Barbie Girl Commercials

By: Keith

I have two boys, and they have no interest in dolls.  I’ve been completely tuned out to girl targeted toy commercials so I’ve missed this next little cultural nugget.  It involves the band Aqua and Mattel Toys in a strange twist since their infamous lawsuit years ago.  It appears that Mattel has grown a sense of humor.  Or it’s possible something else is going on; maybe I’ve missed that too.


I’m sure many of you remember a few years ago the lawsuit that Mattel Toys filed against RCA records.  Aqua is the band responsible for the song Barbie Girl.  Mattel claimed that Barbie Girl’s lyrics and music video infringed on their trademarks and copyrights.  Mattel also said that the song objectified Barbie and turned her into a sex symbol (yeah, like unnaturally long legs and huge boobs didn’t do that already).  Not surprisingly Mattel lost its case despite trying to send it to the Supreme Court on appeal.  In 2002 the case concluded with a resounding loss for Mattel.  The judge, Alex Kozinski, ruled that the song was protected as free speech because it was a parody and a social commentary on a cultural icon.  His quote was “The parties are advised to chill.”  I think that’s a pretty definitive statement for a judge to make.  Here is the 2002 article on the case for anybody interested.


The most recent twist, which I just noticed today while watching TV, is that Mattel has started to use the song in its commercials with altered lyrics.  I’m not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding that Mattel would need to pay RCA for the rights to the song – right?  They are, after all, using it in a whole slew of commercials and it’s pretty clearly the Aqua song.  doubjan09Do you think Mattel is making a parody of the parody?  It seems like a pretty logical argument to make since the original song was clearly a commentary on Barbie’s vacuous lifestyle and Ken’s, not so disguised, sexual interest in her; not the wholesome image Mattel is interested in conveying.  It seems pretty clever to use the song to make fun of themselves.  It also seems that they, likewise, would be protected under the same ruling that applied to RCA; “The parties are advised to chill.”  Ever seen that movie Double Jeopardy?  That’s what this reminds me of.


10 Responses to “Barbie Girl Commercials”
  1. J. Cruikshank October 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    What’s really funny is that you noticed this to begin with. If you can’t beat ‘em; join ‘em.

  2. Keith October 20, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

    Testing the comment button, echo :-)

  3. always home and uncool October 21, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    I remember thinking the same things when I first saw this new Barbie commercial — they are now paying off the people who thought they were infringing on them. But it’s like when the Reganites snatched up “Born in the USA” for their campaign — by using only the hooky chorus and skipping the harsh realities of the lyrics, you turn an anti-govt/war song into a national anthem. Genius. Evil. Evil genius.

    • Keith October 21, 2009 at 9:26 am #

      I remember the whole born in the USA thing now. Yeah, I guess it is the same thing. I’m always amazed, speaking of political hijackings of songs, how politicians don’t ever seem to read lyrics before they choose songs for their campaigns. Why do they need a song anyway? The democrats are a little luckier in that respect because they artists and they usually share some political views in common. The republicans end up having to pick from country western songs! HAHAHAH

  4. ZenMom October 21, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    Interesting. I have two boys, too, so we don’t pay any attention to Barbie and her playmates, either. I am skeptical about Mattel growing a sense of humor, and yet … the irony is pretty in your face, isn’t it? Hmmmm. Good catch. :)
    .-= ZenMom´s last blog ..Pumpkin Hunting =-.

    • Keith October 21, 2009 at 9:27 am #

      Yeah, Mattel + sense of humor doesnt seem to add up, does it. hmmmm. But, I’m with you, the irony really took me by surprise.


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