Guest Column

No Fear Shakespeare and the trouble with Barbie


I watched a video the other day of a pastor duct-taping a Bible onto a baseball bat and then using his “Bible Bat” to utterly demolish a Barbie Dream House. It felt sacrilegious to me. I grew up in the Church.  I do not recall any priest or minister from my youth smashing anything with a bat, let alone a “Bible Bat.”  Maybe I did not go to the right churches; then again, maybe I did.

Using the Bible in this manner feels wrong. But I also had to ask myself if using a literal “Bible Bat” to injure a figurative foe was any better than using a figurative “Bible Bat” to injure a literal foe. And the latter has sadly happened more times in our history than the former. Why is a film about Barbie causing so much rancor? Some are opposed to the notion of female empowerment. Others see a cartoon map in the movie as promoting the legitimacy of China’s claim to the South China Sea. (I kid you not. The movie has been banned in Vietnam for this very reason.)

Barbie has always been controversial. Career Barbies have long been attacked for undermining the traditional role of women in society. And then there was the issue of Barbie promoting unrealistic body images for young girls. More recently, the internet has been accused of promoting the same unrealistic image, causing depression and dysmorphia in impressionable young women. Of course, with the right surgery, filters and backdrop, anyone can be Barbie on the internet.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe Barbie is the problem and not just a reflection of society. Maybe the problem is Shakespeare. “Romeo and Juliet” has been banned in parts of Florida, supposedly for promoting underaged, pre-marital sex. I remember when the problem with “Romeo and Juliet” was teen suicide.

It would be a shame to ban Shakespeare from our schools. It denies children an important rite of passage: the day they come home from school and complain about having to read a passage from Shakespeare only to have their parent shockingly announce, “I didn’t much like Shakespeare either.”  You see, it is our shared experiences and traditions that bring us together as a society, traditions like Friday night football games, school plays and eating hot dogs on the 4th of July. Hot dogs aren’t especially good for you. Should we ban the 4th of July?

Human beings are intensely flawed. The history of our nation is far from perfect. The ugly and the beautiful helped make us who we are today. I sincerely believe that the future of the American experiment is brighter today than it ever has been. History says that the fears of today will melt away, if only to be supplanted by the fears of tomorrow.

Society always advances, even if it often does so like a drunk stumbling down a sidewalk. The issues that divide us today will seem silly to future generations. For now, we need to just stop fighting. We are on a long trip together, and it will be a whole lot more pleasant if you stop poking the kid sitting next to you just because they are wearing a different colored shirt.

Scott A. Grant is a local author and historian who uses the past to understand the present. He welcomes your comments at