RTMark. The Barbie Liberation Organization, 1993. Creative activisim action.
On Christmas day in 1993, kids were finding more than they bargained for under their trees: Mattel’s new talking Barbie dolls growled “Dead men tell no lies,” while Hasbro’s macho GI Joe’s chirped “I love to shop with you.”
The BLO was originally conceived in an effort to question and ultimately change the gender stereotypes American culture is known for after Mattel released a speaking Barbie that said “Math class is tough.” It took place in the middle of the culture wars of the 1990s when creative dissent was once again gaining popularity and artists and activists were often trying to conceive of new ways to rebel against cultural stereotypes and powerful forms like network TV. By 1993, criticism for Barbie as a negative gender stereotype for women was commonplace both in academia and popular culture. This may have been partially responsible for the generally positive response of the public to the project, the criticism they were making was familiar and not a controversial point to make during the 1990s. Although their criticism was not new, the creative form of hacking used by the BLO was noteworthy.
The Barbie Liberation Organization or BLO, sponsored by RTMark, are a group of artists and activists involved in culture jamming. They gained notoriety in 1993 by switching the voice boxes on talking G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls. The BLO performed “surgery” on a reported 300–500 dolls and then returned them to the shelves of stores, an action they refer to as shopgiving. This action resulted in girls opening their new Teen Talk Barbie to hear it say phrases such as “vengeance is mine” and boys hearing their G.I. Joe say “The beach is the place for summer.
“Home surgery instructions”, instructions for switching Barbie and G.I.Joe voices.