This column wouldn’t be the first to point out that, for reasons due mostly to money, the United States cares more about exporting our culture’s more cheesy byproducts rather than echt American culture. Of course, some people would argue that we have no culture, only balance sheets to watch over.
Forget sharing the glories of William Faulkner, Thomas Jefferson or Mississippi Delta blues singers with the rest of the world. We want overseas businesses generating cold, hard cash. Then we can sit back and watch the French vandalize McDonald’s franchises while the British lampoon Disney theme parks.
• No fight casts this mindset into more hilarious light than toy maker Mattel’s legal battle with MCA Records, Inc. If Mattel hadn’t filed suit against the record label, the 1997 hit song “Barbie Girl,” written by Danish group Aqua, would have melted into obscurity. But a toy maker’s attorney’s gotta have something to do. Mattel sued MCA for infringement and dilution of its trademark. After five years of legal arguments in lower courts, Mattel lost. Finally, this week, the Supreme Court—yes, the U.S. Supreme Court—turned down the case and refused comment. In between, MCA sued the toy maker for defamation after Mattel compared the record label to a bank thief, proving that it’s not just children who fight over toys.
And, hey, the doll is big money, generating $1.5 billion in sales annually. It also has origins in 1950s Germany as a streetwalking doll for much older crowds, is a whipping post for feminists, and often cited as the subconscious reason so many women feel insecure about their bodies. Salt Lakers might even remember a certain artist who found himself in court with Mattel after he constructed portraits of the doll wrapped in enchiladas. And now, of course, the doll is an international symbol of American glamour.
• Try telling that to Iranians, many of whom see Barbie as an international symbol of American sex, materialism and breast jobs. “I think every Barbie doll is more harmful than an American missile,” an Iranian toy seller told BBC News last March. Every patriotic American who cares about freedom and the Republican Party knows this is a lie, of course. As part of the “Axis of Evil,” Iran must be crushed underfoot sooner or later. The sooner they succumb to the ways of Barbie, the better. Perhaps our fearless President George W. Bush could assist Mattel in another lawsuit, eh?
• Alas, even the civilized Dutch don’t care too much for some of our toys, especially the more violent video games. Editor of a gay newspaper in the Netherlands, Henk Krol was aghast when he discovered that the American video game “Postal 2” lets players shoot homosexuals, heroin addicts and certain domesticated animals. An earlier version of the same game was banned in Australia. The Arizona-based game developer, Running With Scissors, told Reuters news service, “It’s a game—get over it.”
• The Deseret News has officially jumped aboard the fray over SUVs. In a profile and review of journalist Keith Bradsher’s book High and Mighty: SUVs—The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way, book editor Dennis Lythgoe couldn’t help mention surveys showing that minivan drivers are more likely to care about their communities, volunteer and attend church than their SUV-owning counterparts. The latter have been derided as an image-conscious pack of environmentally selfish bastards with money to burn. As the anti-war posters say, “Draft SUV drivers first!” Here in Utah, minivans are derided as “Mormon attack vehicles.”