On April 18, 2011 our class watched an episode of The Simpsons television show titled “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy.” This episode tracks Lisa’s purchase of a Malibu Stacy doll, her reactions to the doll, Marge’s response, and the general feedback from society.
As soon as the newest Malibu Stacy dolls are put out for display in the Valley of Dolls, the store clerk is mauled by little girls all fighting for their very own talking Malibu Barbie. Lisa cautions her mother and says, “I’m warning you, Mom, I may get a little crazy.” She pushes her peers out of the way and purchases the newest Malibu Stacy doll, just like the hoards of other young girls. At the beginning, Lisa is just as crazy about the womanizing doll as all of her friends.
Lisa starts to play with Stacy and her other dolls; expecting an authoritative and progressive female to give empowering speeches to her other dolls. However, Lisa is shocked when the phrases coming out of Stacy’s mouth are the following: “I wish they taught shopping in school, let’s bake some cookies for the boys, thinking too much gives you wrinkles, and don’t ask me, I’m just a girl.” Lisa is deeply offended by her new toy and Bart comments, “Right on, say it sister” and agrees with Stacy’s degrading statements. Lisa demonstrates her feminist values when she retorts by saying, “Millions of girls will grow up thinking that this is the right way to act. That they can’t be anymore than vacuous ninnies whose only goal is to look pretty, land a rich husband, spend all day on a boat with their equally vacuous friends talking about how damn terrific it is to look pretty and have a rich husband!” Clearly, Lisa feels very strongly about women’s empowerment and is willing to go to far lengths to raise awareness of the problem.
Lisa attempts to notify her peers about Malibu Stacy’s horrific representation of women but they giggle at her and don’t take her seriously because she said a “dirty” word. While at the dinner table, Lisa exclaims, “They cannot keep making dolls like this, something has to be done!” Her family is relatively unsupportive because she continuously gets involved in social and political issues.
Lisa: They cannot keep making dolls like this! Something has to be done!
Marge: Lisa, ordinarily I’d say you should stand up for what you believe in. But you’ve been doing that an awful lot lately!
Bart: Yeah! You made us march in that gay rights parade!
Homer: And we can’t watch Fox because they own those chemical weapons plants in Syria.
Lisa: I can’t believe you’re just going to let your daughter live in a world where this…THIS is their role model.
Marge: I had a Malibu Stacy doll when I was little and I turned out all right. Now let’s forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream.
Malibu Stacy Voice: [Lisa pulls on Malibu Stacy’s string] Now let’s forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream.
Lisa: That’s it I’m calling the company.
Lisa demands to speak with the creator of the Malibu Stacy doll and receive a factory tour. While on the tour, the sexist inner workings of the company are obvious. The female tour guide is verbally harassed as her male coworkers holler statements such as, “Hey jiggles, come over here sugar and back that big butt up.”
Lisa returns home unsuccessful after the factory tour and as is complaining about her lack of authority when Homer remarks, “I’m a white male age 18-40, everyone listens to me no matter how dumb my suggestions are!” Homer’s statement solidifies the viewer’s assumption that white men simply have more power than women.
Next, Lisa ventures to the Stacy Lovell’s home and informs her of the doll’s sexist statements and asks her to help create a new doll. Lisa suggests that the new doll have “the wit of Gertrude Stein and the down to earth good looks of Eleanor Roosevelt.” Gertrude Stein was a powerful American-Jewish author of one of the earliest stories about homosexuality. Eleanor Roosevelt was a contributor to the revolutionary committee that helped start second-wave feminism. Clearly, Lisa admires strong women and to pass on her love of feminism to other young girls via the new doll. Lovell agrees to make the doll and Lisa gets to construct the new doll’s statements. Lisa wants the doll to say things like “if I choose to get married, I’m keeping my own last name” and “trust in yourself and you can achieve anything” which is in sharp contrast to Malibu Stacy’s statements including, “Don’t ask me I’m just a girl.” The doll is named Lisa Lionheart after Lisa’s courageous feminist ideals.
The new doll, Lisa Lionheart, ends up failing miserably because of the updated version of Malibu Stacy with a hat. In the end, Lisa only sells one doll, but she is satisfied knowing she shaped the mind of at least one little girl.
Lisa’s active behavior and strong feminist ideals categorize her as a Third Wave Feminist. In Where the Girls Are, Douglas states, “American women today are a bundle of contradictions.” Lisa completely proves this idea through the use of Malibu Stacy. Malibu Stacy’s only “goal is to look pretty, land a rich husband…and wear make-up so boys will like her.” The disagreements between Malibu Stacy’s “ideal” lifestyle and Lisa’s are obvious. Lisa’s goals seem to be along the lines of becoming a politician or influential leader instead of the perfect homemaker that abides to her husband’s rules. “Douglas demonstrates that much of the confusion about women’s “proper place” and roles in culture are present in mainstream mass media, such as children’s television shows and toys, causing many women to be in a conflicted state, torn between traditional and stereotypical ideas of who and what they ought to be and progressive and liberating concepts of who and what they can be.”’ Douglas states, “The war that has been raging in the media is not a simplistic war against women but a complex struggle between feminism and antifeminism that has reflected, reinforced, and exaggerated our culture’s ambivalence about women’s roles for over thirty-five years.” Lisa’s struggle with Malibu Stacy’s antifeminist characteristics is not uncommon. Lisa even demonstrates her struggle with the topic physically by wearing the standard Donna Reed housewife attire: a dress and pearls. In my personal media history, I even discussed the same issue: the media(advertisements, television, etc.) advise females to be perfect, sexy, “man-pleasing” women but, our own set of morals tell us to be powerful, educated, and equal.