Camp (Kimora) & Kitsch: Impossible Universality

Why are young children, majority girls, so drawn to the thought of owning a barbie doll. The doll itself conveys a very idealistic and hegemonic view of aesthetic that the public expects of women. There are plenty of articles out on the internet that prove that Barbie’s proportions are not physically possible, and any women with that structure build would collapse.  However, children, I guess, cannot be blamed or are not at fault for this. They are not aware of these social standards and views of beauty. They only know what they like and what they think are pretty. Which arguably to some degree, perhaps they are aware of beauty standards, yet the public is convinced that young children are unaware of what society is attempting to convey.

Barbie is also a very ‘camp’ item. The terms ‘camp’ and ‘kitsch’ are generally used when speaking of art and forms of art. In Lelani Nishime’s Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture, Chapter 6 is titled “Camp Kimora” and covers the idea of a Kimora Barbie. “Camp” and “kitsch” are often used interchangeably, however they are slightly different in meaning. The term  “camp” is generally used when describing anything cliche and unoriginal. Therefore, Barbie falls into that category. The term “kitsch” why is still cliche and unoriginal, it often more so describes an act or something you see visually. “Camp” describes items and tangible objects. Barbie, could  arguably fall into both of these categories, but more realistically fall into just “camp.” She is unoriginal in her own mass produced business. But the thought of her and the social norms she conveys could be ‘kitsch.”


The Barbie doll is proportioned in such a way that it is not possible for any women to possibly have that their body like so without any physical alterations. We are all aware of what Barbie looks like, small waist that more than likely cannot support such a thin, yet voluptuous upper body. Long thin legs that are not humanely possible, and feet so small they look like kid’s feet. Even though it is not possible to have any women look like Barbie, generally speaking it would be even more difficult for Asian/Asian American women to have that body type naturally. Typically speaking Asian/American women have a smaller frame than most women. Asian/Asian American women as a discourse are more petite and ‘delicate’ yet even as delicate as they are, they still cannot. Asian/Asian Americans are stereotyped as not very tall to begin with, and therefore cannot meet the height of Barbie, if she were a real person. It is much more difficult for Asian/Asian American women to meet the standards than other women, if it were to be possible. Barbie is a representation of beauty that cannot physically be achieved. Within Asian, and possibly Asian American culture, it is viewed that lighter skin or complexion is more beautiful than darker complexion. It is seen as more ‘pure.’ Thus Barbie, being white and having blonde hair generates a social beauty standard that ‘women should be following.’ This also conforms to society’s view that women are physically attractive when they are blonde and have a huge chest..and essentially every other physical trait that Barbie has.  Yet the world is not perfect. And perhaps in a perfect world, all women would look like Barbie. However, it is not genetically possible for people to look the same, much less all women.

The Barbie doll’s existence in society exercises the concept of universality. People want others to look like Barbie, if not look like her themselves. It conforms to social norms and everyone must be uniform and reach the same level of ‘attractiveness’ and ‘beauty.’ But like mentioned before, it is not genetically possible. Even identical twins may not look the same due to environmental changes. One may cut their hair, or one may be out in the sun more often than the other. One may be into lifting or working out, and the other may be a couch potato. That being said, twins may look the same due to DNA and such, but they still cannot look one hundred percent a mirror image. The idea of universality is then rejected and cannot be possible.


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