Those architects who reside on Mars may have missed the most riveting competition to engage the profession this year, and if so let me bring you up to date: it was the possibility that on-line voters would choose architect as Barbie’s next profession in Mattel's latest “I Can Be” contest.
Sad to say, the most popular girls' toy of all time will not appear clad in an all-black outfit anytime soon. “Computer Engineer” swept the popular vote, the ballot box having no doubt been stuffed by armies of botnets and zombies unleashed by a bored software coder with a wicked sense of humor. I have gone on record before as saying that our profession needs to inspire women of any age to join us (see my hilarious blog about architects in the movies here) but I am not sure that rallying the troops to vote for an Architect Barbie is the way to do it. I feel even more strongly about that if the design of the doll is going to make her seem as weird as Computer Engineer Barbie.
Barbie’s stylists must have greeted the task of designing an outfit for a computer engineer with the same level of derision they’d have applied to a Dick Cheney doll. This is the most uncool Barbie ever, unless you count McDonalds Cashier Barbie. Judge for yourself: Bluetooth earpiece. Black stretch pants. She sports what appear to be pink safety glasses—she’s got to have those because one, all intellectual women wear glasses; two, she might need them if she comes across some dangerous data. You never know.
I’m guessing there is a cellphone case on her belt but we can't know that since she’s wearing a waist-length knit top printed with images of computer hardware and binary code, which when decoded spells out “Help me! I’m being held hostage in a Google server farm!” And, over that top, a vest. A vest? I haven't seen a woman in a vest since "The Partridge Family" ruled the airwaves. I hope that it does not seem unkind to say that a little girl who was inspired by this doll to become a computer engineer would have to be pretty odd. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Ever seen a television reporter wearing these?
Mattel, whom no one could ever accuse of playing a high-stakes game with the Barbie brand, has hedged its bets by concurrently issuing “Television Reporter Barbie.” This doll was based on a career preference survey of girls they did last year, and apparently not influenced by ballot box stuffing. Obviously Barbie stylists took this assignment more seriously than they did whipping up an outfit for Computer Engineer Barbie, but I think they played a little joke on their supervisors. They've got her teetering on platform stilettos which (I am told) are standard issue costuming for women in porn flicks. At least Computer Engineer Barbie wears flats that would seem sensible, if not for the color: hot pink.
It is a fact that Barbie is a capable person who works hard at balancing family and career, no matter which line of work she might currently be in. Mattel says she has had 126 jobs. But, umm, doesn’t 126 careers strike you as a little ADD?
Well, it does me too, and a fact I must note here is that years ago I actually met Barbie through a personals ad she ran in the Village Voice. What follows is a scene from a screenplay I have in development called “Gruesome Tales of Frustration and Incompetence," which recalls numerous episodes from my incredibly interesting personal life.
Barbie was tall and tanned with the kind of blonde hair that kept the Acme Hydrogen Peroxide and Industrial Chemicals Company at the top of the heap for decades. We were slurping double martinis and making small talk in a booth at Chumley's when I said:
So, what do you do Barbie? I think your ad said, ‘Real estate agent seeks creative intellectual-type; must love latex and Mahler’.
Barbie: Real estate? I quit that damned job last week. Subprime mortgages. What a bore. They're for losers. Too many creeps and weirdos in that business. Oh yeah, I’ve been around. Artist. Law enforcement. Podiatrist. Actress. Modeling, I’ve done a lot of modeling. PR gig for the Village People. Preschool teacher. Judith Regan just optioned my novel.
Me: Oh, you have been around.
Barbie: But I'm stuck on a treadmill, Charlie. I feel trapped. I feel I've just got to do whatever it takes to make other girls love me. It’s an obsession. A compulsion. I want approval so I just go from one thing to another. I want everybody to envy me. I want them to want to be like me. And, uh, what about you? You have a–a–faraway look in your eyes.
Me: I'm an architect, baby. Nobody envies us. Nobody. It's been profession non grata since Callicrates was booted from the Parthenon job. He took the fall on a golden-ratio kickback scheme. It brought us all down.
Barbie: But that was a long time ago. People change. Professions change. Do you think if I became an architect I’d be happy? We could open a firm, Charlie. In Chelsea. We’d be partners. Just you and me.
Me: Sorry, Sugar. It’s a dog’s life. Besides, I work alone. That’s how I wound up like this—drinking gin from a paper bag and smokin’ Luckies ‘til they burn my lips.
Barbie: I could make your lips burn.
As far as I know, she never looked back.
But, I digress. I am sure that if Barbie could get over her ADD long enough to put in a minimum of five years at the college of her choice, made it through three more years of IDP and the exams, there could be an Architect Barbie in our future, (particularly if we can get Computer Engineer Barbie to come up with some botnets for us). Can she do it? Without a doubt.
But here’s a memo to Mattel's stylists: When we architects finally do have a Barbie of our own, how about maybe giving her a black power suit, gold jewelry (please, no Dolce Gabbana glasses), and an expression which says, “Get out of the way, boys. I’m Partner-In-Charge of Design now, love it or leave it.” Maybe she could look something like this woman:
Of course free advice from me is worth exactly what you pay for it, but whatever you do, please don't make Architect Barbie look like a dork. That won't inspire little girls (or boys for that matter).
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