Meet Sugar Daddy Ken, Midge, and ‘Barbie’s other discontinued dolls,’ as well as Growing Up Skipper, the strangest Barbie doll ever!
The long-awaited Barbie movie has here. And, although there’s a lot to like here, from the flawlessly pink backdrop to the musical performances, the greatest delight is seeing so many Barbies and Kens onscreen – even the contentious and discontinued dolls.
Greta Gerwig’s vision of Barbieland has so many intricate intricacies that it may be tough to properly grasp it all in a single watch. But when the first Barbie character posters appeared a few months ago, teasing long-forgotten dolls like Midge (Emerald Fennell) and Allan (Michael Cera), we knew we were in for a fun history lesson.
While some of these characters appeared for a shorter period of time than others, they all have a place in the unofficial Discontinued Barbie Hall of Fame. If you’ve ever wondered, “Who the hell is Sugar Daddy Ken?” while watching Barbie, we’ve got you covered.
Tanner and Barbie
Pink backdrop with a Barbie doll and stuffed dog in the centre. Tanner the pooping dog makes an unforgettable cameo at the home of Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), and yes, that was a significant selling point for the toy pet.
Tanner, Barbie’s pet canine, was released in 2006, and kids could play with him, give him goodies, and, most importantly, clean up his poop. The doll came with a poop scooper with a little magnet that could cling to small particles of plastic dung. Fun!
However, the toy was recalled in 2007 due to a loose magnet in the poop scooper that might fall out and constitute a choking danger without an adult knowing. Taffy, another yellow Labrador, took over as Barbie’s dog in the animated series Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse when Tanner fell out of favour.
In the centre is a pregnant Barbie doll, a man doll, and a baby doll. Poor, Poor Midge. Midge, maybe the Barbie doll with the most tragic backstory, was first released in 1963 as Barbie’s closest friend.
Despite being the same size (so they could share clothing), Midge was much less gorgeous than Barbie. Mattel was concerned that young girls would not be able to identify with Barbie (a fantasy girl), but that they would identify with Midge (an everyday girl). She had freckles, didn’t wear a lot of makeup, and dressed conservatively. In 1967, this version of Midge was discontinued.
Midge, like Allan, had a few of comebacks in the ’80s and ’90s. However, her time in the limelight came to an end in 2002 when a pregnant Midge (as shown in Barbie) was sold. The belly was a magnet that kids could remove to reveal a little, detachable baby figure within Midge.
Concerned parents believed that the pregnant Midge doll encouraged adolescent pregnancy, and they responded by expressing their outrage. They also believed that the doll’s absence of a spouse communicated the incorrect message to kids. (Alan and Ryan, their three-year-old son, were offered as a separate pair.)
M.G. Lord discovered that kids would use Midge’s baby belly to keep erasers and coins as part of her research for her book Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll – do with that knowledge what you will. The pregnant Midge dolls were recalled by Walmart in 2002, and that version of the doll was never seen again…until the Barbie movie.
Midge made a comeback in 2013 as a doll and a character in the animated series Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. She was now unmarried (no more Allan/Alan), she didn’t have any kids (or a detachable bump), and she was ready to be Barbie’s ideal best friend. Midge deserves justice.
Barbie Video Girl
The backdrop is pink, with a Barbie doll in the centre.
Barbie Video Girl (played by Mette Towley) is by far the oddest Barbie doll ever released. The Barbie Video Girl doll, released in 2010, comes with a necklace with a camera lens and a video screen on Barbie’s back, as shown in the film. The camera was capable of recording up to 30 minutes of video, which could then be transferred to a computer. Barbie Video Girl was promoted to “aspiring filmmakers,” enabling kids to record play time from Barbie’s point of view in whatever manner they choose. Is that strange? Yes. And the FBI thought it was even stranger.
The federal government was worried that the concealed camera in Barbie’s necklace may be used for child pornography and issued a consumer alert. In 2012, the doll was discontinued.
Earring Magic Ken
A pink backdrop with a Ken doll in the centre.
We’ve all heard about Ken being queer-coded, but have you met Earring Magic Ken (played by Tom Stourton)? Although the doll had a brief appearance in the Barbie film (saw him with Sugar Daddy Ken at Weird Barbie’s home), his true legacy is that of a homosexual icon.
Mattel polled a group of kids in the early 1990s to gauge their feelings towards Ken. What is the verdict? Ken lacked coolness. And Mattel was ready to give him a makeover.
What was cool in the early 1990s, you could ask? According to Mattel’s polls, it was raves and Madonna, so things naturally became strange rather fast. As a result, Earring Magic Ken was born in 1993, prancing about in his lavender mesh shirt and pleather purple vest, with platinum blonde hair and accoutrements fit for a king, homosexual enough to have every conservative parent holding her pearls.
The doll was practically dressed up with gay-coded gear, from his circular charm necklace, which could easily pass for a ringed sex toy, to his pierced left ear. As a result, LGBT men accepted him, while other Barbie purchasers did not.
The doll sparked such uproar that it was discontinued and recalled barely six months after its release. According to reports, Earring Magic Ken is still the best-selling Ken doll in Mattel history, and I believe it’s time for a rebirth. Magic Earrings Ken was the gayest Ken we’d ever had, and we’re grateful for him.
“There’s only ever been one Allan.” Allan, Barbie’s hidden treasure, is an uncomfortably funny outsider brilliantly played by Cera, and his one-liners and reaction shots will launch a thousand memes. But why is he the only one?
The Allan doll, which was released in 1964, served as Ken’s closest friend in the Barbie universe. What is his selling point? Ken could fit into any of his clothing!
Allan was dating Barbie’s closest friend, Midge — more on her later! — and they could go on double dates with Barbie and Ken. However, the Allan doll was subsequently discontinued in 1966, most likely due to his lack of popularity in comparison to Ken, a fact that the film would not let Allan forget.
However, in the early ’90s, Allan was revived and marketed as “Alan,” Midge’s new husband. Alan eventually became the father of Midge’s kids, along with their three-year-old child Ryan, in an early 2000s Happy Family collection. However, due to the uproar surrounding the very controversial pregnant Midge doll — complete with detachable infant — this nuclear family was put on hold.
Allan hasn’t made an appearance in the Barbie universe since then. While Midge made a comeback in 2013, Allan was only sold once more in 2014 as part of a 50th anniversary double date with Midge. I suppose there will always be one of him.
Growing Up Skipper
The Barbie movie features both Skipper (Erica Ford) and Growing Up Skipper (Hannah Khalique-Brown). The latter, on the other hand, is in the Weird House of Misfit Barbies for good cause.
Skipper, Barbie’s younger sister, was created in 1964. In the present Barbie universe, she is prospering as a cool adolescent who is into technology and gadgets. But, with the launch of Growing Up Skipper in 1975, she went through adolescence in public – a nightmare for anybody, much alone a doll.
Growing Up was released to assist kids comprehend puberty. Kids may turn Skipper’s left arm to see the doll grow from a child to a teenager in real time. How? She developed boobs.
Skipper gained one inch in height and on her chest as her arm rotated, transforming from a small child to a curvaceous adolescent. Obviously, this is quite bizarre. The doll sparked much controversy and was eventually discontinued in 1977. She lives on via Barbie.
Palm Beach Sugar Daddy Ken
A pink backdrop with a Ken doll in the centre.
He’s a Palm Beach sugar daddy, not just a sugar daddy. Sugar Daddy Ken, released in 2009 as part of Barbie’s 50th anniversary, is the ideal Palm Beach hunk, complementing his rich green jacket with business casual pleated trousers and backswept, silver hair. He also comes with a one-of-a-kind accessory: a toy dog with a bright pink leash.
In actuality, Sugar Daddy Ken (played by Rob Brydon) is Sugar’s biological father. The puppy’s name is Sugar, as briefly revealed in the Barbie movie, hence Ken is Sugar’s father.
Nevertheless, the double entendre backfired, with Sugar Daddy Ken igniting enough controversy to prompt Mattel to release a statement. The doll was later discontinued.
Teen Talk Barbie
This Barbie can communicate! Teen Talk Barbie, which was released in 1992, became famous for having a voice box that could output four phrases. While some of the phrases were harmless, one in particular sparked enough controversy to warrant a Simpsons episode: “Math class is tough!”
Concerns were rapidly expressed about the term preventing young females from studying math and science. Educators and activist organizations blasted the doll for implying that females can’t handle math, stating that Barbie should be a doll that inspires girls to accomplish everything, including math.
While the doll was not discontinued, Mattel did remove the phrase from its settings and provided refunds to anybody who wanted to replace their Teen Talk Barbie with another. The controversy also inspired the “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” episode of The Simpsons Season 5, in which Lisa faces a similar dilemma.
Talking to Teens Barbie (Marisa Abela) makes a brief appearance in the Barbie film, although she says very little. And she makes no mention of mathematics.