I have five amazing little nieces (the oldest is 9 years old) who live far enough away that I’m able to see them only three or four times a year. When I visit, I know that within hours (if that long) of my arrival, I will be asked, “Tammy, can I play on your iPad?”
For this reason, I have a collection of games installed for them to play that are age appropriate and non-gendered. So far, I haven’t had to worry about any of my nieces straying into the App Store and downloading anything on their own, which is fortunate because there are some really terrible apps in there.
Take, for instance, the game creatively titled “Plastic Surgery & Plastic Doctor & Plastic Hospital Office for Barbie Version.” This “Plastic Surgery Barbie” has the player act as a plastic surgeon to perform liposuction on an overweight young woman who has so much fatness that she has no other option but to have it forcibly sucked out of her.
“This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her. In our clinic she can go through a surgery called liposuction that will make her slim and beautiful. We’ll need to make small cuts on problem areas and suck out the extra fat.”
“Plastic Surgery Barbie” was pulled from both the iTunes and Android app stores earlier this week as a result of a Twitter campaign by @EverydaySexism, who called out the fat shaming, over-idealized beauty standards and sexism seemingly targeted at young girls.
That this application passed whatever standards Apple and Google maintain for entry into their respective app stores is unfathomable and gives the impression that games with this message are perfectly acceptable. The Twitter response was immediate and ragey.
The app was taken down before I had a chance to look at it, but Ellie Hall has an excellent play-by-play over at BuzzFeed. Essentially, the player uses a variety of surgical tools to slice Barbie open, remove her unwanted fat and stitch her back up. After “waiting” several days, Barbie’s bandages are removed, and the player gives her a full makeover so she can look super amazing when compared to her previous body.
If the game is like any of the other games by developer “corina rodriguez [sic],” however, I can promise that it is not only offensive but also really, really terrible. As someone who has over 50 games on my iPad and at least as many that I have tried and deleted, I can assure you that these are about the shortest, most inane games I’ve ever encountered.
The developer had almost 30 games listed on iTunes, and all but a few of them were specifically targeted at young girls: “Beauty Nurse Makeover & Dress up & Acne Office – Top Nurse Game,” “Babe Hair Salon & Babe Dress Up,” “Apple Pie for Girl & Lady Version for Holiday – Cook & Food Game.” The application that I downloaded to try out was “Babe Dentist & Babe Dress up & Babe Makeover.” Almost all of them were rated for ages 4+, although the “Plastic Surgery Barbie” and another surgery app (“Leg & Foot Surgery & Doctor & Hospital Office for Barbie Version”) were rated for ages 9+.
I am utterly horrified at the thought of one of my nieces downloading and playing any of these applications. “Plastic Surgery Barbie” is the extreme (like the friend who always goes one joke too far), but they’re all horrible.
I understand the rage that this has generated. I was all kinds of ragey when I first read about it. Then I went to iTunes and did a search for “plastic surgery game.” I didn’t find the Barbie game because it had already been taken down, but I did find one titled “Celebrity Little Nose & Eye Face Doctor,” which bills itself as a surgery makeover game for “kids and girls.” (Is there any better example of the “othering” of girls than that expression?)
Then I ran another search for “makeover game” and received 500 hits—500 (and probably more) games to ingrain in every child that the way to be happy is to make yourself over into something “better.” Given the recent existence of shows like Extreme Makeover (the original one, not the house one), The Swan and even The Biggest Loser, why wouldn’t there eventually be a game that says that cosmetic surgery is the best way to get from “unfortunate” to “slim and beautiful”?