It’s time we had a talk about Ken’s private parts. Or, more specifically, about Ken’s lack of them.
I’m not talking about just any Ken here, of course. (Apologies to those who know someone named Ken and got worried.) I’m referring to Ken the doll, close friend to Barbie the doll.
Since its introduction in 1961, the Ken doll has been an icon of manliness, a ripped, heat-molded hunk of dude plastic that set totally reasonable body expectations for boys and men.
However, there always was something missing.
On Tuesday, news broke that toymaker Mattel was introducing “15 new and diverse Ken dolls.” Like most normal American men, I assumed Mattel was finally hooking my bromigo Ken up with the genitalia he has long lived without.
Let’s pause a moment to acknowledge the sad fact Barbie and Ken have spent their entire time on this planet in a state of anatomical incorrectness. To put it tenderly, they have no bits and pieces.
Some parents believe that’s good. I assume they want to make sure their children don’t learn to be comfortable with the existence of natural parts of the human body, thus guaranteeing future generations of parents who have awkward hangups and squirm at the thought of a plastic doll with a penis.
To each his or her own.
But my concern — and I’m focusing on Ken here because he’s in the news and because I’m a guy — is with Ken’s psyche. He has been sans penis for more than five decades, and it has got to be wearing on him.
So back to Mattel’s announcement. In a humane toy manufacturing world, that announcement would have involved 15 new anatomically correct Ken dolls.
What did we get? According to Mattel’s press release: “The line includes 15 new Ken dolls with three body types, seven skin tones, eight hair colors, nine hairstyles and modernized fashions, ranging from casual business attire to athletic wear.”
Nary a penis, folks. And to add insult to injury, those Mattel monsters gave one version of Ken a man bun.
If you don’t know what a man bun is, good. Your eyes thank you.
A man bun is a rounded glob of man hair perched on the top of a man head. It looks like someone lopped off one of Princess Leia’s cool side buns from the first Star Wars movie and glued it to the top of some idiot’s noggin. It’s the single most ridiculous hairstyle since the mullet, and it is found only on men who wear sandals and never shut up about craft beer.
Ken wearing a man bun is like Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire, wearing a garbage bag.
Mattel also gave Ken three different body types: original, which is awesome; slim, which is unworthy of the Ken name; and broad, which is a nice way of saying “dad bod.” I don’t want kids emulating my “works-out-but-still-eats-too-much” physique. I want them aspiring to the original, unattainable Ken physique, the one I always dreamed of but couldn’t realize because God made ice cream taste delicious.
Per Mattel’s press release: “The Barbie brand has always reflected the times, so modernizing Ken is the next step in the brand’s evolution to offer more diverse products.”
I’m all-in on the diversity front. It’s great to see Ken and Barbie better reflecting the different faces of Americans.
But I did pose the following questions to Mattel’s press office:
1) Does Ken still not have a penis?
2) At the risk of sounding overly concerned about a doll’s psychological well-being, don’t you think he would prefer getting a penis first and a man bun second?
Those are reasonable inquiries. The fact that Mattel didn’t respond indicates they might not be acting in Ken’s best interests.
That’s why I’m starting a social media campaign using the #GiveKenAPenis hashtag. Please join me in directing your outraged tweets to Mattel’s Twitter account: @Mattel.
Also, while I’m not up to date on doll law, I would hope someone who is might see if Mattel could be compelled to give Ken — in all his various body types, skin tones and annoyingly weird clothing — the one thing he truly deserves.
Because having your plastic hair done up in a man bun is bad enough. Having a man bun and no penis? Well, that’s just wrong.
Rex Huppke is a columnist
for the Chicago Tribune.