10 Book Characters We’d Love/Hate as Barbies and Kens

Ahead of the release of Barbie, we’re examining five literary characters we’d love to see as Barbies, and five that would give us incurable night terrors.

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The greatest asset to Barbie, through her decades of fame, has been her adaptability. When you consider the myriad of jobs, outfits, and locales the doll has inhabited, it truly seems that there’s nothing she can’t do. And today, we’re adding “book character” to that long and colorful resume. Unfortunately, not all characters in literature are as bubbly and perfect as our plastic archetype; some hypothetical dolls will seem more nightmarish than dreamlike.

But first, let’s visit a few of the literary characters we’d LOVE to see as Barbies!

Violet Baudelaire, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket



This Barbie is easily the most inventive, a word which here means “prone to invention.” Throughout the series, Violet uses her genius to get herself and her siblings out of the worst situations imaginable, often with whatever meager materials are on hand. Just so long as this Violet Barbie comes equipped with her signature ribbon, the possibilities for accessories are basically endless; a grappling hook, toaster clock, and rock-skipping device are just a few of the options.

Unnamed heroine, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman



There would be some challenge in creating this Barbie’s dream house— considering, of course, that the nature of the dream house is more dreamlike than anything else. That the perceived reality of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s maddened protagonist is contested to this day doesn’t help matters; should the wallpaper of the dream house be nothing more than faded yellow paint, or trapped female faces, or both? Perhaps a mix-and-match set is in order.

Liesel Memmingen, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak



The bibliophile’s barbie. The doll, of course, would be outfitted with more books than it weighs. Is it too much to ask for a copy of The Gravedigger’s Handbook with actual text inside, and other functioning books no larger than the buyer’s thumbnail?

Annabeth Chase, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan



Another Barbie with incredible accessories and fashion, the daughter of Athena would come outfitted with her signature knife, along with a Camp Half-Blood t-shirt. Who wouldn’t want a doll whose Yankees cap could turn it invisible? Just so long as we can somehow find it again, take our money!

Susan Pevensie, The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis



The penultimate slot on this list goes to a heroine from one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. We could have chosen either Pevensie sister, but Susan won out for sheer badassery. Move over, Katniss— Susan of the Horn was slinging arrows long before your time. Along with her signature bow, she’d also come with the magical horn gifted to her by Father Christmas.

Gorgeous! Now, let’s shift gears and explore a few Barbies too disturbing to purchase.

Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy



“She’s everything. He’s just… Anton.” When you get past this doll’s soulless eyes, cattle gun accessory, and sociopathic aura, it might actually have some potential as a marketable figure. Chigurgh is one of the most durable characters in fiction, surviving anything that comes his way… surely, that same person could adapt to any of Barbie’s jobs and variations. Bonus points for variants like Beach Chigurgh, Swan Lake Chigurh, and Nurse Chigurgh.

Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris



This doll would easily win the award for most disturbing accessories. We won’t describe in any explicit detail the accompanying dish to Lecter’s beloved fava beans and chianti, but needless to say, the “Hannibal the Cannibal” doll would find itself at the bottom of the trash can of any sensible household. Naturally, Hannibal-Ken would come outfitted with a straightjacket, restraint mask, and padded cell for a dream house.

Kurt Barlow, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King



In all honesty, I’d probably buy this doll just to put a stake through its heart. Anyone who’s read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot can attest that Barlow’s literary version is even worse than his miniseries counterpart, who terrified audiences back in the 70s. Even so, there’s something about the bald head, the ratlike teeth, and the bluish skin of the film version that just turns your blood to ice. Bonus points for outfitting him with glow-in-the-dark eyes, blood-tinged fangs, and a voice box with hissing sound effects.

Cruella De Vil, The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith



While her 2021 origin film brought some humanity to the character, Cruella De Vil holds a reputation as one of the most over-the-top-batshit-evil Disney villains since her debut in Dodie Smith’s 1956 book. There’s simply nothing to find charming in a Barbie whose style choice consists of endangered animals and adorable puppies. She would, however, come equipped with the largest (and most macabre) wardrobe out of any Barbie on this list.

Mrs. Coulter, His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman



Rounding out the list is a Barbie whose flashy fashion sense almost redeems her vile personality— almost. Mrs. Coulter carved an infamous name for herself throughout Pullman’s series through her cruel experiments on children. Anyone with a track record like that is going to inspire more nightmares than lighthearted Barbie adventures. She also loses points for her lack of accessories; her monkey daemon is sort of cute, but it doesn’t compare to some of the other options on this list.

There you have it! If Annabeth’s kickass Barbie is too bland for you, there’s always Hannibal Lecter’s Ken to liven things up in the toy chest. Just don’t be surprised if the other dolls mutiny as a result.

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