History of the Ken Doll As Related to Gay Culture
This is one of those pieces that can go one way or the other. In one respect it’s all about the campy aspects of the Ken Doll. Especially with regard to the new photo released this week with Ryan Gosling in full makeup as a Ken Doll. In another respect, the Ken Doll has always been more straight than gay. Barbie and Ken represent the mainstream a lot more than any part of gay culture. In fact, I remember my sister playing with Barbie and Ken, and even at that young age I knew was not part of that. Barbie and Ken were reserved for little straight girls. If a boy was caught playing with a Barbie or Ken doll eyes would roll.
With that said, even though this article is about “gay” Ken, it does go into the history of the Ken doll and a great deal of that is interesting from a pop culture POV. It even touches on the AIDS crisis.
Here’s more. First, kitsch isn’t the right word to use here. I don’t know if the person who wrote this article is gay or not, but the correct word would be camp. Camp, or high camp, has a long history in gay culture. Second, if this theory is true about the Ken doll being so “gay” it certainly points out all the most common stereotypes about gay men.
The bottom line for me is that the Barbie and Ken dolls represent mainstream straight culture for me and I cannot relate to them even slightly as a gay man. But I can see how others might disagree with me. And that’s fine. We don’t want to lose our sense of humor altogether.