It’s probably not a question you thought too much about as a child, but when you inevitably trip over a naked Barbie and/or Ken doll in your house as a parent, you’ve probably mused on how happy their marriage could possibly be.
You know, given the circumstances.
So just how did Ken come to be a eunuch? Was it before their marriage? Was it some kind of comment on what happens to men after they tie the knot?
Well, my friends, wonder no more.
Here we go.
It might interest you to know that there were people at Mattel – most notably, Barbie’s creator Ruth Handler and Charlotte Johnson, an early outfit designer – who thought Ken should have an actual penis.
Or, lacking that, “at least…a bulge.”
Johnson argued (rightfully), “Do you know what every little girl in this country is going to do? They are going to sit there and scratch that paint off to se what’s under it. What else would they do?”
They would have to scratch off paint, because, as Ruth relayed, early Ken wore permanent swim trunks.
“If the child took off the swimsuit, we felt it would be inappropriate with an adult boy to show the penis – so we all reached a conclusion that he should have a permanent swimsuit.”
Mattel even enlisted the help of a psychologist and marketing expert, Dr. Ernest Dichter, to figure out how girls might react when they undressed Barbie’s counterpart – because dressing and undressing the doll was the primary way children interacted with them.
“He questioned whether children would understand that Ken was a boyfriend or comprehend what a boyfriend really was. Would they see Ken as their fathers, brothers, or the boy next door? And if so, was it healthy to see him undressed? And when he was naked, why did he or didn’t he look like Daddy or a brother?”
What I’m saying is, a lot of thought was put into Ken’s micro-bulge.
I’m also saying that, as a girl with a modest father and no brothers who played with Barbies in the 80s, I had MANY QUESTIONS the first time I was confronted with actual anatomy.
The deciding factors, though, turned out to be more mundane: manufacturing process and cost.
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The Japanese manufacturing plant had trouble molding the shorts over Ken’s original package – and also, the first, larger bulge would have added a cent and a half to every single doll.
It was an engineering supervisor who made the unilateral decision to shave it down, and voila. Here we are.
If you’re interested in the full monty – er, story – Jezebel has an in depth assessment and history that will ensure you never look at a Ken doll the same again.
And I don’t know. Maybe that’s not a bad thing?
The poor guy deserves some attention after decades of wearing those trunks to cover up almost nothing.
Don’t you think?