Which Barbie Are We, Really?

The Editorial Board

Recently, The Oberlin Review received a harshly worded letter, condemning our This Week editor’s joke about the difficulty of mathematics. In 1992, the Mattel company debuted a Barbie that uttered, among a variety of other phrases, the succinct line “Math is Tough!” The Oberlin Review, this letter explained, is “still back there with Math Barbie.” Math Barbie!? This whole time we had been thinking of ourselves as Malibu Barbie, the most popular plastic blonde bombshell of all time. Suddenly, with this condemnation, we were relegated down to the realm of Math Barbie, who lived on the lowest rung of Barbiedom and mainly hung out with Canadian Mountie Barbie. Who’s ever heard of her? (No one, obviously — it was only released in Canada.)

Slowly, we began to crumble. The strong foundation we had built this paper on began to disintegrate beneath our feet. If not Malibu Barbie (and we were not yet willing to accept our relegation as Math Barbie) then truly, which Barbie were we? What slender piece of perfect plastic, arched feet and glued together fingers truly represented our newspaper?

Were we Surgeon Barbie, from 1973, emerging from the women’s movement to break glass ceilings in the medical world? Were we UNICEF Summit Diplomat Barbie from 1990, helping impoverished children everywhere? Were we Gymnastics Barbie, more bendable and limber than all the others, able to morph into any position we please? No, definitely not Gymnastics Barbie — her flexibility got her into some kinky situations during our childhoods. Or were we Barbie Tanner, that seriously strange Barbie set from the ’80’s that came with a “house-training” dog? Sounds cute at first, but you’re supposed to feed the dog brown plastic pellets, which he poops out, and then you feed them to him again. Definitely not the Review.

Confused and lost, we began to roam the Internet, searching for our soul, for our identity — for our Barbie!

Ultimately, we decided to put together our characteristics and find a Barbie that suited us most perfectly. We knew we were an old publication, created back in the 1800s, a venerable and respected institution. We also added our adaptability and flexibility over the years (no, not aerobics-style flexibility). Plus, we’ve been a source of controversy and intense debate, a place where students, professors, local politicians and citizens can fight over the most important of issues. It was here, on these very pages, that the original “Hobo or Hipster?” cartoon was published. Our cartoonist drew a man with a beard, knit cap and flannel shirt, and the next day a student wrote in, offended that our illustrator had specifically drawn him. (Seriously, that happened.)

Suddenly, it dawned on us — we were almost embarrassed that it took so long to come to such an obvious conclusion. The Oberlin Review is Growing Up Skipper — Barbie’s controversial younger sister who debuted, to much debate, in the mid-1970s. We’re young, hot and feisty. (Well, not really — then we would be 1985’s Hot Stuff Skipper.) Growing Up Skipper is an ingenious piece of technological innovation. At first glance, Skipper is a simple, pre-pubescent girl, dressed in a short, red checkered skirt. Yet by cranking Skipper’s left arm backwards, breasts suddenly emerge from Skipper’s chest and her torso simultaneously elongates, leaving an instantly post-pubescent Skipper lying in your shaking and confused hands. Growing Up Skipper provoked some controversy in the media (much like Math Barbie!), due to her supposedly “unnatural” depiction of puberty. (We at The Oberlin Review politely disagree — our boobs all emerged instantly, with the crank of an arm.) Truly, the Review is Growing Up Skipper: controversial, awkward, and occasionally a bit idiotic. Finally, we can sit back and rest easy.

We have found our Barbie.