbie's impact: Dolls can be role models of sorts, and every second, two Barbies are sold somewhere in the world. Lord is a fan of semiotics, decoding Barbie's wardrobe for meaning. She also likes synchronicity. Barbie was born in Hawthorne, Calif., she writes, "in a dump, but a dump with a glamor-queen precedent. In 1926, Marilyn Monroe was born there."

Sometimes Lord, a columnist for New York Newsday, goes overboard with daytime talk show psychobabble. She spends three pages recounting the "Skipper complex" suffered by a now-grown woman who feels inferior because as a child, she was given Barbie's younger sister rather than Barbie to play with. But overall, Lord shrewdly uses the evolution of Barbie as a touchstone to chart the evolution of our modern culture. (Morrow, $25)

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