Tis the season, and one of the by-products of the gift-giving tradition is the annual dilemma faced by countless parents and grandparentswhether to cave in and buy your little loved one the latest Barbie and/or GI Joe dolls.
I say dilemma, of course, because of all the negative press Barbie and Joe receive over their proportions being slightly askew relative to a real human body. Barbie's critics claim she is so skinny, tall and top-heavy that girls develop self-image problems at the mere thought of having to live up to her dimensions.
And apparently GI Joe has been beefing up to the point that he has become "impossibly, seam-splittingly, unattainably huge" according to Usha Lee McFarling in an article for Knight Ridder Newspapers. In fact, if you were to convert Joe's dimensions to human size, he would have 26-inch biceps, McFarling reports.
By comparison, Mark McGwire's biceps are a meager 19 inches and Arnold Schwarzenegger's measure an anemic 22 inches.
While girls are in danger of becoming anorexic, boys are in danger of the opposite problem, a condition menacingly known as "muscle dysmorphia." In layman's language, that means they see themselves as too thin and frail and attempt to compensate by working out and abusing steroids.
With all the bad press, the folks at Mattel have been trying to improve Barbie's image, but, critics charge, they don't quite get it. One of their newer Barbies, for example, is Working Woman Barbie.
She comes dressed in a silver-gray suit, complete with cell phone, travel mug, and laptop computer. She even utters such working world aphorisms as, "I can't wait to go to work," and "Ring, ring, ringI have a phone call."
Plus she comes with a CD-ROM for creating business cards and letterhead stationery, just what you'd expect of a doll designed to, as a "Working Woman" magazine exec put it, let girls know they "can be anything they want to be."
But then, the Dallas Morning News reports, they go and ruin it by making her heels "impossibly high," her suit "tight beyond the point of comfort," and her skirt reversible to a more glittery number.
That's why you'll be happy to know that just in time for Christmas there is a new series of six dolls called the Get Real Girl action/adventure doll line. Complete with passport, friendship bracelet and collectible travel stamp, these "college-bound young women" are designed to "encourage girls to 'get off the sidelines and get in the game,'" writes Michelle Craig of The Arizona Republic, quoting the doll's promotional materials.
Typical is Skylar, "an accomplished snowboarder with a passion for animal rescue," who was adopted and "hopes to visit Japan, home of her ancestors." She comes complete with snowboard.
Get Real Girls' creator, Yuma native Julz Chavez, hopes to one day add Get Real Guy to the line to promote a healthy body image for boys. When that happens, it may be curtains for GI Joe and those huge biceps.
But I think we can do better, sooner. I think each community should have its own line of dolls based on its local heroes, statesmen, politicians and other infamous characters.
Up here in the Rim country, the first set, known as Get Real Rimaroos, might include the following:
Small-Town Mayor Ray Schum Doll
Comes complete with gavel and lavaliere microphone. Your child will delight in listening to the talking mayor say, "Does anybody from the public want to get an oar in the water on this issue?" "This is a business meeting, and the people with the loudest cheering section don't win," and "I just want to clear this up for those watching on TV." Television monitor and video camera are extra.
Political Activist Ruby Finney Doll
If there's a Schum doll, fairness dictates a Finney doll. Comes complete with two raccoons, a coon cage and all ingredients for root beer floats. Also a talking doll, Ruby says, "Want to know what ticks me off?" "But how will the fire trucks get through?" "I'll tell you why I'm really irritated with this town," and "I'm just plain tuckered out from catching coons all day." Fish pond and Stone Creek subdivision extra.
Judge Ronnie McDaniel Doll
Comes dressed in judicial robe, complete with gavel and thick stack of legal documents. A voice-activated doll, the Judge rolls his eyes and sighs audibly whenever someone speaks. Like the Energizer Bunny, this doll just keeps on listening and listening and rolling and rolling.
Patriotic Councilperson Barbara Brewer Doll
Dressed in election night red, white and blue, complete with elephant pin and earrings, this is the quintessential Republican doll. Comes complete with ballot box and stack of punch cards with hanging chads. The Barbie Brewer doll also features an imbedded computer chip that causes it to stay up all night every two years on the first Tuesday in November. Hair curlers and spray can of Essence de Beautie Shoppe are extra.
Pioneer/Historian Marguerite Noble Doll
Comes complete with several reversible sun bonnets, a curious mind and all the wit and wisdom of a long and colorful lifetime. Copies of "Filaree," her novel that has done more to liberate women than all the Working Woman Barbies combined, is available at the Rim Country Museum and other locations around town. Additional set of 12 sun bonnets extra.
That's the first collection of six dolls, but a vibrant and growing community like ours is sure to produce more movers and shakers. Then it'll be time for Get Real Rimaroos: The Sequel.
Unless the first set induces mass brain dysmorphia throughout the Rim country.