Barbie's Lawyer


October 21, 1991|By ANDREI CODRESCU

NEW ORLEANS. — New Orleans -- After hearing me talk for an hour, Alan Berg said, ''Enough already, namedrops keep falling on my head . . . Maybe you know famous poets but I had dinner with Barbie's lawyer!''

I wasn't aware that Barbie was in court but that's just where she is. She went to court over a new doll called Miss America which is fashioned after Miss America. Arthur J. Levine, Barbie's lawyer, claims Miss America ripped off Barbie's head. Mattel, Barbie's manufacturer, says it copyrighted Barbie's QUOTE look compliant joy UNQUOTE. Miss America's head has that on it, too.

The bodies are not on trial, just the heads, even though the bodies are even more alike than the heads. Miss America claims its dolls were modeled after the real Miss America, not Barbie. Of course, the real Miss America modeled herself after Barbie, which is what millions of women model themselves after, so perhaps Barbie should sue her human clones.

Barbie's lawyer, whom my friend had dinner with, argues that Barbie ''is a stylized doll which does not look like any known human being.'' Miss America's lawyer, whom nobody I know ever had dinner with, says that ''the concept of fashion dolls is to look like human fashion models.''

Now, who's right? How many of the 600 million girls who've been buying Barbies since 1958 have become ''stylized dolls who do not look like any human beings'' by now?

Hard to say. It's a chicken-and-egg question. All we know is that in the beginning there was Barbie. After that, come Miss America, both the human and the doll. Furthermore, Barbie is made in the USA. Miss America's made in China. There is global politics here. The Chinese have been also exporting the live organs of executed political prisoners. That's bad enough, although Mr. Bush still thinks it's OK to trade with China. But now they are making our Miss Americas. That just can't be. There is no room in the New World Order for that.

Andrei Codrescu teaches English at Louisiana State University.

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