What a Doll ! -- The Astrological Story of Barbie
by Valerie Vaughan
Aside from members of royalty, there have been few individuals in history who have achieved fame at birth and have continued to maintain a high level of notoriety throughout their lives. But there is one well-known figure, a female, who obtained the status of idol soon after her appearance in this world and has been worshipped consistently for over forty years by several generations (and millions) of girls. This figure, however, is not a real human being, and doesn't even resemble physically what an actual human could look like. Nevertheless, thousands of replications of this figure are produced and sold every day in countries all over the world, and they account for over $1 billion a year in business. There are few American women under the age of fifty who haven't owned at least one, and the average American girl today owns ten copies of this figure. We're talking, of course, about Barbie, and she is more than just a pretty doll.
What can astrology tell us about Barbie? Astrology can be used to look under her surface and recognize what is really going on, some of which is not what her producers (Mattel, Incorporated) would like us to believe. Barbie's "birth" is officially recorded as March 9, 1959, the morning that she was first introduced at a major toy fair in New York. The chart drawn for this event shows a close conjunction of the Sun and Moon in Pisces, just a few hours following the New Moon. Pisces is known as the sign of fantasy and imagination, as well as mystery and deception. Barbie's Ascendant is the sign of material possessions, Taurus, which is ruled by Venus, the planet of beauty, fashion and glamour. On the surface (and according to the advertising promotion of Mattel), Barbie is a beautiful, fashionable image of femininity who offers an opportunity to dream and fantasize. But the astrological factors of her birth chart also indicate an individual who is aggressively feminine. Her chart ruler Venus is located in Aries, the sign associated with assertiveness. With all of these factors brought together, Barbie is an imaginary symbol of leadership in fashion who asserts herself through material consumption, yet she has no clear sense of self (Sun in Pisces).
The Mattel toy corporation, the producers of Barbie, have always insisted that this dream doll was deliberately created in such a way that she would not have a clearly identifiable personality, but rather one upon which little girls could project all their fantasies, supposedly making her whatever they wanted her to be. In theory, such an explanation may sound appealing, and it certainly fits with the astrological picture of a Pisces Sun -- someone who not only lives in a fantasy world totally unrelated to reality, but who is also a chameleon, always adapting to changing conditions and becoming whatever other people want her to be. However, this "blank slate" theory is also deceptive, for it denies some very distinct features of personality which are obvious from Barbie's superficial appearance -- a very sexy-looking creature whose sole purpose in life seems to be acquiring fashionable clothing and accessories that exude status and power.
Pisces is the sign of addiction. When combined with Taurus and an assertive Venus, the "substance" to which Barbie is addicted is material consumption. Mars is in Gemini in Barbie's first house, so there is a great deal of activity centered around the superficial changing of appearance (i.e., buying new outfits). Barbie is the ultimate expression of her birth chart, an expensive, pre-packaged and widely advertised fantasy that is aimed at training girls to be submissive consumers and dedicated followers of fashion. The real Piscean deception occurs when she "motivates" little girls (or rather, their parents) to shell out megabucks to supply her endless need for new styles, thus making Mattel the leading toy business in the world.
For thousands of years, little girls have played with dolls, but they were always baby dolls. Playing with baby dolls was an activity that arose spontaneously in every culture of the world; it was developed naturally out of the real need for socialization. For countless centuries, this was how girls prepared for their future biological role as mother, playing at being a mommy by taking care of a pretend baby. Although this playing involved imagination, it wasn't a fantasy world totally separate from reality; it was too directly connected to a very real and practical motive, that of preparing girls to live a real life of child-raising. The natural connection of doll-playing with mothering was shattered by the Barbarian invasion of the twentieth century. The name Barbie is a diminutive version of the name Barbara, which means "barbarian invader." Like her namesake, she took over the world that she had invaded, altering forever the realm of innocent girlhood.
With Uranus trine her chart ruler Venus and square her Ascendant, Barbie
burst on the scene of established society in 1959. Her physical appearance
was not designed to appeal to the mothering instinct in girls, but to the
primitive urge that leads females into the state of impregnation and eventual
motherhood, namely sex. The message Barbie conveys is not a lesson on how
to raise babies, but how to attract a mate so that you can make babies.
This is shown by the chart prominence of Venus, the goddess who rules sex,
but not its natural outcome, mothering. The ancient myths of Venus tell
us that she had no mother herself, nor even a true childhood. According
to the myths, she was born full-grown and voluptuous from the cast-off
genitals of her castrated father, Uranus. Barbie's chart shows that her
identity is a biologically-based, pheromone-driven combination of sex and
power. She has a sextile between Venus and Mars, as well as a 135-degree
(sesquiquadrate) aspect between Venus and Pluto.
The Many Identities of Barbie
One of the methods used for astrological analysis and prediction is called "Progressions." The basic idea is that each successive day following birth represents one year of life. For example, the astrological aspects that took place during the fifth day following your birth would show astrologically what your fifth year of life would be like. Taking an example from Barbie's own "life," on the 15th day following her "birth," there was a Lunar eclipse, which represents the shutting off or eclipsing of the relationship with the mother (symbolized by the Moon). In the corresponding progression, 15 years following Barbie's birth, the woman who had originally created her (Ruth Handler) resigned from Mattel. In other words, Barbie was abandoned by her "mother" during a progressed lunar eclipse. We can use the progressed birth chart to observe many other developments in the "life" of Barbie, such as the series of changes that were made each year in her clothing and marketing. Barbie herself didn't change much, but every year, she was re-packaged and sold with a new theme outfit.
In 1959, the original Barbie doll was presented as a "teenage fashion model." In the following years, new versions of Barbie appeared. Throughout the early 1960s, she was cast as currently-acceptable female role models, such as ballerina, nurse, and stewardess. By the early seventies, however, strides had been taken in the feminist movement which caused Mattel to re-evaluate and change Barbie's image. In 1973, a new Barbie appeared as a surgeon. What was going on in Barbie's progressed chart mirrored this development. Mars, the male planet, had progressed to a square with her natal Moon, an aspect which represents an assertive challenge to traditional feminine identity. Also, Barbie's ruling planet Venus had progressed to a trine with natal Pluto, the planet which, along with Mars, rules surgery.
In 1975, a series of new Barbie dolls appeared as Olympic athletes: a figure skater, downhill skier, and gymnast. That year, her progressed Venus was in trine to progressed Mars, the planet ruling physical activity and athletics. At the same time, her progressed Venus had moved to a trine with natal Saturn, the planet of cold (ice), and an opposition to Neptune, the planet that rules snow.
In 1984, with her progressed Sun in sextile to Mars, the newest Barbie was an aerobics instructor. In 1985, when progressed Venus was sextile her natal Sun, Barbie reverted to her former Venusian interests and appeared as a fashion designer. In 1986, Barbie again acted out her current transits. With her progressed Sun conjunct natal Venus, she appeared as a rock star. With a semi-square between progressed Mars and progressed Uranus, she appeared as an astronaut. 29 days after Barbie was born, Mercury was trine Jupiter, an aspect indicating travel and diplomacy. So in 1988, 29 years after she was born, the newest Barbies appeared as a United Nations ambassador, a diplomat and a pilot.
Thirty days after Barbie was born, there was a solar eclipse that occurred very close to the degree of her natal Venus. Astrologically, such an event can indicate a major change in self-image. In 1989 (thirty years after her birth), Barbie began to be marketed with the confident slogan, "We Girls Can Do Anything." She was no longer just a stewardess or nurse; she was now the pilot and the doctor. This reflected what was going on in society at the time, as American women were actively seeking a wider variety of employment options. Mattel wanted to make Barbie "a woman of substance" and hoped that this new air of professionalism might improve her status with the ever-critical feminists. With Mattel's change in marketing strategy, Barbie could still allow young girls to fantasize about adult life, but now she made the workplace appear enchanting rather than formidable.
In 1991, when progressed Mars (symbolizing the military) entered the water sign Cancer, Barbie became a naval officer. In 1992, her progressed Mercury stationed exactly square to progressed Mars, an aspect of aggressive communication. Appropriately, her new transformations included brash-talking characters such as a rap musician and a Marine Corps sergeant. 1992 was also the year that "Teen Talk" Barbies were introduced. These dolls contained computer chips that were programmed to produce the voicing of short phrases. Unfortunately, Mercury-Mars aspects tend to bring on critical, sometimes angry responses through communication. That year, both Barbie and Mattel were severely criticized for one of Teen Talk Barbie's recorded remarks. The offending phrase was "Math class is tough," a message that many educators and feminists felt reinforced math anxiety in girls by saying that thinking (a Mercury function) is challenging (Mars).
In 1993, Barbie's progressed Mars was in sextile to her natal Pluto, and she took on such Martian and Plutonic roles as police officer, Army medic, and Air Force Thunderbird squadron leader. Mars and Pluto are also known as symbols of violence, so it wasn't surprising that, during this same year, the news reported that 24 Barbie dolls had turned up in chain stores with their breasts and groins slashed, and the FBI had began preparing a psychological profile of the Barbie slasher.
In another manifestation of her Mars-Pluto progression, an underground
group called the Barbie Liberation Organization initiated a secret attack.
They switched the electronic voice messages between several Barbies and
the models of another talking toy, G.I. Joe. The BLO managed to place these
rigged dolls back on store shelves and generated a lot of publicity because
G.I. Joe could be heard uttering the unlikely words, "Let's go shopping,"
while Barbie shouted "Vengeance is mine!" The "corrected" G.I. Joe doll
also said things like "I love school. Don't you?" and "Let's sing with
the band tonight." Meanwhile, the "liberated" Barbie said, "Dead men tell
no lies." The goal of the BLO was to reveal the problem of gender-based
stereotyping in children's toys.
In 1995, Barbie's progressed Neptune reached a sextile with Saturn,
an aspect indicating nostalgia, revivals and fantasy views of the past.
This was the year that Mattel initiated a strategy to recreate old markets
by producing Barbie "collectibles" as a brand targeted to adults. Mattel
created a whole line of nostalgic Barbies replicating the early versions
of the 1960s, such as Ponytail Barbie. This was also the year that several
retrospective books were published, including "Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized
Biography of a Real Doll," and "Dream Doll," written by Ruth Handler, the
original creator of Barbie. In 1996-97, Barbie's progressed aspects included
Venus and Pluto making a T-square with Jupiter, the planet of learning.
Appropriately, her newest version that year was "Teacher Barbie."
Barbie's Love Life
Very early in Barbie's life (actually, when she was two years old), Mattel decided to give her a boyfriend. Ken was "born" on March 13, 1961, and he has a close time twin in real life. Just two days after Ken's first appearance as a doll, a baby boy was born who would eventually become the famous male model Fabio. At one time the highest paid model in the world, Fabio has appeared on the covers of over 100 million copies of romance novels. In 1993, he was named by Cosmopolitan magazine as the sexiest man of the year. Except for his Moon sign (Pisces), Fabio's chart is a near duplicate of Ken's.
Prior to Ken, no boy doll had ever succeeded at becoming popular in the U.S. Very few retailers ordered Ken dolls when they first came out in 1961, but the consumer demand was high. Initially, Ken's designers had argued over whether there should be a "bulge" in his groin, but the design team decided against it. His physical image is not exactly a strong example of vibrant masculinity, but poor Ken has never been much more than an accessory for Barbie, standing in the shadow of his partner in fame and fashion.. With his "genital abridgment," he is the ideal mate for the fashion queen, a goddess who is ministered to by a eunuch priest.
Ken's chart shows some rather effeminate features such as Sun in Pisces, Taurus rising, and Mars in the soft sign of Cancer. According to news reports, at least one model of Ken is a big hit with gay men. Sales of the "Earring Magic Ken" model (dressed in a lavender mesh shirt) have apparently gone primarily to gay men, something which Mattel claimed not to have anticipated. Looking at Ken's birth chart, we can see astrological indicators that have been associated with homosexuality, such as Moon in Aquarius square Neptune, and both the Sun and Venus in aspect to Uranus.
Many people have wondered about Ken's sexual preference. This is not surprising, since Ken is like everything else in the dream world of Barbie; there is an ever-present suggestion of sex, but the real "facts of life" are always hidden or "not mentioned." Anatomically, both dolls appear to be grown-up and fully mature, but only with their clothes on. Stripped naked of their latest fashions, one can easily see that both Barbie and Ken are castrated. Evidently, their love life is completely sexless.
The convoluted issue of Barbie's almost-but-not-really sexuality has been troubling people from the beginning, but Mattel has always found ways to deal with the problem. In the early years of Barbie, Mattel needed to convince parents that it was OK to buy their daughters a toy with breasts and an insatiable lust for clothes, so they enlisted the help of motivational psychologist Ernst Dichter, who was famous for helping advertisers find ways to get people to buy just about anything. Dichter conducted a secret six-month study of how parents and children responded to the teenage doll. What he found was discouraging; parents thought Barbie's sexiness was appalling and unsuitable for children. Dichter also found, however, that girls were fascinated by Barbie's outfits and enjoyed projecting her into fantasy situations that required constant wardrobe changes. Dichter then hit upon the marketing strategy. Barbie could be a teaching tool, a toy that would encourage the skills necessary to attract and catch a man. And so a man was required. Barbie "met" Ken in 1961 and has gotten a new wedding gown (but never a wedding) every year since.
The average consumer never hears about Barbie's true origins, but the details of this story reveal a great deal about the "mixed message" of her sexuality. In fact, Barbie's body design is based on a German doll called "Lilli" which was sold in the 1950s as a pornographic sex toy for men. As a symbol for illicit sex, Lilli was originally modeled after a gold-digging tart who had appeared in trashy German newspaper comics. Basically, she looked like a miniature German hooker. Lilli was 11-and-a-half inches high, had breasts, a small waist and long, tapered legs (does this sound familiar?). After purchasing this doll in Europe in 1957, Mattel's Ruth Handler came up with the "original idea" to make Barbie. Lilli's sordid background didn't faze Handler. She commissioned Mattel engineers to craft a busty American version of the Lilli doll while she created a marketing scheme that would revolutionize the toy business.
The first Lilli doll appeared on the German market on August 12, 1955. It might be relevant to look at Lilli's "birth" chart because she is really the origin for Barbie's physical body, which was copied after Lilli. Lilli's chart shows an amazing stellium of planets; the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Pluto are all conjunct in Leo. This is the chart of a body designed to be a queen and a leader, and there is nothing understated about her sexual nature because all the sexual planets are conjunct (Venus, Mars, Pluto). However, with Saturn in Scorpio squaring the entire stellium, the message is "You can look, but you can't touch." With this kind of background, the Barbie phenomenon may raise some questions about how society views female sexuality. We might also wonder what she is really teaching to little girls.
Copyright © One Reed Publications, 2002
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