Day 199: Mer Ken: a dreamtopic vision

It was a Wednesday night. I was stretched out on my bed, knackered, and when the younger proposed using my laptop to scroll through the four hundred pages of Barbie dolls on amazon, it seemed like an excellent idea.

“I think I might just take a nap while you look,” I murmured, leaning my head against her shoulder. I drifted off.

“Mom, can I get something?”

I opened my eyes. “No.” I closed my eyes again.

“Mom. Can I at least show you something?”

“Sure. Show me.”

“OK, well, I have to find it again,” she muttered, beginning to scroll back from page 40. “I think it was on page 16 or 17.”

I closed my eyes again.


I heard a voice summoning me from my slumber and opened my eyes to see a vision swimming before me. Was it a dream? No, it was better than a dream.

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It was Barbie Dreamtopia Merman Ken.

I gasped in joy and delight. Because this Mer Ken was totally dreamtopic. [1]

I think that my sense of beauty was most acute at about the age (eight) that the younger is now. Certain stimuli—satin ballet shoes; a My Little Pony’s luxurious mane; the gauzy outer layer of a party dress that my cousin gave me—elicited an almost dizzying, woozy sense of pleasure.

I could see in the younger’s shining eyes that she was experiencing that sensation now.

Although, in general, I can’t say that I’ve shared the younger’s devotion to Ken in all his iterations (for a start, they all—even those with man-buns—have plastic moulded hair as opposed to, uh, “real” hair, and where’s the fun in that?), here, finally, was a Ken worthy of my adoration.

I couldn’t stop staring at him. He was so perfectly proportioned, so beautifully balanced, his torso and tail sculpted just so, his head cocked just at the very slightest angle, his gaze intense and steady, a smile playing in the curl of his lips.

He’s a more evolved being, I found myself thinking. Maybe one day, if scientists play God like they’re supposed to, we can all look like this and what a dreamtopic world it will be!

It must also be said that Mer Ken is unquestionably superior to Mer Barbie. The eye glides easily along Mer Ken’s sleek, flowing lines, an effect enhanced by the elegant gradation of the coloring on his tail. By contrast, the gaudy coloring, tiered effect, and notable indentations on Mer Barbie’s tail, as if knee joints and calf muscles reside beneath, not only impede the line of sight but also create the curious (intentional?) impression, not that Barbie is a mermaid, but that Barbie’s legs are stuffed into a fake mermaid tail.

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Moreover, while Mer Barbie has a rather tacky tiara and, frankly, matronly bra top, Mer Ken has, according to the description, a tasteful removable shell necklace and sea-worthy wrist-cuffs.

I had the passing thought, while reading the description of Ken’s accessories, that maybe I should quit my job and write copy for Mattel, because it seems like a really fun job.

Let’s look at the whole description.

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I love everything about this description. It just gets more exciting with every bullet point. The opening characterization of Ken as “ready to dive into fantastical fun as a Merman” plays on the literal and figurative meanings of “dive” to signify on two diegetic levels: “as a Merman” he will, of course, be literally diving into the water; but “Ken” is also ready to dive into his role “as a Merman.”

The second bullet point takes a step back to an extra-diegetic perspective from which Ken is just a “Doll” with certain attributes, which will be described, in this and the third bullet point, with adjectives highlighting their salient features with increasing specificity. Most neutrally, Ken’s mermaid tail is colorful, while his necklace, as mentioned previously, is removable, opening up all sorts of narrative possibilities—loss, theft, exchange, etc.

The third bullet point zooms in upon Ken’s wrist-cuffs and, and makes the bold, bizarre claim that they are sea-worthy. This declaration is notable in at least two ways. In the first place, singling out Ken’s wrist-cuffs as sea-worthy raises the disturbing possibility that the rest of him is not. And both common law and the Hague Vigsby rules indicate clearly that seaworthiness as a concept applies to the vessel as a whole and not merely to accessories. In the second place, it is not at all clear that the wrists are in fact seaworthy, meaning that, at least in the U.K., Dreamtopia Merman Ken may find himself swimming afoul of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1995.

The final bullet point declares that “articulation at the waist allows storytelling action,” an assertion that—narratologists take note—introduces an entirely new factor—that of waist articulation—to the qualities of character and thought already identified by Aristotle as causes from which narrative action springs. [2]

All this for the bargain price of $7.94. No wonder he’s out of stock.



[1] Side note: what do you think Google asks you when you Google “Mer Ken Amazon”?

[2] See Aristotle, Poetics, Section VI.


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