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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Barbie (main picture), with Saddam Hussein, Carol Vorderman, Urs Meier and Anthony Buckeridge.

BARBIE DOLL

US artist Tom Forsythe has won a five-year battle against Mattel Inc over a series of photos which parody the company's best-seller, Barbie. It's the latest in a series of blows for the 45-year-old doll.

Barbie has been called many things in the decades since she first hit toy store shelves: the "Californian airhead"; the epitome of the female stereotype; the "perfect" model for young girls to aspire to; the reason more and more of them have developed eating disorders.

She is a world phenomenon, a modern pop icon that grosses nearly $2bn a year for the toy manufacturer Mattel. On average, an American girl aged between three and 11 has 10 Barbie dolls in her toy box.

And she comes with a huge array of accessories - collectibles, as they're officially known - and some of her dresses are mini-haute couture, echoing the catwalks of New York, Paris or London.

Tom Forsythe's Barbie Enchilada
Tom Forsythe's Barbie Enchilada
It is what he sees as this "crass consumerism" and Barbie's power as a "beauty myth" that provoked Tom Forsythe to lampoon her. In a series of 78 photos, he has depicted Barbie in suggestive positions in and around household appliances.

In one image, Barbie is roasted in a rotisserie oven wrapped in tortillas and covered in salsa. In another, she's draped over a Sunbeam mixer with her rear in the air as the whisk blades hover dangerously close.

"I wanted to tell people that Barbie is just an advertising vehicle, not something to emulate," says Forsythe.

Litigious company

Mattel, which had failed previously to gain an injunction barring sales of the photographs, had argued that they were protecting their intellectual property.

The judge threw out their arguments, declaring that these breached the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, adding that "there was little risk of consumer confusion".

He then accused Mattel of "bullying" Forsythe into a legal battle and ordered costs of $1.8 million against the company.

Mattel has used its financial muscle before to try to see off hostile interests. In the same year Forsythe first exhibited his photos, Seal Press was forced to remove the doll's name from the title, and images of her clothing and accessories, from the cover of a book entitled Adios Barbie.

Cali Girl Barbie
Still smiling despite falling sales
But in 2002, Mattel failed to win an appeal against a court ruling upholding MCA Records' 1997 release of the song Barbie Girl by Danish group Aqua which, the company argued, was defamatory because of its sexual innuendo.

It's not just in the courts, however, that Barbie has taken a hit. Earlier this year, Mattel announced the plastic princess had split from her boyfriend of 43 years, Ken.

Commercially, her hegemony as the focus for young girls' fantasies is also under threat. Sales have fallen 18% in the first quarter of this year in the US.

The main reason lies in the emergence of the Bratz doll manufactured by rivals Hasbro, whose sales have risen by 77% in the same period.

The Bratzes are younger and have swapped the pink princess image for that of a rebellious teenager who goes clubbing in mini-skirts. The dolls are sassier, and less prone to blonde bustiness.

While the two brands cat-fight it out, Forsythe believes his legal victory goes beyond Barbie herself.

"This should set a new standard for the ability to critique brands that are pervasive in our culture."


Defiant: Saddam Hussein
SADDAM HUSSEIN

He arrived in rattling chains, humiliated before a court presided over by his own people. Saddam Hussein, dressed in western clothes and sporting a greying beard, had been brought to be charged formally with genocide. The former Iraqi leader remained defiant, refusing to recognise the validity of the court and hectoring the judge. When asked his place of residence, Saddam answered, chillingly, "I live in each Iraqi's house."

Carol Vorderman: Well-fancied
CAROL VORDERMAN

It's taken two years to persuade the TV presenter to pose for men's mag GQ in little more than a corset and fishnets. When she finally agreed, sales for this week's edition soared by 23%. "Far from being a sex goddess, I'm a saggy-bellied mother of two with dimples and wrinkles and a huge backside," said the 43-year-old. But Vorderman added that she suddenly realised it might be a funny way of celebrating her age.

Jennings author Anthony Buckeridge dies
ANTHONY BUCKERIDGE

The creator of accident-prone schoolboy Jennings has died. Author Anthony Buckeridge was 92 and, although most renowned for the mischief-making of Jennings and his sidekick Derbyshire, had also written plays and musicals. He was awarded an OBE in 2002 for services to literature, what his wife called "an evening glow to a life's work". Buckeridge himself expressed surprise and pleasure, or as Jennings would have put it, "Fossilised fish hooks!"

Under pressure: Urs Meier
URS MEIER

Swiss referee Urs Meier has been placed under police protection after he controversially disallowed a goal by England which would have kept the team in the Euro 2004 championships. Instead they were defeated by the host side, Portugal. Meier's decision has brought him death threats, more than 16,000 abusive e-mails and even an English flag placed at his home. Meier has described this collective reaction by England fans as "overheated".

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy




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