“You can tell it’s Mattel, it’s swell!
Sound familiar? Yes, that is the motto of the world’s largest toy company. Musee des Arts Decoratifs is hosting a retrospective of Barbie who made her debut in March, 1959. My younger sister played with both Barbie and Chatty Cathy, the doll who talked! I do remember playing with the Jack in the Box and the toy ukulele which were toys envisioned by Elliott Handler, the husband of Ruth Handler. Ruth Handler came up with the idea for Barbie at least in part from watching her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls that showed fashionable women. Ruth developed the idea for a three- dimensional doll. She had to overcome a lot of discouragement including from her husband. The doll was an instant hit with girls. (I saw some teenagers playing with Barbies in a doll house in a play area in the exhibition, so she is still a draw.)
The exhibition displayed dozens of Barbies. She now comes in four body shapes and various eye colors and shades of skin. She has had 155 professions of which I saw Barbie dressed as running for President (you go, girl), pilot, medic, McDonald’s associate, Olympic gold medalist, elementary school teacher, soccer star, baseball star, cheerleader, runner, stewardess, photographer, socialite, astronaut (she landed on the moon before Apollo 11), doctor, magician, health club nut (in pink tights), chef, Coca Cola saleswoman and pianist. To my surprise, there was one doll dressed in sexy black negligee looking like a dominatrix. What? Well, in the interview with Ruth and Elliott in English, Ruth said she wanted to encourage girls to be anything they wanted!!
The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is a part of the Louvre converted into a museum in 1905. The collections are arranged chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present day in terms of the decorative arts which range from furniture to silverware to China to fabrics to wall paper and on and on! I LOVED the 300 examples of wallpaper. The wallpaper subjects included flowers, serious Greco-Roman scenes, abstractions, but my favorite was a scene in which a Roman soldier had piled his armor under a tree and was caught mid-air jumping nude into a pond with Wild Abandon and Great Glee. OK, I have to admit that the two almost X-rated wallpapers were fun, too. One was of a voluptuous, scantily clad woman who looked like she wanted to do some interesting things with the mini-hula-hoop she held. 🙂
On the way to the museum today, we rode the Bateau Mouches, the long, sight-seeing boats that ply the Seine in the historical Paris section. We could see all the decorations on the bridges that one cannot see when crossing them. You could also see homeless folks sleeping in their tents or sleeping bags under the bridges. The Seine is home to many boats often tied up triple-deep along the quais. David Downie in one of his essays on Paris describes the hard life of the boat people who live and work on the tugboats and cargo-hauling boats. This way of life has been threatened, but since hauling on the river is more “green” than other options, they might be making a come-back.
We came home late today to the news of the bombing in Brussels that occurred at 11 AM, our time. On the street, we often see gendarmes walking around with automatic rifles. This is a difficult time for Europeans. My friends here say that they don’t want the terrorists to destroy their way of life. So, they continue on as usual.