Accessorizing: Ken longs to stand on his own ... at Barbie’s side

Barbie and Ken



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Oh, Ken. Ken, Ken, Ken.

Did you think this through? Before you forked over the cash for full-color, two-page ads in glossy national magazines, did you consider that the “I want you back” gambit of 2006 didn’t work? And that she broke up with you?

Just look at you. The “Ultimate Boyfriend” T-shirt paired with skinny jeans and knock-off Vans. And your hair, Ken. As you yourself wrote on your website, “I’m a lucky guy — solid hair, solid abs and most importantly, a solid group of friends!” ( You have veered into GTL territory and you’re one fist-pump away from a hot tub brawl.

So, this is an intervention. It’s because we care, Ken.

When Barbie broke up with you on Valentine’s Day 2004, leaving you for Australian surfer boy Blaine, the whole world felt sorry for you. You were identity-less, having spent 43 years as yet another Barbie accessory — not as cool as the Corvette, the first to get microwaved in the name of scientific inquiry, a cipher whose back road was littered with little more than tragic fashion choices and molded plastic hair.

In 2006, with a re-style by Phillip Bloch, you tried to woo her back, and it didn’t work.

And now this: neon-hued ads in the likes of Us Weekly magazine declaring, “Barbie, I want you back!” and “Barbie, we may be plastic but our love is real!” ( The current digital reality show “Genuine Ken: The Search for the Great American Boyfriend” (, hosted by the Barbie-esque Whitney Port. The new, recordable model of you with a T-shirt declaring you the “Ultimate Boyfriend” in 10 languages.

You’re going to be 50, Ken. On March 11, you’ll turn the big 5-0. And yes, it’s terrifying to face the second half alone and armed only with a resume; whose highlights include “actor” and “tanner.” Especially in this job market. The slobbery mooning for a romanticized past is inevitable and understandable.

But this, Ken. It’s little better than drunken Tweeting. How did you think it was going to pan out? Let’s role-play:


Ken: (lurching, Frankenstein’s monster-like, toward Barbie, on account of his knees don’t bend) Dude!

Barbie: (pleasant expression)

Ken: Heh. Like.

Barbie: Tee-hee!

Ken: So… ‘sup?

Barbie: (pleasant expression)

Ken: Yep.

Barbie: Hee!

Ken: Like, yeah.

Barbie: Eh?

Ken: Woo!

Barbie: (pleasant expression)

Ken: Anyway.


Ken: (sighing) Hey, Barbie.

Barbie: Hi!

Ken: How are you?

Barbie: Awesome!

Ken: I’m not doing so great.

Barbie: Girl power!

Ken: Ever since you broke up with me, I’ve been in a downward spiral. I think the low point was when I woke up on the side of the highway near Gallup, surrounded by empty Sterno cans, clutching a goat and missing half my mustache. I grew a mustache, you know.

Barbie: Math class is tough!

Ken: Tell me about it. Zero plus zero is always zero, and my bank account is one fat goose egg thanks to a few ill-advised, post-break-up “investments.” Never trust a guy named “Broken Commandments” with your money, is all I have to say. And, now that I think about it, I’m not even sure emu futures are a real thing.

Barbie: I love shopping!

Ken: Well, that’s great if you have money. Which I don’t. And I’ll tell you what else I don’t have anymore: two kidneys. So much for prison security, am I right? Don’t break the law in Turkmenistan, is the lesson to be learned. Anyway.

Barbie: Wanna have a pizza party?

Ken: Not really. The parasite makes it hard to digest dairy. As I was saying, it’s been a tough seven years.

Barbie: Will we ever have enough clothes?

Ken: (sighing) I’d settle for a change of underwear. And another sock. Or, you know, 10 bucks, if you’d lend it to me. Or, you could just take me back. Thanks to my time at that, um… place in Thailand, I give a pretty good massage. And I’ll clean your pool. Just please take me back!

Barbie: (pleasant expression)


Ken: Barbie! Check out these guns!

Barbie: ...

Ken: (raising arm to kiss biceps, but ending in a Nazi salute because elbows don’t bend) Deadly!

Barbie: ...

Ken: Moobs, you say? No man boobs here! Just 100 percent pure pectoralis awesomus! (makes sizzling sound)

Barbie: ...

Ken: Hey-yo! Highlights in the house!

Barbie: ...

Ken: And who’s rockin’ the skinny jeans? Ol’ blue eyes here, himself.

Barbie: ...

Ken: Anyway, text me about the whole “getting back together” thing.

Barbie: ...


Ken: Hi, Barbie.

Barbie: Hi, Ken.

Ken: It’s been a while.

Barbie: It has.

Ken: And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

Barbie: Never my strong suit.

Ken: Mine, either. But situation and circumstance force us down unfamiliar paths. Plus, the fact that I’m wearing a watch with no face plunged me into a philosophical miasma from which I feared there was no return. Our break-up rocked my world.

Barbie: Wow. Sorry. It was the 43-year itch. You were just another accessory, and I already had enough purses.

Ken: I know. Ever since we met on the set of that TV commercial in 1961, I settled for being the guy who propped you up. Literally. I could have been a giant salt lick, for all that I mattered. I guess I was blinded by the free clothes and hair products. And you are beautiful. I always thought so.

Barbie: I know.

Ken: But is that enough? It’s always been about you, and it doesn’t seem like that’s ever going to change.

Barbie: Why should it?

Ken: I can’t give you a good reason. Mattel’s fortunes ride on your alarmingly narrow shoulders, and I know that’s a lot to bear. You have every right to relish the spotlight you’ve earned.

Barbie: I agree.

Ken: I’m just not sure it’s enough that I’m only the tuxedo-clad shoulder in red-carpet photos of you. I mean, that’s all I am? A shoulder?

Barbie: Then why the ads in Us Weekly?

Ken: I’m still not sure about that. In retrospect, it seems a little desperate. I’m embarrassed. I guess I just wanted to get your attention. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give it another try, but you should know I can stand on my own these days.

Barbie: Really?

Ken: Really. Check it: (stands on own).

Barbie: Wow. I can’t do that.

Ken: I know. But you’ve had dozens of careers, so people forget about little things like that. You ran for president, for Pete’s sake! Plus, you’re more anatomically correct these days, though in a ridiculously idealized way, so you’re obviously evolving. I am, too.

Barbie: If you tell me you’ve got a prehensile tail now…

Ken: Not evolving like that. I mean, I’m not just arm candy. I’ve got things I can do. I used to make pretty good grades, you know.

Barbie: Are you quoting “Pretty Woman” at me?

Ken: Maybe. The point is, it can’t all be about you. Maybe I’ll go to grad school. Maybe I’ll start a nonprofit. Heck, maybe I’ll get some sort of job. Just, anything to extract the “Ken” from “Barbie and Ken.” I mean, I’ve got a last name. It’s Carson. I’ll bet you didn’t even know that.

Barbie: I didn’t know that.

Ken: Yep. Ken Carson. Which is weirdly similar to “Kit Carson,” so maybe I’ll become a cowboy.

Barbie: Same ol’ Ken.

Ken: The more things change…


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