The history of Barbie dolls can be traced back to 1959 when the first Barbie doll was produced and marketed by Mattel Inc., a company owned by Ruth Handler. Ever since, Barbie dolls have become iconic features of American culture without people spending thousands of dollars annually to buy new or vintage dolls as part of their hobbies, and sometimes, as fanatics. People collect Barbie dolls for various reasons including as a means of tracing fashion over the years, aesthetic reasons, or for historical purposes. However, not everyone understands the practice and reasons why some people collect Barbie dolls. For instance, Shari Caudron's "Befriending Barbie" captures the feelings of many people who do not understand the culture of collecting dolls. Shari Caudron writes about passion, and article "Befriending Barbie?" highlights her search for passion, and takes her to investigate on Barbie dolls. Initially, Shari Caudron does not understand why people collect dolls, and out of curiosity, attends a Barbie convention to interview with some of the fanatics. Through the interactions with Barbie collectors, the perceptions and preconceptions of Shari Caudron are altered
Shari Caudron Preconceptions and Prejudices of Barbie Dolls
Like many people who have not interacted with Barbie doll collectors, Shari Caudron does not have an understanding of why people are fascinated by the dolls. Indeed, she admits that she views the "fanatics as a bit strange" (Caudron 139)." Further, her negative perceptions of the Barbie collectors is revealed when she says that " I invited friends to stone me to death if I ever got like that (Caudron 139)." Such extreme statements show that she has a prejudice towards Barbie collectors, and in addition to considering them as abnormal, argues that she would rather die than have such an extreme behavior of collecting Barbie dolls.
Caudron's perceptions can be considered as emanating from the fact that she has had minimal interactions with people who loved dolls, and the deeply enshrined feelings that Barbies are not human and thus, cannot elicit any feelings. Further, in the past, she had tried to collect Roseville Pottery and failed at it (Caudron 139). With such an understanding, Caudron's prejudices and perceptions are easy to understand whereby she considered the fanatics of Barbie dolls as abnormal. For example, when she goes to the convention, her aim is not to understand why people love dolls, but to make fun of their seemly crazy behavior.
Shari Caudron Interview with Debbie
The interview with Debbie marks that first instance when Shari Caudron seeks the perspective of one of the fanatics of Barbie dolls. During the interview Debbie argues that her love for dolls emanates from the fact that she considers them "very beautiful," and "able to adapt and remain" fashionable" (Caudron 139).
According to Debbie, Barbie dolls are versatile, and this is evident from their ability to adapt through time by adapting to changing fashions. Additionally, they are admirable and beautiful as they can be used to depict fashion as well as show aesthetics that cannot be shown by other forms of collections. Lastly, their adaptability means that they can be used to define people. For example, whether a veterinarian, secretary, or stewardess, Barbie dolls can easily fit into each trait (Caudron 139). All the traits of the dolls make them highly admirable and loved by their fanatics. Debbie defines people based on their association with Barbie dolls on whether they keep or remove them from their original box casing. People keep dolls in their original casing to maintain their value. In this case, removing Barbies from their original casing lead a fifty to eighty percent in loss of value (Caudron 139). Debbie insured her doll collection to protect it from theft or fire, or any other accidents, which may lead to the loss of her valuable collection.
Shari Caudron Interview with Sandi
People like Sandi have turned Barbie doll collection into profitable businesses by selling them to other collectors. Many of the dolls that were issued in earlier years have gained significant value, with some going as high as $15, 750 in auctions (Caudron 141). Such value means that selling dolls can be a highly profitable business as is the case for Sandi. She makes close to a million dollars by not only selling but also offering her dolls as an exhibition where people pay to visit and view them (Caudron 141). Sandi keeps her Barbie collection, as they are important in keeping childhood memories. Sandi thinks that some of the people collect Barbies for their monetary value, but to her, money is secondary (Caudron 141).
Shari Caudron Interview with Judy Stegnar
When Judy Stegnar's son dies, her love for Barbie dolls ensures that she has friends to rely on, and whose actions and words of condolence makes her feel loved, and not alone as she griefs her son. Through letters and vintage dolls gifts from across the world, she manages to come to terms with her son's death, as the vintage collection makes her feel closer to Justin, and keep his memory alive. According to Judy, Barbie doll collectors are happier and more giving, and hence why they sent money, care packages, and tuition money for Justin's Memorial Assistance (Caudron 145). Judy Stegnar's involvement with Barbie collectors have given her good memories and an avenue to participate in numerous charities, which help the society (Caudron 145). Judy argues that through the shared love for dolls, and unity, doll collectors are concerned about each other, and this ensures that stresses of life are reduced (Caudron 145). Stegnar reveals that Barbie collectors are involved in numerous charities, including those that fight HIV/AIDS, among others across the world (Caudron 145).
Changes in Shari Caudron's Preconceptions and Prejudices of Barbie Collectors
After interacting with Barbie collectors, Shari Caudron's, she understands them better and finds that each of them has good reasons for his or her fanaticism. For instance, for Judy, it is her way of keeping her son's memories alive. For others, it helps them reduce stresses of life while meeting and interacting with a close-knit family, which is deeply concerned with the welfare of all the members. After her interaction, Shari Caudron's perception changes drastically, and indeed, becomes a lover of the dolls as evident from her decision to take home one of the dolls, probably marking the start of her Barbie dolls collection hobby.
Summary and Discussion of Research Findings
The collection of Barbie plays more of a social than an economic role in the society. For instance, through a shared love for collecting Barbie dolls, people develop a shared sense of belonging, which helps them to overcome stress. Economically, some collectors make money through their hobbies by selling vintage Barbie dolls as well as through exhibitions. Collecting Barbie dolls helps bring collectors together through their shared hobby and passion. Some of the cons of Barbie Doll collection may include addition, which may affect one's overall happiness in life. Shari Caudron was justified in changing her preconceptions and prejudices as she gained a better understanding of their practices.
As Shari Caudron interacts more with Barbie Doll collectors, her preconceptions and prejudices change, and she starts to see them differently by understanding why they have such a fanaticism. While the major reason for the practice is about keeping childhood memories alive, other factors include the financial value of such collections and so on. Primarily, Barbie collection has a social than economic value, as many people do not sell their collections. In the future, more people will become Barbie Doll collectors as the practice spread across the world. The only con of the practice is that it may lead to addiction, which may affect a person's wellbeing. Consequently, by understanding the Barbie Doll collection practice, it turns out that the society should be more accommodative of the practice as the people who follow the practice have their unique inspirations, which should not be considered as abnormal.
Caudron, Shari. "Befriending Barbie." Remix: Reading & Composing Culture, 3rd ed., edited by Catherine G. Latterell. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2017, pp. 138-146.
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