Here is Islamic Barbie, complete with chador and devout expression

Share
Related Topics
Call me a drooling pervert, but I've become obsessed with Barbie dolls. I love the way they're supposed to embody, in nine inches of plastic, the supposed dreams and career plans of today's girls; and the way, in the interests of offering an eclectic portfolio of hobbies to the nation's seven-year-olds, the manufacturers keep coming up with more and more ridiculous things for her to do. With the help of my indefatigable assistant, Sophie (nine), I've identified: Mountain-Climbing Barbie, Skiing Barbie, Magic Songbird Barbie, Twirling Ballerina Barbie, Beach and Lifeguard Barbie, Barbie And Her Horse Nibbles, Teacher Barbie and Mermaid Barbie. Then there are the smutty variants for aspirant good-time girls - Gymnastic Barbie, and "Overnight Barbie With Overnight Bag" and, I dare say, one or two bags under her eyes as well ....

This plenitude should impress the doll-buying world as pretty enlightened; far from being a stereotypical ditzy model-girl, Barbie seems to represent a career-advice department. But nothing can impress the stern mullahs of Iran's toy industry. The state-owned Children Cultural Promotion Centre (a kind of fundamentalist Early Learning Centre) is setting out to protect its innocent youth from the pernicious influence of "Barbie culture", by designing dolls in appropriate dress. Hence "Islamic Barbie", or "Sara", pictured here, complete with chador, demure costume, black hair, devout expression and (don't ask me why) single eyebrow. Cute, isn't she? I expect Hamleys' window will soon be full of advanced versions: Infidel Barbie (with detachable hands), Ayatollah Ken (detachable beard) and Fatwa Barbie (with police escort and safe house in the Orkneys).

Came back from the Cheltenham Literary Festival with my head buzzing with striking images. Readers of this diary will know of my chronic fascination with Harold Pinter, but even I wasn't prepared for the moment when he delivered (to Michael Billington, his biographer) a stinging diatribe against people who cough in West End theatres. He has Dutch friends who were startled by the bronchial cacophony that greeted an early showing of his new play, Ashes to Ashes. It wouldn't happen, they said, in our country. "And do you know why they don't cough in Holland?" cried the nation's leading serious dramatist. "Because they enjoy a night out at the theatre!" So there. But the performance that stayed most firmly in my head was a convergence of words and voices such as I've rarely heard. It was when the ladies of Cheltenham Ladies College put on Under Milk Wood. Twenty young gels, swathed and shod in crow-black, sat in serried rows and, with minimal help from lighting and sound effects, conjured up the neighbourly bitching, the elderly drowsing, the marital bickering and sexual badinage of Dylan's wicked read-it-backwards world of Llareggub. You might have gone there expecting a frisson of Terry-Thomas ("I say ...") lechery at the prospect of Britain's future uber-matrons impersonating Mr Organ Morgan and Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard. But you'd have stayed to marvel, at the accents, the velvety kiss of consonants, the cunning modulations of cupidity and desire. Bloody marvellous. I think they should head for London's Almeida Theatre without delay.

Dropped into the launch party for the book version of m'colleague Bridget Jones's celebrated Diary, that shockingly unbuttoned journal of socio- sexual intrigue among thirtysomething single girls that distracts Independent readers from giving their full attention to the EMU and the Referendum Party. The launch was held upstairs at L'Escargot, the fashionable eaterie whose logo of a glamorous snail neatly expresses Bridget's slow-motion progress on the highway to love and riches. Given the delicious Ms Jones's obsessive monitoring of her intake of cigarettes, booze, chocolates, Instants scratch-cards and unsuitable men, several conversations proceeded along formulaic lines: "Can I get you another unit?" "Nah, thanks, I've had 18 (approx) already (v bad)". The air was thick with neurotic parentheses. The guests were awash with Bloody Marys (v gd). Harry Enfield, buoyed up by the experience of winning pounds 10 on an Instants card earlier, bought five copies of the book. Nick Hornby lurked meaningfully under a poster of Colin Firth in his Mr Darcy high collar, as if daring passers-by not to spot a resemblance (Firth is playing Hornby in the film of the latter's Fever Pitch). Tim McInerney, Richard Curtis and Emma Freud, Ben Elton and a whole slew of televisual drolls tacked this way and that. Bridget's wayward friend Shazza turned out to be a doll-faced Irish TV executive with her hair yanked up in an angry bun. Alan Yentob, the BBC mogul, could be seen with a rare smile, something to do with the fact that he's bought the option for Bridget Jones: the Sitcom. (But who will play the divine BJ? Elizabeth Hurley? Tara Fitzgerald? Jennifer Ehle - now that would be interesting).

Eventually I met the star. Ms Jones was none too pleased by a letter that had arrived at The Independent and was handed to her, at the party, by the editor. Perhaps ill-advisedly, she showed it to everybody she met. "Dear sir," (it ran) "I would quite like to shag Bridget Jones. Could you please let me have her phone number? Many thanks, Yours sincerely..." Bridget bristled with fury. "What's he mean, `quite'?" she demanded.

The noise level rose. Shazza gradually slid down the wall under the Mr Darcy poster. "I was getting on very nicely with Angus Deayton," Bridget complained to nobody in particular, "but he had to leave to go to a football match. I don't mind, but ... half-past 10 at night?" Gillon Aitken, Bridget's pointlessly tall super-agent, was insistently introduced by his black- frocked protege as "my Asian". And just when you thought things were going to hell completely, there was a moment of true insight. Harry Enfield, pointing out that he'd supplied an enthusiastic puff for Nick Hornby's first novel, High Fidelity, and that Hornby had supplied a favourable word for the cover of Bridget's book, wondered if Bridget would complete this congratulatory daisy-chain by puffing his novel, should he get round to writing one. That's the essence of literary parties: you scratch my hardback ...

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher (Full time from Jan - Maternity Cover)

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: This good to outstanding school...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £160 per day + mileage and expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: This out...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain  

Abortion is safe, and it should be as available as easily as contraception

Ann Furedi
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album