The unknown, dark story of the real Ken (Barbie)

The unknown, dark story of the real Ken (Barbie)

All about Ken

Ken in the movie ''Barbie''
Ken in the new movie ''Barbie'' had an experience in the real world and he adopted a new masculine personality and this taught him to communicate and be open with his emotions and his feelings. So Ken found the right words to express to Barbie how he feels about her, he said to her ''I only exist through the warmth of your gaze when you look at me”.

In Barbieland, Barbie is everything, while Ken is nothing without Barbie and his existence has meaning only next to Barbie as it's always about Barbie and Ken and never just about Ken. 

Ken's story in the real world is more interesting than a narcissist that is obsessed with his image and with a girl.

About Barbie and Ken
Ruth founded Mattel with her husband, Elliot, and their friend, Matt Matson, in 1945 (Mattel was a merger of Matt and Elliot). Barbie is named after the doll's creator, Ruth Handler's daughter, Barbara. Ken is named after her son Kenneth. Kenneth was a quiet person who loved to read books. He inspired the doll named Ken. Kenneth Sean Carson was introduced as a Ken doll In 1961, two years after Mattel introduced the first Barbie doll.

The first Ken looked like Ryan Gosling's. His "job" was the beach, he wore a red bathing suit and had well-defined abs. Barbie had caused reactions, as an overly sexualised version for a children's toy (because of her breasts), but also because of her proportions that would create eating disorders in teenage girls. Ken had to look as non-sexual and clean cut as possible, so as not to intensify Barbie's sex appeal, as a partner by her side.

What happened to Ken's genitals
Mattel insisted that Ken should not have genitals, despite the objections of creators Ruth Handler and Charlotte Johnson. The designers thought that there should be something on the crotch of the male doll that would show the difference between him and Barbie, even a bulge in the form of a penis. Mattel executives, after consulting a child psychologist, settled on "a pair of shorts with volume in the right place." But to reduce production costs, this was limited to the smooth surface that Barbie also has at the height of her genitals.

The story of the real Ken
The real Ken, Kenneth Handler was very different from his doll version at first glance. He loved to play the piano and enjoyed watching movies with subtitles. He was very serious and measured and loathed the miniature, plastic version of himself: “Ken is the Malibu. He goes to the beach and surfs. I was the kid who played the piano and watched movies. All the girls thought I was a jerk. Barbie should care about more than just going to the beach and having a good time. She should care about the poverty and suffering in the world," Kenneth Handler said. 

In 1963, Kenneth Handler married Suzie Handler and they had three children. In 1966, he founded with Norm Ratner a record label, Penthouse, while in the 70s he had a photo gallery, where it has been written in a magazine of the time that he showed images he had taken in a show called All American Boys, referencing with its theme on Selma Avenue, the street in Los Angeles that is parallel to Hollywood Boulevard and which was then a famous square for gay prostitution.

The dark story of the real Ken
Bobby Jameson, who was a singer, signed to the Penthouse record label and claimed that Kenneth Handler fired him in 1966 when he refused to satisfy a sexual request.

In the toy world, the Ken doll had its own acceptance with the gay audience. The Magic Earring Ken version served as a landmark in some ways, since for the LGBTQ community it was a queer version of the famous doll that introduced queer culture to the people that did not understand it or accept it.

Mattel then wanted to limit the damage, arguing that the claims that Ken is gay were "outrageous". "Having long denied that there is a sexual background to their dolls, Mattel felt the need to confirm the heterosexuality of Earring Magic Ken: the ring around Ken's neck might as well have been a noose," wrote professor and Barbie expert Ann Ducille in 1996 in Toy Theory: Black Barbie and The Deep Play of Difference. Earring Magic Ken stopped being produced and Ken had to prove for the next few years of his boxed existence that he was anything but heteronormative.

The real Kenneth Handler died in 1994, at age 50. The official cause of death was a brain tumour, an announcement made publicly by his mother. But there were later rumours that he died of AIDS-related complications. Kenneth is rumoured to have come out about his sexuality to his parents and to have admitted that he tested positive for AIDS in 1990.

Today, Earring Magic Ken doesn't even exist in Mattel's archives as a special edition Ken.


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