A recent post on the Facebook page of Plus-Size-Modeling.com has set carb-deprived tongues and doughy pie-fingers alike wagging across social networks. The subject of this weighty debate? The question of whether to create a plus-size Barbie, complete with triple chin, stretch waistband jean pant and plastic thunder thighs.
Those against the idea have heaved a gasp of disapproval, sucking in cheekbones and jutting angular hips in collective dismay. "We cannot possibly allow such unhealthy role models for our kids!" they sneer over a breakfast spread of sparkling water, cucumber and dust. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the proponents declare (between mouthfuls of red velvet cupcake) that it is about time we dispel this unhealthy media-fed stereotype of stick-thin beauty "once and for all."
And the truth is, a robust case could be made for both sides of the calorific coin. It is hard to dispute that we have created unrealistic, even dangerous ideals of beauty in today's society. Young girls are dying in their relentless quest to emulate artificially enhanced cover-shot glamour. Equally, the idea of using one of the most popular toys in the world to demonstrate that it is acceptable not to aspire to skeletal perfection is an enticing notion. However, one has to wonder what message such a doll portrays about being overweight. If too thin is not good, is too fat okay? America (alongside many other developed natinos) is waving the "fat flag" like a glow stick at a 90's Spice Girls concert. Waistlines are bigger than ever before and the incidence of lifestyle disease is spiraling. Will Plus-Size Barbie be sold with a blood pressure cuff and cholesterol tablets (insulin needles sold separately)?
The evils and virtues of chubby dolls aside, the debate also evokes reflection on our inherent human tendency to make sense of our world in extremes. Such curious creatures we are. Right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. Whatever happened to shades of grey?
And perhaps somewhere amongst it all lies buried a deeper message for us South Africans. What if the answers to our challenges sit not with one political ideology or another, with one leader above the next? Maybe Nkandla doesn't have to be a R200m palace, nor a dilapidated Khayelitsha shack. Is it conceivable that neither devout religious adherence nor atheism will pave the way? Perhaps economic freedom could be attained not by making a choice between the extremes of land expropriation or pure capitalism, but by finding a shade of grey somewhere in-between. Even a Police Minister of just average intelligence would suffice (I digress...).
How we love to take a stand at polar extremes, when sometimes the answer lies on neither side. As if these are the only two possible vantage points from where our views can be heard. The only positions from where the answers can be found, from where the best way forward could possibly be determined. Meeting in the middle, anyone?
I'm not sure about you, but I know what I'll be looking out for on the shelves next Christmas - a good old fashioned, middle-of-the road, garden variety Average Barbie!
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