December 6, 2008

"Barbie has finally kicked her rival Bratz doll to the curb."

The legal battle the Daily News (predictably) calls a "catfight."

Feel free to discuss the legal issues:
Mattel claimed the sassy Bratz dolls were the brainchild of one of its own designers, before he went to work for the rival and gave the upstart its signature toy....

Earlier this year, a jury awarded Mattel $10 million for copyright infringement and $90 million for breach of contract after members agreed that Bratz designer Carter Bryant had developed the concept for the dolls while working for Mattel.

Mattel subsequently requested that MGA be banned from making and selling the Bratz dolls, and Federal Judge Stephen Larson made it happen Thursday.

"Mattel has established its exclusive rights to the Bratz drawings, and the court has found that hundreds of the MGA parties' products, including all the currently available core female fashion dolls Mattel was able to locate in the marketplace, infringe those rights," Larson said.
And the dire commercial consequences: "MGA must immediately stop making all 40 dolls in the line and has until after the holiday season to remove them from store shelves." Presumably, there will be some sort of settlement that will allow the dolls to continue to be made, with Mattel raking in much of the money.

But law and commerce are not everything.

Let's talk about aesthetics. There's a lot of talk about the difference between Bratz and Barbie, but look at the picture of "Chat Divas Barbie" at the link. Not only does Barbie now look about 13 years old, she's got her mouth open in the can't-stop-talking position. I have never even accepted Barbie smiling. To me, Barbie has always been this face:

DSC_0003

She doesn't smile. She's not a child. She's a glamorous, sophisticated woman. She's not an empty-headed chatterbox. She's a deep mystery. What are her thoughts? She will not tell you.

26 comments:

Palladian said...

She went from glamorous sophisticate to empty-headed whore, which is the same downward trajectory followed by our culture in general.

Freeman Hunt said...

Girl toys are weird. Those Bratz dolls look like they're ready to "service" some Kens.

Ann Althouse said...

The original Barbie (the one in my photo) was based on a German doll that was supposed to be a sexy doll for adults, so Bratz are just keeping the tradition going.

BTW, I have an original Ken doll too. Flocked hair, no penis... the works!

Freeman Hunt said...

That's interesting. At least the Barbie looks sophisticated. The Bratz dolls look like they just finished shopping at Wet Seal and are headed to Senor Frogs for dollar tequlia and jello shots.

Lem said...

That 'adult' Barbie bears some resemblance to Alyssa Milano.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alyssa_Milano

The story also brings Jon Benet Ramsey to mind.

Bissage said...

Guilty Confession #23: In my adolescence I took a tape measure to my sister’s Barbie Doll to figure out what her measurements would be if she were a real person. ZOWIE!!!

Palladian said...

"BTW, I have an original Ken doll too. Flocked hair, no penis... the works!"

Are you sure it isn't a Joe Biden doll?

Ron said...

There's a great documentary about the woman who was CEO at Mattel back when Barbie was created. The only woman CEO in the '50's I believe, and she left due to breast cancer, and after her mastectomies created a company related to that, Just Like Me! Quite an interesting story.

Palladian said...

Barbie's German predecessor Bild Lilli.

Freeman Hunt said...

In case I wasn't clear: I meant that the original Barbie looked sophisticated. The new Barbie looks like she's about as sophisticated as the Bratz but carries a credit card with a higher spending limit.

Donna B. said...

Slightly off-topic, but I am dreading the day my granddaughters get old enough to start wanting Barbie, Bratz, or whatever other nutso craze there is.

I'm having enough trouble already with Elmo and the superheros my grandsons have.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find clothing for a child that isn't decorated with some kind of commercial for a movie, character, or toy?

AllenS said...

Does a Britney Spears doll have underpants?

jdeeripper said...

Althouse... "I have never even accepted Barbie smiling.

She doesn't smile. She's not a child.

She's a glamorous, sophisticated woman. She's not an empty-headed chatterbox. She's a deep mystery. What are her thoughts? She will not tell you."

Trooper York said...

Well the Barbies couldn't open their mouths because if they could talk than GI Joe is in a lot of trouble.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Digressing. Back when the first Barbie Doll came out, a friend of mine had an older sister (about 16) named Barbara. Their last name was Dahl.

Barbie Dahl. She was really pissed off about the Barbie Doll because she got teased so much about her name and refused to be called by her nick name any more. We must call her Barbara!!! Of course being bratty younger sister and bratty friend, we called her Barbie Dahl....ha ha....

ricpic said...

Aren't there a lot more blonde Barbies than brunette Barbies?

EDH said...

Legally, this claim really wasn't a case of Barbie v. Bratz, as the press would like.

Notice, the legal copyright claim isn't based on infringement due to design similarities between the dolls, as in the Coldplay music case.

Instead, the dispositive fact seems to be that the Bratz doll designer worked for Mattel at the time and, therefore, presumably under the terms of his employment with Mattel, any doll produced by him was a "work for hire" owned by Mattel.

It would appear Mattel was found to be the owner ("author in law") of a separate copyright, due to the "work for hire" doctrine, irrespective of any Barbie-Bratz doll comparison.

Notice, too, the designer was a man.

Ann Althouse said...

Right, the case has nothing to do with any purported similarity between the dolls. It is that Mattel owned the copyright to the Bratz dolls and the employee appropriated that property and took it to another company, which he had no right to do.

knox said...

She doesn't smile. She's not a child. She's a glamorous, sophisticated woman. She's not an empty-headed chatterbox. She's a deep mystery.


... and a brunette!

knox said...

Bratz designer Carter Bryant had developed the concept for the dolls while working for Mattel.

Thanks, Carter, for your contribution. What little girls really need is a whored-up doll that is both inspired by and helps perpetuate bad plastic surgery, Paris Hilton "porn star" aesthetics, and all that creepy, inappropriate clothing they sell for little girls now. As the mother of an 18 month old girl, I appreciate it.

rhhardin said...

She looks empty headed to me. It's the makeup.

save_the_rustbelt said...

"I'm having enough trouble already with Elmo and the superheros my grandsons have."

Me and the grandsons really grove on Elmo, Spiderman, Ninja Turtles and the whole childhood deal.

Just bought really neat Spiderman jammies for them for Christmas.

Hey, have some fun!

Joan said...

Rustbelt, please. It's Spider-Man, the only hyphenate superhero moniker.

I hate Bratz and hope they end up having to recall and destroy the entire line. Our cultural IQ will rise a collective 30 points. I realize that would have dire consequences on many families whose incomes depend on other (idiotic) people actually buying Bratz dolls and accessories, but I don't care. There's no excuse for the dolls or their popularity. The Baby Bratz "makin' it real in the crib" are nausea-inducing, and the rest aren't any better.

Synova said...

We're on our way home from shopping and told the four year old that she couldn't tell her older sister that we got her a Sleeping Beauty Barbie for her birthday. We *really* emphasized the importance of not letting on, so it would be a surprise.

We pulled up to the house and older sister came out the front door. Younger sister stuck her head out of the car window and shouted, "We didn't get you a Sleeping Beauty Barbie for your birthday!"

*sigh*

Not that my girls ever cared that much for Barbies. And I would never have bought them a Bratz doll. Not so much for how they look (though it's pretty silly) but because they are called, "Bratz."

Other items for girls not allowed in our house... any clothing with the word "Princess" or anything "cute" that implied girls should be bratty little tyrants.

blake said...

My own digression: Early Barbie looked like Kim Novak (only not blonde).

Kim Novak was 25 when she seduced 50-year-old Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. And Bell, Book and Candle. Her youth is never a topic in either movie. In fact, in BB&C, she's supposed to be a 300-year-old witch.

It should be creepy (according to the half-age-plus-seven rule) but I think it works because they treat each other as equals. Novak is an adult.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that we don't know who the adults are anymore or who they're supposed to be.

One of my daughters like Barbi, Bratz, and loves all the Disney princesses. One of my other daughters got a whole bunch of those girl-tyrant-type shirts as hand-me-downs.

But I think those things are more a reflection and less a perpetuator.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

My sister had a Barbie in the 70s but she was blonde and I don't recall her having such a cool sidelong glance....