(CP) The planned relaunch of religiously-themed Barbie dolls in Argentina, dubbed “Barbie Virgin Mary” and “Jesus Ken,” has sparked outrage globally, especially among Catholic groups in Buenos Aires, the birthplace of Pope Francis.
This comes after the international success of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, prompted the creators, local artists Emiliano Pool Paolini and Marianela Perelli, to reissue their contentious collection.
As reported by Jam Press, the artists’ original “Barbie: The Plastic Religion” exhibit in 2014 received serious death threats for representing important religious figures, including Catholic saints and the Virgin Mary, as dolls.
Despite these threats, at least one toy shop in Argentina has allegedly agreed to stock some models of the revived collection, with the artists planning to showcase their dolls in an art show in December, according to the New York Post.
The previous exhibit, “Barbie, The Plastic Religion,” drew ire worldwide, according to USA Today. Priest Adrian Santarelli from St. Thomas More parish in Buenos Aires at the time questioned the appropriateness of the dolls, saying their representation of sacred images might damage a child’s understanding of the sacred.
It included Barbies depicted as Joan of Arc and Virgin of Guadalupe, among others, and Ken as Buddha and Moses. It notably avoided dolls representing Muslim figures due to Islamic prohibitions on such depictions.
In response to the controversy, the artists insist that the exhibit is purely artwork and not intended to cause offense. Paolini insists that the creations were “simply the union of the two most popular elements of history: the Barbie doll and religion.”
“Frankly, we don’t understand why we’re being attacked,” the New York Post quoted Paolini as saying. “Religion has always depicted virgins as the most beautiful women,” he added. “Today, the most beautiful woman is Barbie.”
The exhibit reportedly planned for December is expected to draw about 400 visitors, according to the organizers, with police presence to ensure security.
“The reception to the revived collection is going well,” Paolini said. “We will take part in an art show with a stand dedicated to Plastic Religion where we will present 33 Barbie dolls, among other artwork.”
Perelli and Paolini conceived the idea after witnessing the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. They argue that if there are Barbies representing various professions, why not a religious one?
The artwork has provoked anger also from Hindus in the past.
Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric based in Nevada, criticized the “Barbie-fication of Kali” as inappropriate and out of place. However, Elina Aguilar, a retiree, and Hugo Fryszberg, an employee of the Buenos Aires government, defended the exhibit, noting that dolls of other religious figures have been sold without issue.
Social media reactions to the revived collection are mixed.
One user labeled it as an “international scandal,” while another accused the artists of seeking fame in an infamous manner.