Barbie Game Girl: As Long As It’s Pink

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“[T]he objects of feminine taste […] have frequently been deemed inferior to those of high culture. The material culture of feminine domesticity—expressed by such reputedly ‘vulgar’ items as coal-effect fires, chintzy fabrics and potted plants—has frequently been singled out for condemnation or, at best, sarcasm, termed as ‘bad taste’ or ‘kitsch’. The aesthetic and ideological opposition to modernism demonstrated by these objects served to divorce them from the world of ‘legitimate’ culture and its ‘good taste’ […] although it was increasingly vital to the commercial system in the post-war years, feminine taste remained marginalised by dominant masculine culture through the establishment of a clear-cut polarity, epitomised in the dualisms of ‘good design/bad design,’ ‘good taste/bad taste,’—or perhaps more accurately ‘good design/bad taste’—within which feminine culture was always linked with the morally and aesthetically inferior category. As long as the ideological and aesthetic programme of modernism remained the main cultural rationale and means of expression for dominant masculine culture, feminine taste—however satisfying and important it may have been for women’s lives, and however vital it became for economic growth—remained both illegitimate and marginal within cultural life as a whole.”

—Penny Sparke, As Long As It’s Pink (reprint, 2010)

How might Sparke’s ideas about “good design/bad taste” relate to the “pink ghetto” of girls’ toys and video games?

Untitled Film Stills

Untitled Film Stills“[Cindy] Sherman’s photographs feed our nostalgia for bygone eras at the same time that they offer reflexive critique of that engagement with nostalgia […] Irony can be derived from contexts in which appearance and reality are in conflict. Sherman’s photographs comment not only on the conditions of the past but also, ironically, on the artist-producer’s awareness of her own pleasurable engagement in the visual culture of nostalgic fantasy that she evokes. By situating herself as both artist and subject, Sherman invites us to think reflexively about our own subjectivity and gendered processes of identification, cultural memory, nostalgia, and fantasy in our engagement in postmodern visual culture. This makes her photographs ironic images that also instruct us in seeing practices of looking.”

—Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (2nd ed., 2009)

Hacking or reimagining classic video games, I believe, can serve as an interesting analog to Sherman’s work.