Goys and Dolls

By Lieberman, Rhonda | Artforum International, April 1995 | Go to article overview

Goys and Dolls


Lieberman, Rhonda, Artforum International


Retrieved by UnErase[C], a special retrieval system for information deleted from our one reality system, here from the Jewish Barbie files are the final highlights of the life lead in a parallel universe by Jewish Barbie, who exists, but is repressed, by the defensive layer of the ego, by society, and most cruelly of all, by Barbie herself.

When we left Jewish Barbie, she was spiritually adrift on a college campus in New England. Having flouted her plastic roots by cramming her apartment with Central American textiles and effigies of the Virgin, Jewish Barbie had become a bit of a mess. Betrayed by Shaynah Punim Models and her parents, who had deployed her as a tool in their own narcissistic agendas, she felt really unsupported. Repressed from our one reality system, by destiny deprived of the groundwork for mental health, she bravely strove to be validated on her own terms anyway.

Rereading and obsessively underlining The Anxiety of Influence by Harold Bloom, Jewish Barbie worked through murderous revenge fantasies against Barbie, who refused to recognize her existence, despite many prank phone calls and unwanted pizza deliveries from Jewish Barbie's high-spirited college pals. Now she had real friends, by the way, from the college eating-disorders clinic. A popular peer counselor, she conducted a passionate seminar entitled "I'm O.K., You're Barbie," healing many other young women - and some young men - by coping with her own pain. It was during this period that her excessive interest in alternative Central American spiritual practices subverting the centralized Catholic Church blossomed into full-blown Frida Kahlo worship and concomitant fetishism of Guatemalan shrines. She accepted a grant (Manischewitz Studies in Post-colonialism) to examine these indigenous shrines, combining as they did authority issues with the neo-'70s El Salvador moment and the esthetic of the classic Bey Hills Catholic-wanna-be. She intuitively grasped the importance of keeping a tidy altar, and the significance of shrines, like shopping, as a way for people to express their spirituality through stuff. These were dark years, with no dry cleaners.

Years later, still with a soft spot for Central America, Jewish Barbie moves to a SoHo loft big enough for a basketball game. She is semiembarrassed about it but not enough to move. The combination of her plastic roots and her underdog identification continues to be a spiritual challenge. It is only after she returns to NYC that she learns that "real" Ken - the son of Barbie's inventors - had been down in Central America, too, with a highly developed social conscience, doing research on "low self-esteem among people of color." They were like two Barbie figures with issues passing in the night, circling around the same symptomatic spots. As for Barbie, she has never recognized the existence of Jewish Barbie and never will; Jewish Barbie has accepted this, and goes on with her life, in SoHo. Still working through her plastic roots, she has an overdeveloped interest in "the body" and in work combining photos with text. She can occasionally be spotted purchasing perfect produce at Dean & Deluca, or at openings at the Drawing Center.

[Enter Rod Serling.] Jewish Barbie does not exist in our reality. Split off from Barbie at the moment of her creation, Jewish Barbie fractioned off, became her own reality, and just went on from there forever, like the unconscious. Yet back in our reality, glimpses of this alternative Barbie universe can be sighted, like obscene sprouts of enjoyment coming to the surface, symptomatic pimples typically aggravated around a complex of Jew/goy issues. For example, a 1986 made-for-TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett as a Nazi-hunter, The Beate Klarsfeld Story, depicts the trial of Nazi Klaus Barbie in Lyons. In front of an embassy we see people with signs saying "Barbie = S.S.! Barbie = S.S.!" Privy to top-of-the-line therapy, Jewish Barbie does not take this personally, reading the whole movie in terms of psychoanalytic projection. …

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