In 1993, Mattel released a very special Ken Doll. He was wearing a lavender-coloured mesh shirt under a dark purple shoulder-padded vest and rocking a silver cock ring around his neck. Are we joking? Absolutely not.
Wonder how we got here? Allow us to explain.
1993 was a time and a half. Barbie was the coolest toy on the Toys-R-Us shelves but her boyfriend, Ken, wasn’t. Hence, Mattel started to do some good ol’ fashioned market research to ask young girls if they liked the guy or not. The response was understandable, they liked Ken, but they wanted him to be “cooler”.
Evidently, the young girls were big fans of Madonna’s hot, gay, backup dancers because that’s essentially who they described as “cool”. Taking their answers into account, Mattel finalised their research and released a new collection of dolls. The Earring Magic Barbie line came out and so did a new Ken. No pun intended for Ken here.
As a result, Ken became a bit of a gay icon; aside from the bleached-blonde hair and the earring. Given the pastel colours and the ring around his neck, the gays loved the doll so much, it quickly became the best-selling Ken model in Mattel’s history.
While the success of the doll was unprecedented, the doll ended up being recalled from stores once an expose into the meaning of the “circular charm” began in the newspaper, The Stranger. Now, these dolls are such a collector’s item, they’re going for hundreds of bucks on eBay.
While they were pulled from stores back in the ‘90s, we sincerely hope Mattel start to release queer dolls, intentionally. In 2019, Mattel launched their first gender-neutral doll, donned “a doll for everyone”. Could gay Ken make a return soon? I sure hope so because I can’t afford the ones on eBay.
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