A Travellerspoint blog

French affairs

Greetings Homebodies from your recalcitrant Blogeur, currently in France. Bare with me as I try to catch up, starting with Paris (travelling is all consuming and I admit I've been gorging on the experience and when I have down time I've been resting rather than writing). So, let's recap, one blog at a time.

As soon as we disembarked from the Eurostar in Paris and stumbled into the street to find a cab I had an urge to brush my hair and put on some lipstick. The train trip took only two hours but I felt shabby. Paris does that to you. I blame the architecture and the women. Around every corner you find a picture perfect building, reaching into the sky like a giddy gateau, dwarfing you into insignificance . And the women? Of course not all are beautiful but I suspect that the moment a tourist sets foot in Paris, a perfumed army of women on bikes and foot with straight backs, long legs and tousled hair are released from a warehouse to boost the beautiful Parisian women quota, and put lesser women in their place. Mission accomplished.

Parisian women may mesmerise tourists, but Paris is currently besotted by just one woman. This celebrated femme is the antithesis of the earthy, French beauty. She is a manufactured American hottie with sticky-out-bosoms and teeny-tiny-feet. She is Barbie, and her life and times are on show at Les Arts Decoratifs (March 10 – September 18)
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Of course the French, being The French, want you to know that it's no small thing for Barbie to be given the honour of a solo exhibition in Paris i.e. "this is the first time that Barbie is the subject of an invitation to a French museum". And they do her proud. The exhibition is huge, covering two floors and exploring Barbie from her creation in 1959, through her declining years, and attempts to shrug off her impossibly pert image with the creation of curvy Barbie, disabled Barbie, Dr Barbie etc.

Of all the Barbie's it is the original, and her history that is most fascinating. Ruth Handler (wife of Elliott Handler, one of the founders of the Mattel toy company) wanted to create a 'grown up' doll for girls. On a visit to Germany she saw a doll called Lilli, a promotional toy aimed at the (mostly male) fans of a newspaper cartoon (below) featuring "an impertinent pinup who charmed men into getting her way".
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It's uncanny how similar the original Barbie is to the Lilli doll (below) and no surprise that the predominately male folk at Mattel were uncomfortable about creating a doll that resembled an adult woman. Time however proved Ruth right. And although Barbie has lost currency over the years she still has what it takes to turn heads in Paris.
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Posted by Meli Clarke 13:23

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'Like a giddy gateau' ... Girl's still got the write stuff.

by Richard Mortlock

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