The Barbie Doll, Popular Culture and 'What Concerns You'

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The Barbie Doll, Popular Culture and 'What Concerns You'

Postby RonPrice » Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:07 am

Modern living is filled with concerns and viewpoints, tips and tricks, indeed, an endless array of issues and worries, pleasures and pains. Here is one that concerned or perhaps just interested millions and still does even if only peripherally. In some ways this image is crucial to modern living, although of little interest to me at least not as conveyed by this particular consumer you will see in the following prose-poem-Ron Price, Tasmania :arrow:

The popular doll, Barbie, artifact of female representation and identity, of depiction and posturing of women, has evoked a steady stream of critical attention since her debut in 1959. I have not been that conscious of this critical attention involved as I have been since 1959 with issues relating to my education, my career, my family and my religion. If millions of pre-pubescent females have lived imaginatively and vicariously through Barbie this has never really concerned me. The world is burgeoning with issues and this was one far removed from my flight path, my radar screen.

In 1959 I joined the Baha’i Faith and the agenda that has concerned me has only on rare occasions and only very peripherally involved the barbie doll. –Ron Price with thanks to “The Wonder of Barbie: Popular Culture and the Making of Female Identity,” Essays in Philosophy: A Biannual Journal, Vol.4, No.1, January 2003.

The essence of feminine beauty
is vigilance and artificiality.
Men may be expected to enhance
their appearance, but women are
supposed to transform themselves.

Who is the fairest of them all.
The mirror replies, “Before I
answer that, may I suggest an
alpha-hydroxy lotion?…this
Revlon spray?…this lipstick?

Where have you been Barbie?
You popped into my life when
I visited those kids in Whyalla
and when I went shopping more
than usual between marriages.

Images of maleness were many
and varied: my dad, grandfather,
uncle, those westerns on TV back
in the fifties and all those old chaps
in Baha’i history--unquestionably--

subtlely, insinuating themselves into
my imaginative faculty on cold
Canadian evenings; Jim Gibb
reading poems, John Dixon’s
quiet kindness, Douglas Martin’s
clever use of words, so many
ordinarily ordinary men, artifacts
of identity, of depiction and posturing:
nothing like Dick, his relentless jollity,
his banklike security and his always
impeccable decorator and merry picnic.

Ron Price
2 October 2006
Last edited by RonPrice on Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Oct 28, 2004 12:56 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

Popular Culture: Revisited

Postby RonPrice » Tue Mar 24, 2009 6:06 am

Since no one has responded to the above in the last two years, I will place some of my thoughts on popular culture below to provide a fuller context for my prose-poem on the barbie-doll--a piece of body-architecture in the commercial-consumerist culture.-Ron Price, Tasmania
More than twenty years ago now, from May 1983 to March 1986, some 150 of my essays appeared in the newspapers of a small town in the Northern Territory. I had travelled-pioneered to this place in 1982 and remained there until 1986. Many of my essays were about popular culture. Looking back it would seem that whatever intellectual gifts I have been endowed with were first in evidence in written form in these published writings, these essays, in what was then and is still now a remote part of Australia. None of this material has been transferred to my website. Ten years before these essays first appeared, I had been a lecturer in a college of advanced education, but the gift of writing was not really substantiated in my own eyes until these essays started to appear in the Katherine Advertiser in 1983.

“Time, which puts an end to human pleasures and sorrows,” said Samuel Johnson, “has likewise concluded the labours of this Rambler.”(1) It would be three decades after making this remark, before Johnson’s labours were concluded--and my own, in the field of writing, it seems now, looking back, had just begun. A meticulous researcher can find some of my articles in former college magazines in Ballarat and Launceston at what was then their Colleges of Advanced Education as well as in newspapers in Tasmania and in Baha’i magazines and archives in the period up to 1984. But, in the main, even up to this date in the first years of this new millennium, most of my published works are in this collection of essays I wrote in Katherine.

For those who find my poetry not to their liking, or who find my autobiography in its many forms not to their taste, they may find here manageable chunks of interest. Here is autobiography in another form. In the years before the Lesser Peace it was difficult to get direct Baha’i ideas into the print media but popular culture provided a way in so to speak. Few in Australia had been successful, although when I came to Perth I met two or three individuals who were more successful than I, or at least successful in different ways.(2) Indirection was often the only way in most situations in both the print and electronic media. In addition, several Baha'i academics had published their work in academic journals, but I have not acquired any list of their efforts.

“The distinctions between living, writing and reading were beginning to become blurred” says Tony Tanner in his analysis of the life of Henry James and the Art of Fiction”.(3) James saturated himself with, immersed himself in, his own writing. These essays written in Katherine represent the beginning of this process which ten years later was well advanced in my poetic efforts, but was kept from the extremes that James and other writers expressed in their lives. A job, a family and a community kept me from total immersion. There is none of the sacrificial vicariousness found in James’ writing, the heroic proportions found in the erudite performances of some of the great writers of history, none of the immense energies applied to the effort to write as they were in the case of Xavier Herbert. Most of my writing in the decade after these essays appeared was in the form of poetry and this poetry was mostly a font of pleasure with a great weariness at the edges of my life, a weariness that was perhaps part of the essential springboard to that poetry. Fiction served for many writers as an embedded template for autobiography. Poetry served that function for me.

Some of these essays deal with why I write and I will not reiterate these reasons here, but I should refer to the articles about Harold Ross, Shiva Naipaul, Brian Matthews and Norman Podhoretz since they contain some useful perspectives which I have integrated unknowingly into my own writing. I have not sent these articles to the BWCLilbrary. They are in my home collection. I would also like to refer to James Olney, one of the great analysts of autobiography, who said autobiography can “advance our understanding of the question ‘how shall I live?’”(4)

(1) Bertrand Bronson, editor, Samuel Johnson: Rasselas, Poems, Selected Prose, third edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1952, pp.164-168.
(2)Keith McDonald, Mike Day and Drewfus and Chelinay Gates, as well as the Baha’i Office of Public Information for Western Australia, in the years I have lived in Perth: 1987 to 1996, have contributed in no small way to the proclamation of the Baha’i Faith in the print and electronic media. They would merit a story unto themselves.
(3) Tony Tanner, Henry James and the Art of Fiction, University of Georgia Press, London, 1995, p.29.
(4) James Olney, Metaphor of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography, Princeton UP, 1972, p.xi. His writings have procided for me much on the architecture of autobiography.--Ron Price 26/12/96—2/3/06. Posted at ArchiterctureWeek Design Community.
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Oct 28, 2004 12:56 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

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