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紐約時報: 為什麼芭比到今天依然重要?

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Barbie Has Never Been a Great Symbol, but She’s an Excellent Mirror

 

紐約時報中英雙語          2023-7-24

 

 

The “Barbie” movie arrives today as the culmination of a nearly 15-year process that started when Universal Pictures acquired the rights to the character — which isn’t an unusually long time in Hollywood, where scripts regularly languish in turnaround until a combination of big names and deep pockets brings them to life. But Barbie’s film debut also comes in the context of a much longer and more tortuous journey with an existential question at its core: After all these years, does Barbie still matter? And if she does, then … why?

環球影業獲得芭比版權15年後,《芭比》終於上映了,這個時間對好萊塢來說不算特別久,畢竟劇本常常陷入不斷修改的苦境,直到有一天大人物和雄厚資金聯手將它搬上熒幕。但《芭比》走向銀幕的過程有著一個格外漫長而痛苦的背景,決定它生死的核心問題是:這麼多年過去了,芭比還重要嗎?如果重要的話,是為什麼?

 

From the moment Barbara Millicent Roberts — Barbie — came on the scene in 1959, the doll was controversial. Male toy executives, conditioned to believe that little girls wanted to play with babies, were flummoxed by this representation of a fully grown woman. But little girls, as they do, understood. Barbie became a sensation. And then a lightning rod. Then a concern. For the past 64 years, Barbie has been at the center of countless debates about who women are, who they should be, how they look and what they want.

 

自1959年芭芭拉·米利森特·羅伯茨——芭比——問世以來,這個娃娃一直是個爭議。玩具製造商的男性高管慣常地認為小女孩喜歡玩嬰兒娃娃,這樣的成年女性娃娃形象讓他們感到困惑。但小女孩們不困惑,她們懂。芭比紅極一時。然後招來批評。然後變成了令人擔憂的問題。在過去的64年裡,芭比娃娃一直處於無數爭論的中心:何為女性,她們應該是什麼人,她們應該是什麼樣子,以及她們想要什麼。

 

Barbie looms as simultaneously an unrealistically proportioned airhead and a striving Everywoman. Most of the time she can’t utter a word, yet she’s believed to speak for a critical mass of us. Perhaps that’s why the “Barbie” movie that finally exists is the only one that could exist: one that acknowledges and embraces that weirdness under the vigilant gaze of a corporate chaperone. The trailer’s tagline (“If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.”) is confirmation that Barbie is, in the most literal way, everyone’s business.

芭比既以一個身材比例不切實際、頭腦簡單的女人形象出現,又代表了努力奮鬥的普通女人。她大多數時候不會說話,但被認為代表了我們中的大多數人。也許這就是為什麼最終面世的《芭比》電影是唯一可能存在的芭比電影:一部在企業監護人警惕的目光下承認並擁抱這種怪異的電影。預告片的口號(「如果你喜歡芭比,你應該看這部電影。如果你討厭芭比,你應該看這部電影。」)以最直白的方式表明,芭比和每個人都相關。

 

I get it. At 6 years old, I was offered a choice between two dolls for my birthday: the Bionic Woman or Barbie. I didn’t, in contemporary toy-representation parlance, see myself in Barbie; the Bionic Woman’s brown hair and jumpsuit much more accurately mirrored my ponytail and hand-me-down corduroy overalls. Barbie, with her white-blond cascade of flosslike hair and a plunge-necked pink dress, was nothing like any woman I’d ever seen. Wasn’t that the point?

我能理解。6歲生日的時候,有兩個娃娃供我選擇:「無敵女金剛」或芭比。用當下談論玩偶代表性的慣用語來講,我沒有在芭比身上「看到我自己」;而無敵女金剛的棕色頭髮和連體衣更像是我的鏡像——一個梳著馬尾辮,穿著別人穿剩下的燈芯絨連體衣的女孩。芭比的層層金髮如絲綢一般,穿著深V粉色連衣裙,完全不像任何我見過的女性。可是,不就是為了這個嗎?

 

I chose Barbie.

我選擇了芭比。

 

In my childhood, the doll was always there — perched on my dresser, toted along on car trips, surfing the waves of my bathtub on a tortoiseshell comb. She was more distant in my adulthood, as Barbie had become a subject of feminist concern. I followed many authors, artists, musicians and assorted culture jammers who were publicly working out their own Barbie issues in fascinating ways. Along the way, I realized this: Barbie is that childish thing none of us can put away, because as long as she’s existed, she’s never been a child. Rather, she’s been an emblem, a scapegoat, a lightning rod, a target and, most of all, a mirror. However we feel about Barbie at a given moment says a lot more about us than it does about Barbie.

在我的童年裡,這個娃娃一直在那裡——坐在我的梳妝台上,在汽車旅行中陪伴我,在我的浴缸裡,站在我的玳瑁梳上衝浪。成年後,我和她疏遠了,因為芭比成了女性主義者關注的話題。我關注了許多作家、藝術家、音樂家以及各種文化反堵人士,他們用及其有趣的方式公開解決自己的芭比困境。一路走來,我意識到:芭比是我們誰都無法擺脫的孩童玩物,因為自問世以來,她從來不是孩子。相反,她是一個象徵、一個替罪羊、一個眾矢之的、一個被針對的目標,最重要的是,她是一面鏡子。然而,我們在某個特定時刻對芭比的感覺更多地反映了我們自己,而不是芭比本身。

 

When the 1980s backlash against women’s liberation bled into the ’90s, psychologists started raising the alarm over a crisis in girls’ confidence in best-selling books like “Reviving Ophelia.” Anita Hill was explaining sexual harassment to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and women on college campuses were reporting an alarming incidence of sexual assaults. A new wave of feminism was cresting, and it was dragging Barbie under. There was the matter of her unnatural proportions, like a waist-to-hip ratio that could not exist in real life without sacrificing key internal organs. Later, it was her inescapable blondness and whiteness. Despite introductions of Black and Latina Barbies in 1980, along with special collections like the 1980s’ Barbies of the World, everyone knew the real Barbie — the icon, the ur-Barbie, the one true Barbie — was a testament to the same Western beauty ideal inscribed into America’s other institutions of ornamental femininity, from Hollywood to Miss America to Playboy.

當上世紀80年代的反婦女解放思潮蔓延到90年代,心理學家開始通過《拯救奧利菲婭》(Reviving Ophelia)等暢銷書對女孩的自信心危機發出警報。安妮塔·希爾在向參議院司法委員會闡釋何為性騷擾,大學校園裡女性報告的性侵事件多到驚人。新的女權主義浪潮正在興起,芭比也被捲入其中。她不自然的身材比例是個問題,現實中不可能有那種連重要臟器都無處安放的腰臀比。後來,她那無法無視的金髮和白皮膚也成了問題。儘管黑人和拉丁裔芭比在1980年就已問世,還有上世紀80年代的「世界芭比」等特別收藏系列,但所有人都明白,真正的芭比——那個符號,原形芭比,唯一正宗的芭比——代表的是西方的理想審美,從好萊塢到「美國小姐」再到《花花公子》,這種審美已被刻入美國裝飾性女性氣質的習俗之中。

 

As with every iteration of feminism, those of us in the third wave that rose in the ’90s had to grapple with the missteps, misgivings and unfinished business of the previous generations. Barbie certainly wasn’t the most important issue, but she was, after all, right there, nakedly and even proudly what we would come to term problematic. So we donned our hot-pink hair shirts.

正如每一次女權主義浪潮一樣,經歷了上世紀90年代興起的第三波女權浪潮的我們不得不去面對前人的行差踏錯、憂慮困擾和未竟事業。芭比當然不是最重要的議題,但她畢竟就在那裡,毫無遮掩甚至是自豪地成為我們稱為「存在問題」的物品。於是我們穿起粉色的剛毛衫折磨自己。

 

Barbie’s overlords were also being humbled. In 1992, Mattel introduced Teen Talk Barbie, which uttered, among other phrases, a chirpy “Math class is tough!” confirming that the historically trend-savvy brand was falling behind the times — and prompting criticism from the American Association of University Women. Mattel’s litigious responses to things like the 1998 intersectional feminist body-image essay collection “Adios, Barbie” and Aqua’s gratingly ubiquitous earworm “Barbie Girl” didn’t help its P.R. Mattel celebrated Barbie’s 40th birthday in 1999 with a brand overhaul that shifted focus from dolls to actual girls, debuting an ad campaign that exhorted its young audience to “become your own hero.”

芭比的主宰者也已經不能再肆無忌憚。1992年美泰推出了「會說話的少年芭比」,她的發言包括一句俏皮的「數學課真難!」,證明了這個歷來緊跟潮流的品牌已經落後於時代,並招致美國大學女性協會的批評。美泰對1998年出版的多元交織性女權主義身體意象文集《再見,芭比》(Adios, Barbie)以及水叮噹(Aqua)的洗腦神曲《芭比女孩》(Barbie Girl)做出的訴訟回應對公司的公關處境也沒什麼好處。1999年,為慶祝芭比誕生40週年,美泰對品牌進行了重塑,將焦點從玩偶轉移到真實的女孩身上,推出了一系列廣告宣傳片,鼓勵年輕觀眾「做自己的英雄」。

 

The “Barbie” movie is also about becoming your own hero or at least taking a hero’s journey — one that leads Barbie into a real world that, for the most part, finds her either dangerous or irrelevant. It’s a fitting approach, since the most interesting thing about Barbie has always been our reactions to her. Some reviews have said the film suffers from an attempt by the director, Greta Gerwig, to incorporate the breadth of the Barbie discourse, causing a narrative overload. But how could it not, given just how much discourse Barbie has inspired over 64 years?

電影《芭比》也是關於如何做自己的英雄,或者至少踏上英雄之旅的故事,片中的芭比被帶入現實世界,她發現自己在其中要麼身陷危險,要麼無關緊要。這種情節編排恰如其分,因為芭比最有意思的一點從來都是我們對她的態度。有評論表示,由於導演格蕾塔·葛韋格試圖將芭比的寬泛話題融入到影片之中,導致敘事過載。但考慮到芭比在過去64年裡引發了多少討論,敘事怎可能不多?

 

There’s a different film — the 2018 documentary “Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie” — that, for me, helps put that discourse in context. “Tiny Shoulders” chronicled Mattel as a company in crisis: Faced with shrinking revenues and declining audience interest, the company was poised in 2016 to introduce a collection of dolls whose skin tones and body types tick a few diversity boxes. I was interviewed for the film, alongside the Barbie historians M.G. Lord and Amanda Foreman and the feminist authors Roxane Gay (a contributing Opinion writer) and Gloria Steinem, with each of us offering context and commentary on Barbie’s place in the past, present and future of women’s lives.

在我看來,另一部影片——2018年的紀錄片《迷你肩膀:再造芭比》(Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie)——有助於為這些話語提供語境。片中的美泰是一家危機重重的公司:面對營收縮水和顧客興趣的喪失,公司準備在2016年推出一個膚色和體型都符合一些多樣性標準的玩偶系列。我與研究芭比發展史的M·G·羅德和阿曼達·福爾曼、女權作家羅克珊·蓋伊(時報觀點作家)和格洛麗亞·斯泰納姆都在片中接受了採訪,對芭比在女性生活的過去、現在和未來扮演了怎樣的角色提供了背景和評論。

 

I didn’t realize the film’s narrative would essentially serve as a Mattel redemption arc. When I saw the finished film, I realized that in the course of my life I had gone from a guileless Barbie consumer to an enlightened Barbie renouncer to an unwitting Barbie P.R. booster.

沒想到那部影片的敘事最終會變成美泰的洗白。看完全片後,我意識到自己的人生道路就是從一個天真質樸的芭比消費者成為覺醒的芭比厭棄者,再變成了一個不明真相的芭比公關推動者。

 

Yet for all the ways Barbie has evolved, so have our expectations for her. As Michelle Chidoni, Mattel’s P.R. chief (or, as she describes herself, “Barbie’s publicist”), said, inspiring the documentary’s title, Barbie holds the weight of several generations’ worth of beauty standards and feminist analysis on her tiny shoulders. Those shoulders might get the occasional refashioning — to make them more athletic or fleshier or more diverse in hue or, in the case of this new film, more self-aware of the weight they’ve been tasked with carrying — but that doesn’t change the fact that we keep adding standards for her to live up to. As a symbol, Barbie is so complicated as to be useless. But as a vessel, she’s proved remarkably durable.

雖然芭比早已面目全非,但我們對她的期待也是一變再變。正如美泰公關負責人米歇爾·奇多尼(她自稱「芭比公關」)所說,這部紀錄片片名的意思就是,芭比小小的肩膀承載了幾代人的審美標準和女權解構的重量。這些肩膀可能時不時被重塑——變得更健壯、更豐滿、有更多樣的膚色,或是像這部新電影一樣,更能自主意識到它們負擔的重任——但這並不能改變一個事實,即我們一直在為她增添需要達到的標準。作為一個象徵符號的芭比是如此複雜,以至於失去了實際用途。但作為一種載體,她被證明是經久不衰的。

 

I’m willing to acknowledge — even mock — my once-reflexive feminist rejection of everything Barbie: She never had to be a zero-sum figure, a thing you were either with or against. Many of us definitely saw her that way. That we did speaks only to the continuing challenges of a world that, even now, isn’t sure whether women can be free of stereotypes or expectations and be allowed to simply exist.

 

我願意承認——甚至是嘲諷——我的女權主義立場曾令我不假思索地拒絕關於芭比的一切:她從來都不是個非黑即白的人物,不支持就得反對。我們中的許多人肯定是這樣看待她的。這種現狀只能說明困難依舊存在,即使到了現在,這個世界還是不確定女性能否擺脫刻板印象或期望,能否就那麼簡簡單單地存在著。

 

Andi Zeisler是《We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement》一書的作者。

 

翻譯:明齋、Harry Wong

 

中国妇权Women’s Rights in China
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