“An ancient mansion sits beneath ink black skies. Midnight winds whisper through deserted rooms. Softly, the sound of clanging chains and supernatural murmurs rises and grows. From the darkness, an apparition appears, sheer and barely visible. Frightfully beautiful, she lives between this earthly life and an unknown world beyond. You are indeed fortunate that this sublime spirit has revealed herself to you!”
From 2012’s Haunted Beauty Ghost Barbie blurb
Barbie – yes, as in the doll – is a Creature Of Pluto and here’s why.
She was born on a New Moon in Pisces, 12 years into the Cold War – March 9, 1959 in New York City.* People were reading Dr Zhivago and talking about radioactivity residues in plants.
In Space Race mode, America was selecting the first astronauts, Ava Gardner was in Australia filming the apocalyptic-themed On The Beach and the Dalai Lama was about to flee Tibet.
Pluto had recently arrived in Virgo and was in alignment with Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Eris. A double Pisces – Sun + Moon – Barbie was ‘born’ with all that and Pluto quincunx her Ascendant to boot.
Synchronicity aside, Barbie is the ‘child’ of the Mattel corporation co-founder Ruth Handler – a complicated chain-smoking Scorpio with Pluto trine her Sun and a valid grudge against sexist prejudice. She’d pushed the project through against non-stop warnings against such a sharp disrupt of the sedate doll market.
It was her company, she was an avid gambler and it was her Uranus Opposition – a time when risk-benefit ratios can radically flip – but still, there was significant money and credibility on the line.
Barbie’s background was controversial: Based on a German ‘adult’ doll named Lilli, her hips, waist and knees were engineered by a triple-Scorpio missile designer named Jack Ryan.
Handler had poached him from Raytheon to work for Mattel, making him enormously wealthy via Barbie royalties, but nonetheless the two Scorps fell out and their feud grew into a notoriously toxic animosity.
You can see how Barbie was basically born into a plutonic funk and that was just the beginning…
Barbie initially bombed, as toy store buyers baulked at her past life as a ‘Deutschland dominatrix.’ Handler later revealed that she went back to her hotel room and “burst into tears of grief. My baby had been rejected.”
Then she pulled a super-scorpionic stunt. She hired a Freudian psychologist to devise an ad campaign and analyze the aspects of Barbie’s persona that would be most appealing. It worked – the doll went from nearly non-existent sales to making spectacular bank in under a year.
Barbie has her Pisces Sun + Moon in the perma-popular 11th house and her Jupiter-Neptune-Pluto alignment is a classic wealth signature. Yet she also has a crowded 12th house – an Aries stellium featuring Mercury, Eris, the South Node and Venus with Lilth in Taurus.
Perhaps the hidden fire and iconoclastic Lilith represent the clandestine back-story of Lilli, the original doll who was not only an ebullient ‘gold-digger, exhibitionist and floozie’ but free. I’d love to see the original Freudian notes.
The male doll Ken was a Sixties add-on but was never – apparently – intended to be a boyfriend. His role – as dictated by Dr Dichter, the psychologist – was to be a “fantasy escort – male.”
Created out of this plutonic maelstrom, Barbie drew controversy for practically everything: her ludicrous proportions – she would apparently have had to walk on four legs if she were human, flimsy role modeling – tennis and home-making at first – and limited look – thin and white.
Well-managed, Barbie morphed in response to the marketing climate over the Sixties and Seventies, becoming a billion-dollar earner. The dream spin on her in those decades was that – say – Astronaut Barbie or Pucci Barbie, whatever, reflected the emerging culture where ‘girls could do anything.’
As Pluto crossed Barbie’s Libra North Node in the late 70s, however, the slow-burn seethe between her two Scorpio creators erupted. The details were lurid enough to affect sales and many of them (allegedly) are chronicled in an unauthorized bio called Toy Monster – The Big Bad World of Mattel.
An example of the fuqery at play: It was essentially a custody battle. Jack Ryan, the triple-Scorpio missile designer, now vastly wealthy via Barbie, had doubled down on the Space Dust and whimsical follies.
He was involved in a hyperbolic divorce from triple Aquarius glamor-icon Zsa-Zsa Gabor – his second marriage, her sixth – and seeking to be fully acknowledged as the ‘father’ of Barbie. He also claimed that the tale of Ruth Handler creating Barbie for her daughter’s self-esteem was a concoction.
A side note – Gabor accused him of de-assembling her Rolls Royce and there were revelations of a tacky-sounding dungeon in his Bel Air mansion.
Ryan sued Mattel, then there was counter-litigation and most significantly, an action by the US Government against Handler herself for various forms of stock market fraud.
It is way too involved to go into here but the ‘mother’ of Barbie was ousted from the company she’d co-created whilst she was also dealing with breast cancer. Pivoting on the spot, she started a successful breast prosthesis manufacturing company called Nearly Me.
This time there were no Freudian shrinks but Handler insisted on hiring women who’d recovered from breast cancer, correctly surmising they would make the best sales people for her product.
It could have also have sprung from her sharper appreciation for the setbacks and vulnerability of women who become ill in the workplace.
The Pluto in Scorpio years were peak years for Barbie as she became ‘cool.’ There were fashion collabs, body morphs, Black and Hispanic versions of herself, a Time magazine cover, presidential runs and an Andy Warhol portrait etc.
The Pluto in Sagittarius era (1996-2007) cast her in a less flattering light. Manufacturing moved to China and with that came the exposure of hideous working conditions and a massive lead contamination recall.
The Barbie brand of feminism seemed anachronistic and her very name became an insult suggesting vacuousness. It was the age of scathing, lengthy take-downs for many a corporate-spawned cultural icon but Barbie generated an outsize amount of them.
Then, in May 2001 when Saturn was square Barbie’s natal Pluto and Pluto square her Pisces Sun/Moon, the Bratz dolls arrived on the scene. Created by a former Mattel employee, multi-ethnic and with a more rebellious persona, they were on-Zeitgeist and a huge success.
While not an existential threat, Yasmin, Cloe, Sasha and Jade were followed by a wave of adversarial forces for Barbie – the lead paint recalls, demise of big box stores like Toys R Us, the arrival of screen culture – even for children – and competitors like the princess from Frozen.
Pluto in Capricorn coincided with the launch of collector’s items like the Haunted Beauty collection, above. Magnificently kooky, they did become collectibles but Ghost Barbie, Zombie Bride Barbie and Medusa Barbies did not exactly wow the target market – parents who were purchasing dolls for their children.
Barbie then got an ESG make-under, co-branding with National Geographic amongst others and launching a Down Syndrome version. It may have helped share prices but while still the top doll in the world, her sales have slumped.
Now, with Pluto on her Aquarius midheaven – the vocational zenith – Mattel is spending $100 million USD on a July-release ‘live action’ Barbie movie.
Starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and a cabal of celebrity guest Barbies, it looks like Truman Show lite but with less pathos – more humor and fluro-fuschia.
In a weird reflection of her 1959 debut, the Space Race is also being revamped: the Barbie film may or may not restore her fortunes to their former glory but launching at the same time as the Starliner spaceship and a host of weapons-tracking satellites is a surreal homage to her plutonic roots.
*Barbie’s birthday is officially March 9, 1959 – the date of her debut at the American Toy Fair. The time – 9AM New York City time – is when I believe the fair opened that day.