Barbie and the Great American Identity Crisis: The Unfortunate Reality of a Nation Plagued by Racism, Patriarchy, and Stark Hypocrisy

Who are we as Americans? What defines men, women, and the ideal of perfection in a nation of many shapes, colors, and sizes? More intriguing yet, how are a plastic doll called Barbie and her cinematic doppelganger potential change agents in these troubled times? 


Barbie and the Great American Identity Crisis (PI Press, March 2024) uses Barbie in her many forms as a portal through which to view such serious matters as identity crisis, projective identification, and the national malaise.

In six thought-provoking essays, this book will help readers make sense of the sweep of American history as we have developed psychologically as a nation and as a uniquely complex people in the modern world. Barbie, an artificial construct, is perfect. The world, alas, is not.

But by seeing ourselves through the lenses of racism, patriarchy, and hypocrisy, I believe we can make progress in counteracting such dangerous, divisive, and degrading tendencies. The cognitive dissonance of seeing the real world from the perspective of an imaginary person may actually help us achieve clarity and move on.

Who is Barbie?

Does it matter if Barbie has an identity or not? And does her lack of self-understanding reflect anything about Americans today? I believe the answer is yes. America is in the grip of an identity crisis, one that is causing people to lose their sense of themselves as individuals, as members of their communities, and as citizens of a democratic nation. Social media as a technological tool is exacerbating the crisis.

To make matters worse, our collective identity crisis is causing a kind of stasis, an inertia that renders us incapable of making tangible gains toward tackling, among other issues, the growing threat of authoritarianism around the world and the worsening climate crisis.

By putting Barbie “on the couch,” this new book frames an entire course of psychological analysis for our imaginary protagonist. My hope is that walking Barbie through a treatment plan can assist real-life therapists approach complicated, troubled patients and offer them the prospect of real growth and healing.

By presenting snippets from her session, this book highlights some of Barbie’s breakthrough moments. They may sound familiar to some readers!

I am passionate about arresting the environmental catastrophe confronting us in today’s world, so I describe Barbie as a social media change agent and an environmental expert. Conservationist and author Aldo Leopold was one of the earliest observers to codify the phenomenon of grief associated with the disappearance of plants, animals, and ecosystems. It’s time to recognize, if not embrace, our collective grief for our imperiled planet, and mobilize our efforts to mitigate the damage before it’s too late.

Whether Barbie herself can directly save the environment is debatable, but she can be a force for good by raising awareness and inspiring action.

Perhaps the most pervasive form of projection is the erasure or invisibility of Indigenous peoples. When their history, contributions, and voices are ignored or marginalized, it allows the dominant white narrative to remain unchallenged.

America faces mighty challenges—reclaiming an identity is no picnic—and that living with that new identity can be uncomfortable and difficult, but if Barbie (as seen in the movie) can willingly make the leap from plastic forever plaything to a human who will grow old and die, then we can take our cues from her and move forward toward a brighter future.


It's Not Me, It's You! How Narcissists Get What They Want and How to Stop Them

Breaking free from narcissistic relationships is possible. 

In It's Not Me, It's You! How Narcissists Get What They Want and How to Stop Them (Cascade, July 2023), bullies, bad bosses, human traffickers, and mean girls all manipulate their victims without lifting a finger. We know this sinister form of mind control as projective identification and blame shifting. Many millions of Americans suffer from this kind of abuse, but they don't have to anymore--escape and healing is possible. Though certainly not intended to replace in-person therapy, I hope my book will guide victims of psychological abuse on their path to exiting toxic relationships while also providing tangible, actionable solutions.

Healing from the pain inflicted by narcissists is possible. It's Not Me will help patients realize that they are not to blame and that they can take steps towards a positive and healthy life lived on their terms. 


© 2024. Dr. Karyne Messina.  All rights reserved.

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