If your daughter's Barbie doll has been scalped or beheaded--and you know her brothers are not to blame this time--do not be alarmed. It turns out that when girls outgrow their Barbie dolls, torturing them is commonplace.
That's the peculiar conclusion researchers at Great Britain's University of Bath reached after questioning approximately 100 children about their attitudes to a range of products as part of a study on branding. "The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity and see the torture as a 'cool' activity," Agnes Nairn, one of the researchers, told The Associated Press. "The types of mutilation are varied and creative and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving."
Of all the products the researchers discussed with the kids, Barbie provoked the strongest reaction--and it was overwhelmingly negative with children reporting rejection, hatred and violence.
"The meaning of 'Barbie' went beyond an expressed antipathy; actual physical violence and torture towards the doll was repeatedly reported, quite gleefully, across age, school and gender," Nairn explained to AP. Boys didn't have the same reaction to their action dolls; they felt nostalgia and affection instead.
Nairn thinks renouncing Barbie is a rite of passage for many girls, who see the doll not as a treasured toy, but rather as an inanimate object. "The most readily expressed reason for rejecting Barbie was that she was babyish, and girls saw her as representing their younger childhood out of which they felt they had now grown," she told AP. "Whilst for an adult the delight the child felt in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls is deeply disturbing, from the child's point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling."
What was Mattel's response to the Barbie mutilation trend? A spokesperson for Mattel U.K. told AP that despite the findings of "this very small group of children, we know that there are millions of girls in the U.K. and across the world that love and enjoy playing with Barbie and will continue to do so in the future."
No doubt that's true. Here's an astounding fact, according to Mattel: Three Barbie dolls are sold every second somewhere in the world.