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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bad Barbie: The Works of Mariel Clayton

By: KP/
Barbie Letter F
Ontario artist Mariel Clayton isn’t the first social commentator to decry Barbie’s negative effect on society, and she definitely won’t be the last. But she just might be the most grisly.
Her art features Barbie in myriad situations that would put Mattel in a tizzy. Sex, bondage, suicide, murder — it’s all there, in tiny detail. 

Clayton was kind enough to share a bunch of photos with us, and she also answered a few questions. Read below for her thoughts on feminism, fortune-telling and robotic dildos.

Why Barbie?
Because I hate Barbie. I intensely dislike the stereotype that the “ideal” female fits no current authentic female form. You can’t get to be Barbie without an ocean’s worth of peroxide, 27 plastic surgeries and a complete lack of intelligence, so it irritates me immensely that this is the toy of choice women give to their daughters to emulate.

At least with boys’ toys like GI Joe and Action Man, these were characters that had personality, depth and purpose, worthy of real imaginative storytelling. Barbie has nothing except clothes and “being a girl,” but what is being a girl? Being a vapid shell with tits up to your ears? Playing in your kitchen or changing outfits for the umpteenth time so “Ken” will think you’re pretty?

My first picture with Barbie was actually of her committing suicide in the tub, after Ken had dumped her for another man — my wishful thinking on the end of evil influence. I’m not sure why it ended up being Barbie killing Ken, if I am to be honest — I think it’s because I find it really damn funny. Behind the vacuous perpetual lipsticked-smile and soulless eyes lurks the black heart of the true sociopath, just like in real life. I think it finally makes the doll interesting, and I like that contrast between saccharine sweet and pure malevolence.

Barbie Happily Ever After
How concretely do you see the scenes in your mind before composing them? Are you thinking “I want to put Ken’s head in the fridge” or do you just pop his head off and go from there?

Sometimes I see a complete picture in my head, down to the last detail and all I have to do is recreate it with the props, other times it might just be a particular piece of a picture that I will then build on. It’s hard to explain because my mind tends to think up these things faster then I consciously comprehend them, so while I know exactly what I want to do, it takes me a while to fill in the details. The latest piece I’ve just finished is G is for Gastromancy — when I saw the word “gastromancy” I flashed on a picture in my head of Ken, shackled and hanging upside down with Barbie listening to his stomach, head cocked, and then vomit dripping out his chin onto the floor. From that I just go on constructing the scene, adding little details as it builds up.

Barbie Gastromancy

Or when I get a new miniature, I’ll just get an idea of how I want to use it in a picture as a prop, and then I’ll think up what I want Barbie to do with it. I’ve even got some inspiration from the paper I use for my backdrops — I see a pattern or texture, and it just lends itself to an idea.

I think the oddest time I’ve ever had an idea was when I woke up one morning and just thought to myself, “Ken, impaled on the dildo from Barbie’s robot which has broken off, pinning him to the wall.” I never dream of kittens and rainbows and flowers. There’s probably a medication for that sort of thing, but then the pictures wouldn’t be as good.
Barbie System Error
There’s a feminist statement happening here, right?

Nope, I’m actually anti-feminist. I don’t believe in it, because I think the message that “feminism” is trying to convey has escalated to a ridiculous and unfair demonization of men.

I don’t believe that men and women are equal, because logically, they aren’t. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be treated equally, and feminism is not interested in that.

I think that men have been emasculated by contemporary media, to the point where they are treated like immature, imbecilic children who have nothing to contribute unless it’s something to deride or mock, and feminism plays a large part in perpetuating that characterization.

Everything is so damn gynocentric, every woman is being told to “find herself’ and that she is “special” and “she can be everything she wants to be, damn anyone who tries to stand in her way.” To me that’s nothing more than a way to shirk personal responsibility. If something goes wrong, feminism says that it’s a man’s fault, that if you can’t get the job you want, it’s a man’s fault, if you aren’t being understood, it’s a man’s fault for not being more in touch with women’s feelings, if you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s a man’s fault for not offering to shoulder your burdens, but if he does offer, then he’s terribly insensitive and callous for assuming you can’t handle it. That is how feminism is shaping the female world, and it disgusts me.
Barbie PMS
I think women (and men) need to stop worrying about “isms” and suck it up, take responsibility for your own life and how you deal with it, regardless of what gender you happen to be.

It may seem weird that I call myself an anti-feminist when I create pictures that are definitely cruelty towards men, but I’m not doing it with some sort of agenda or social message. I just think it’s funny: sweet little perfect Barbie, the psychopath.

My biggest portion of feedback comes from men — they seem to “get” the humor of it. I’ve had few nasty emails, all from women, calling me disturbed and unbalanced, recommending I seek therapy et cetera, which I find really interesting.

I’m not out to send a message. I’m just out to have a bit of fun and share it with others.
View more of Clayton’s work in our gallery, and be sure to visit her website.