Guys as dolls

Ken turns fifty this month, which means it’s time to wax philosophic about the sexless beau of the iconic plastic woman whose measurements no quantity of silicone could ever replicate.

Over the years Barbie and Ken have been A-list celebrities with unsurpassed staying power, even though the former has been vilified as the reason behind every twinge of inadequacy felt by any flesh-and-blood American female, while the latter has been, largely, a joke due to a certain inadequacy of his own.

All that seems to be forgotten now, though. A recent Chicago Tribune article hails Barbie as “the alpha female” in a category of toys known as “fashion dolls.”

No matter how anti-feminist her physique, she’s certainly always been the alpha in her association with Ken. Always the breadwinner—accounting for 90% of their combined income—she was decidedly equipped to kick Ken’s butt if he ever hit on those Bratz Girlz hottiez, Phoebe and Roxxi.

As if the slutty twinz ever presented a threat to Barbie. G.I Joe is clearly more their type.

Ken’s rep as a weakling, though, is getting a much-needed makeover in a direct-to-Hulu reality show that pits a passel of real-life bros against each other to win the title of Genuine Ken. The winner will be whoever kicks hiney in events like “cooking” and “decorating an apartment on a budget.”

On a budget? For crying out loud, Barbie has a dream house.

I further wonder if there’ll be anything new about the so-called “Great American Boyfriend” who emerges from this show. In 1965, when Barbie and Ken were mere youngsters, “Mystery Date” debuted. Girls exchanged playing cards to assemble an outfit appropriate for a date with a fellah who was waiting behind the door. The fellah would be dressed for a day at the beach or a night at the ball. If the bowling date fellah showed up but you were dressed for skiing, you lost—though I’m not clear on why anyone thought spending time with beer-swilling keglers in a smoke-filled alley was anyone’s dream.

You lost big-time, though, if the door opened to reveal the Dud, a dude who had the audacity to show up in blue jeans, boots and a Henley shirt, with his hair all awry. In other words, a true catch for an Aquarian Age chick just two years hence.

I guess the new Ken is supposed to have more substance than his predecessors and his Mystery Date buds—if by “substance” you mean “does things that stereotypical males don’t do.” One of the unlucky losers, though, who talks about “expecting excellence” of himself and the importance of being patient, supportive and a good listener, got his butt booted because the toes of his shoes pointed up a little too much.

So much for depth.

We all know what it really would take to make Ken a man. Something to fill the space between his legs? Nah. I’m talking about the space between his ears.

Cooking and decorating are a good start. The mystery is how, in half a century to date, did he manage to get only this far?

Check out the original 1965 TV commercial for The Mystery Date Game.

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