Barbie is a strong, independent doll. But is she a feminist icon? It’s complicated.

Since her introduction in 1959, Barbie's impact has been revolutionary. Far from being a toy designed by men to oppress women, she was a toy invented by women to teach women what was expected of them, for better or for worse. Whether tarred-and-glittered as antifeminist puffery or celebrated as a feminist icon (or, at any rate, an important cultural touchstone in understanding feminism) Barbie has undeniably influenced generations of girls. 

In Forever Barbie, cultural critic, investigative journalist, and first-generation Barbie owner M. G. Lord uncovers the surprising story behind Barbie's smash success. Revealing her low origins as "Bild Lilli," a risqué doll for adults sold as a gag gift in postwar Germany, Forever Barbie traces Barbie's development and transformation, through countless makeovers and career changes, into an international pop culture icon and now "traditional toy." Though not every doll in the line has been a hit--with pregnant Midge and Growing up Skipper among the more intriguing disasters--Barbie's endurance, Lord writes, speaks as much to Mattel's successful marketing as it does to our society's overall ambivalence toward femininity.  

Hear the wild stories from never-before-heard tapes of interviews by M.G. Lord with Barbie inventor Ruth Handler, her wardrobe designer and the sculptors and fabricators, and the innovative marketers who made her what she is today.With new accessories, including a preface on the latest developments in the Barbieverse, Forever Barbie "will make you think of America's most celebrated plastic doll in ways you never have before" (Susan Faludi).

M.G. Lord is the co-host of the podcast L.A. Made: The Barbie Tapes, which tells the story of the doll’s creation in the voices of its original creators. She is also the author of Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll and The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness And We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice. Her 2005 family memoir, Astro Turf, is a cultural history of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as well as the basis for L.A. Made: Blood, Sweat and Rockets, a 12-part podcast that she hosts. It tells the story of the early days of rocketry in Southern California, and the unusual figures—a practitioner of “Sex Magick” and an accused Communist—who founded JPL. 

She is also featured in the Netflix series "The TOYS That Made Us,” which covers a variety of legendary toys from the 20th century and today. It tells the stories of the minds behind history's most iconic toy franchises and the rise (and sometimes falll) of their billion dollar creations. In her segment, M.G. discusses some sordid origins of the Barbie doll.

Lord is Associate Professor of the Practice of English at the University of Southern California. 

Other Programs:

Blood, Sweat & Rockets, M.G. Lord tells the hidden story of the fearless, groundbreaking and ambitious crew who shaped our quest to outer space and ushered in the early days of space exploration at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at CalTech. Known as the “Suicide Squad,” the team’s road to triumph was fraught with controversies involving the occult, a suspected spy ring, unplanned explosions, and a suspicious death. Join writer and life-long aerospace fanatic M.G. Lord as she uncovers their story and reveals the shocking origins of rocket science.

Forever Barbie

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