Lisa's Talking Doll Crusade Was Based On A True Story
It's Simpsons week at Cracked. We'll have more cromulent facts for you every day.
We asked readers to tell us their favorite Simpsons character. Actually, we asked for readers' third-favorite Simpsons character because we didn't want every single person to say Willie. Disco Stu was a surprisingly popular answer, as was Troy McClure. TJ R. and Brandon M. both said, "Oh, let's say Moe," while Joe M. finds himself relating to Jasper now that he himself is old (i.e., in his thirties).
Some readers voiced support for victims of ill-deserved public backlash. Says Daniel A., "Apu. For being a stereotypical convenience store owner/operator, he was a loving member of the community." Carol S. and Ronald M. picked Lisa. Says Balam C., focusing on the early seasons, "Even when she's not so funny, her common sense, culture, and morality triggers or explains a lot of jokes and events."
It's been so long since those early seasons that a lot of us now lack context for some of the stuff that riled Lisa up. Take the season 5 episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy." All the girls are excited about a new Malibu Stacy doll that talks, but Lisa is disappointed that its lines are limited to stuff like "Don't ask me, I'm just a girl" and "Let's find makeup so the boys will like us." Lisa manages to produce a competing doll that says inspirational phrases, and though it doesn't see huge success, it does reach some girls.
The basic premise of this episode wasn't a wacky Simpsons invention but something that actually happened—which we mentioned earlier in the week when talking about Lisa, but we'd like now to tell you how that story wrapped up. In 1993, Mattel released a doll called Teen Talk Barbie. Among the phrases it could utter was this one: "Math class is tough!"
Each doll had four phrases, and in total, the doll line had 270. No two dolls had the same repertoire, boasted marketing, and we believe that, because 270 lines means over 5 billion possible combinations. (We think. Math class is tough.) Only a small fraction of the dolls said the math line. But it drew the attention of women's groups and educators, who protested it as sexist.
The real-life protest worked out better than the fictional one. Before making her own doll, Lisa reached out in vain to the company behind Stacy, but Mattel, facing more than one lone protester, responded to pressure and removed the phrase from rotation.
In recent years, Lisa has shown a different attitude toward Malibu Stacy dolls. In one episode, Marge tells her to discard all possessions that bring her no joy, so she rejects three dolls with the opposite problem as the talking one. "Goodbye businesswoman Malibu Stacy, plus-size Malibu Stacy, and non-gender normative Malibu Stacy," she says. "Your attempts to enter the 21st century brought joy to no one."
This was a bitter betrayal by writers who'd forgotten Lisa's roots. Either that or, you know, the writers were counting on you remembering "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy," and that was the joke.
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For more Barbie history, check out:
The 4 Most Baffling Career-Themed Barbie Dolls
7 Hilariously Failed Attempts at Politically Correct Toys
Barbie I Can Be a Computer Engineer Book Is About Asking Men to Program Computers for You
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Top image: Fox