Remember the freak out that happened when Mattel released Earring Magic Ken in the 1990's? Dolled up in a purple mesh tee shirt and shiny purple vinyl vest and sporting a single earring that was the jewelry equivalent of a knowing wink, it was clear that Barbie wasn't his girlfriend, she was his girl friend, and that Ken was probably totally crushing on Alan. Photographer Dina Goldstein had similar doubts about Ken's role in Barbie's life, but instead of wondering quietly like the rest of us, she created a whole hilarious photo shoot around the idea that Ken and Barbie are stuck in a loveless marriage. Emotional tragedy has never been so comedic.
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According to Goldstein, Barbie's runaway princess astronaut veterinarian Totally Hair success has trampled over Ken, who is basically around to support Barbie's ambitions. She writes, "'In the doll house' examines the less than perfect life of B and K. B is the most successful doll in the world. Her partner K is grappling with his sexuality and finds himself in a loveless marriage." But there's something larger than the Idealized Plastic Lady, Closeted Dude Living a Fake Perfect Life dynamic at play here, too — shifting gender roles and a Western populace that hasn't yet become totally comfortable in them.
Goldstein's also behind the genius "Fallen Princesses," the series of photos that showed women dressed as beloved Disney characters doing bummery things like having lazy husbands, drinking alone in a dive bar, and hoarding cats.
If you were hoping Barbie and Ken were able to work it out, I've got some bad news (and a spoiler alert, kind of) — "In the Dollhouse" ends with Barbie cutting off all of her hair and somehow ending up sitting alone on a chair, head lying alongside her. Like so many Barbie tragedies.