Mattel might finally be accepting that their boy Ken is not your usual boy's toy -- because he is a boy toy.
There's been a ton written about Barbie as a lightning rod and figurehead of retrograde female sexuality. While Barbie has been criticized as a bad role model for young girls, aspiring bulimics and augmenters alike, comparitively little has been written about Ken. He's always been the sissy of boy dolls. He isn't an action figure; his express purpose is to be Barbie's boyfriend and a little girls' plaything. He is pretty much a mimbo -- a male bimbo.
Now that Ken is 51, mainstream culture seems willing to finally embrace his
swishier tendencies. In 1995, Pixar had wanted to include Ken and Barbie in the original Toy Story film, but Mattel wasn't interested. In Toy Story 3, opening this weekend, Ken is now a central character, voiced by actor Michael Keaton.
If you wrangle together Woody, the cowboy, Buzz Lightyear, the space-ranger and Ken, the boy Barbie, Toy Story 3 begins to look a lot like The Village People. And the comic wizards at Pixar seem to know that you can't animate a Ken doll in 2010 without a wink-wink nudge-nudge. Maybe Ken is gay or maybe he's just a girly-man; with a dashing cowboy and a macho astro-hero in the room, Ken only has eyes for Barbie. One of the film's best exchanges: Ken: "I like your leg-warmers." Barbie: "Nice Ascot."
And you know that montage in romantic comedies where the ingenue goes through her closet and tries on all her clothes as energizing pop music overwhelms the soundtrack? Ken might be the first male to be the subject of that rom-com mainstay. One of the chief conceits of Toy Story Ken is that he's a clothes horse, a toy boy Carrie Bradshaw with a Dream House full of outfits from every era. Thrilled to learn that Barbie shares his passion for fashion, he treats her to a fashion show -- from Malibu Ken to Mod Ken to Scuba Ken, Pilot Ken to Disco Ken -- modeled to the disco beat of "Le Freak."