Mattel Inc. seems to be fighting a losing battle when it comes to

stopping artists from using the Barbie doll as the subject of an art

work.  Every day in a variety of mediums Barbie & Ken keep appearing.

Whether in a pop song or underground film or on the internet. In an

effort to stem the tide Mattel Inc. has their lawyers working overtime.

The popularity and frequency of use by artists who loosely call

themselves, “culture jammers” is staggering. A cursory search on the

internet will turn up over 2000 separate art sites dealing with the

plastic pair. 

	Indeed, G.H. Hovagimyan, the host of Art Dirt, one of Pseudo’s

 most popular art programs,  received a letter

demanding the immediate withdrawal of his piece BKPC (Barbie & Ken

Politically Correct) 

from The Thing website. G.H. is no stranger to the

travails of vexing corporate entities. In 1994 his billboard for the New

York MTA titled, “Hey Bozo...Use Mass Transit” stirred up quite a

controversy among New Yorkers and received national media attention. It

also brought on the ire of Larry Harmon (Bozo the Clown) and his


	Interestingly enough The Thing (Vienna)  has also

received a letter demanding the withdrawal from the internet of an

artwork titled, “Barbie Und Ken sind HIV-positiv,”

 by the artist Franz Wasserman.  

Mr. Hovagimyan’s response to Mattel’s lawyer made it quite clear that he

felt within his rights to present BKPC on the internet without fearing

capricious attacks from Mattel Inc. Here is the letter he wrote to

Mattels lawyer;

William Dunnegan, Esq.

720 Fifth Avenue

New York, New York  10019

Dear Mr. Dunnegan:

I am an artist and I created the artwork that prompted your letter to

Wolfgang Staehle dated October 21, 1997. I offer this response as an

explanation for my work. First you should be aware that The Thing is a

website that is devoted to artists and allows them an opportunity to

exhibit artworks. There is no particular perspective or theme to

Wolfgang's site; rather it is a place for artists to show a wide variety

of works.I have chosen to exhibit several works including two pages on

the website that show a parody that I made that includes the Ken doll

and the Barbie doll. I chose to satirize this particular toy and its

image because I felt that was the most effective way to express the

protest that I was making about the use of these products by children

who eventually engage in activities such as war. While I am making a

statement about these toys, I do not believe that I have done so in an

unwholesome or degrading manner but simply in a very established and

artistic way. I doubt that any viewer would make any negative

association to the Ken or Barbie doll but rather would understand the

point of the satire.

Turning to your letter, it appears that you are mostly concerned about

my use of the name "Barbie." I recognize that I did describe the toys,

but once again my reference states only: "Barbie and Ken Politically

Correct!!!!" Once again, I do not believe that this reference to the

name Barbie suggests in any way that this is a work of art sponsored by

Mattel or in some other way officially linked to this manufacturer. This

is clearly an artist website and I am clearly presented as the artist of

this artwork.

	I am familiar with stories (whether true or apocryphal) of behemoth

companies that have overzealously attacked even the most innocuous

reference to their image. Hence I suppose that if Mattel is one of these

your demand is therefore not surprising. I can now add myself to the


of artists who have received such threats. Since, however, I do not

believe that my parody in any way affects the link between Ken and

Barbie and their authorized manufacturer, I feel I am within my rights

to produce this work and display it in the manner that I have.


G.H. Hovagimyan

To make matters worse, an anonymous letter, purportedly coming from

Barbie’s dream house in Malibu has been circulating the internet. Here’s

a copy of the letter:

>>Listen you little troll, I've been helping you out every year,

>>playing at being the perfect Christmas present, wearing

>>skimpy bathing suits in frigid weather, and drowning in fake

>>tea from one too many tea parties, and I hate to break it to

>>ya, but IT'S DEFINITELY PAYBACK TIME! There had better

>>be some changes around here this year, or I'm gonna call for

>>a nationwide meltdown (and trust me, you won't wanna be

>>around to smell it). So, here's my 1997 resolution/wish list:

>>1.      A nice, comfy pair of sweat pants and a frumpy,

>>oversized sweatshirt. I'm sick of looking like a hooker. How

>>much smaller are these bathing suits gonna get? Do you

>>have any idea what it feels like to have nylon and velcro

>>crawling up your butt?

>>2.      Real underwear that can be pulled on and off.

>>Preferably white. What bonehead at Mattel decided to cheap

>>out and MOLD imitation underwear to my skin?!? It looks like


>>3.      A REAL man...maybe GI Joe. Heck, I'd take Tickle-Me

>>Elmo over that wimped-out excuse for a boyfriend, Ken. And

>>what's with that earring anyway?  If I'm gonna have to suffer

>>with him, at least make him (and me) anatomically correct.

>>4.      Arms that actually bend so I can push the

>>aforementioned Ken-wimp away once he is anatomically


>>5.      Breast reduction surgery. I don't care whose arm you

>>have to twist, just get it done.

>>6.      A sports bra. To wear until I get the surgery.

>>7.      A new career. Pet doctor and school teacher just don't

>>cut it. How about a systems analyst? Or better yet, an

>>advertising account exec!

>>8.      A new, more 90s persona. Maybe "PMS Barbie",

>>complete with a miniature container of chocolate chip cookie

>>dough ice cream and a bag of chips; "Animal Rights Barbie",

>>with my very own paint gun, outfitted with a fake fur coat and

>>handcuffs; or "Stop Smoking Barbie", sporting a removable

>>Nicotrol patch and equipped with several packs of gum.

>>9.      No more McDonald's endorsements. The grease is

>>wrecking my vinyl.

>>10.     Mattel stock options. It's been 37 years-I think I

>>deserve it.


>>Ok, Mr CEO, that's it. Considering my valuable contribution

>>to society, I don't think these requests are out of line. If you

>>disagree, then you can find yourself a new bimbo doll for next

>>Christmas. It's that simple.

>>                                Yours truly,

>>                                Barbie

>>                                Dreamhouse

>>                                Malibu, CA


For further information contact:

Janice Erlbaum 

Pseudo Programs Inc.



Ricardo Dominguez

Thing Communications


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