Two Argentinian artists, Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, produced 33 dolls of various religious figures for a show named "Barbie, The Plastic Religion," which opens in Buenos Aires on Oct. 11.

Barbie as the Virgin Mary? Ken as Jesus? Italian Catholics are not amused

A poster advertising the opening of the art show.

Two Argentinian artists, Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, produced 33 dolls of various religious figures for a show named "Barbie, The Plastic Religion," which opens in Buenos Aires on Oct. 11.

ROME (RNS) Barbie has had a number of careers in her 55 years -- flight attendant, veterinarian, astronaut, even president. Her latest role, however, is raising eyebrows.

Italy’s Catholic bishops are furious about controversial artistic depictions of the popular Barbie and Ken dolls as the Virgin Mary and a crucified Jesus Christ and other saints.

Two Argentinian artists, Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, produced 33 dolls of various religious figures for a show named "Barbie, The Plastic Religion," which opens in Buenos Aires on Oct. 11.

SIR, an Italian website backed by the Italian bishops conference, denounced the controversial toys in an editorial, which asks: " What is the difference between provocation and bad taste?"

The artists’ collection featured on their Facebook page includes religious figures from Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Although the artists decided against creating a Ken doll as Islam's Prophet Muhammad, they do depict Jesus being crucified on the cross.

On their Facebook page the two artists write in Spanish that there was no way they would depict Muhammad out of their great respect for Islam but stressed they did not intend to offend any religion.

The brightly colored dolls have provoked widespread debate in several languages from Argentina to France. The collection also includes versions of Barbie as Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin of Lourdes.

“Do you think it is finished? If you did, you’re forgetting that there is also the masculine component of the plastic couple. So you can see the faithful and eternal boyfriend Ken dressed as Jesus, Saint Roch, Saint Sebastian or for the politically correct, Buddha,” the website editorial says.

The bishops’ website invites parents to explain to their children why a doll is not always a gift and to help to deconstruct “the fictitious role” presented and the true stories behind the dolls.



  1. A poster’s request to the artists: Brilliant! Please have a show in New York!

    Maybe Timothy Dolan would like to host the show …. ?

  2. If that were twisted correctly, sacrilegious as it is, Ken would be Joseph, not Jesus. Don’t people have better things to do? Even if you’re not a believer, what’s the point of making fun of the beliefs of others? Even though some extremist evangelicals behave obnoxiously, if you’re a person of self-respect and intelligence and honor, you don’t contradict it with such crude behavior as this.

  3. Just from an artistic perspective, there is nothing more overdone and cliched from the art world than using Barbie dolls as a metaphor for plastic superficial society.

  4. gilcan, clearly their point was to belittle. Why such reverence for Islam is, of course, suspicious, but that is their choice, and their voice of religious freedom. That they did not state: We are Muslim / We are of the religion Islam is something to be determined in time, I would imagine.

    Why I made the point about Dolan was this (something I shared in another comment):

    New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan paid a visit last summer to the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Tompkinsville on Staten Island, where he met with a large group of Muslim leaders. As is often the case when Catholic prelates meet with Muslims, his theme was the common ground shared by the two faiths. Cardinal Dolan told his Islamic audience, “You love God, we love God, and he is the same God,” and he thanked them “for making me feel like a friend and a member of a family.” He went on to tell them how much they share in common with Catholics: “Your love of marriage and family, your love of children and babies, your love of freedom — religious freedom particularly — your defense of life, your desire for harmony and unity and your care for others, your care for God’s creation and your care for those who are in need.”

    My God is NOT the God of Islam.


  5. Dear opheliart, I’m with you on Cardinal Dolan in being “nicey nice’ with his Islamic audience. I was taught to “stand for something or you will fall for anything” phrase growing up. I know high ranking officials of the Church have to be diplomatic, but my God why did he have to say “we worship the same God”, REALLY? I hope Cardinal Dolan would sometime say maybe in a letter now after he has met with this group especially since we are back to a major war in the Middle East with ISIS and other extremist of that sort the cardinal was meeting with, that maybe the cardinal might want to ask some of these Islamic groups to stop killing priests in the Eastern Rite Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Yes i said it and will say it again. There has been a lot of killing in the name of religion in history, but now, in our day, it seems these radical groups the cardinal spoke so nice with are doing most of the killing. Our Catholic and Orthodox people too. The Chaldean Bishop of Mosul, Iraq is now in exile. Google it, see what he said. Anyway, my God is not the God of Islam either, and once again Cardinal Dolan, write in your letter or go on the news and tell your nice friends to also stop crucifying, be-heading, and gunning down Christians in Syria and other places in the Middle East. Do you care, Cardinal Dolan, about your fellow Archbishop of Mosul? They took over his church and planted their flag atop his archdiocese. Hey, just sayin, you know? Thanks for your comments again opheliart. Stay strong.

  6. Just wondering, is great respect and great fear synonymous?

  7. None are more blind than those who think they can only see.

  8. E,

    “Just wondering, is great respect and great fear synonymous?”

    This is a tremendous question. I am glad you asked because it challenges the Intellect. Answer: Simply, no.
    To swim deeper …
    God (Spirit, as I know God) does not give the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. This is an inner calculus that enables one to satisfy just proprieties. The ancients of “wisdom” texts like The Philokalia were striving in this to perfect this part, and it is a part, a branch, within one given in Love. Fear is not a generous stage, nor is it a guarantee of anything, but it used for a democratic parallel. God does not give fear; but does give what is necessary to not be overcome by it, or anything else of fear, or harboring fear, but fear can balance wellness at certain stages, so I would not dismiss it altogether. There is something that some believers mistake for fear in their reverence for God, but this should not be a forced methodology.

    There is much, much MUCH more in this, but I cannot share all in this venue.

    Peace and Love

  9. “my God is not the God of Islam”

    Of course not. But your god is not existing, either.
    To pretend otherwise is just tribalist nonsense.
    Who cares what God is the true all-powerful Supervisor if he does not intercede to save anyone?

  10. “God (Spirit, as I know God) does not give the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

    That is just the Coffee talking.

  11. Then you don’t know the historical development of the god concept in your own religion or those of neighbouring cultural regions.

  12. Atheist M,

    I do not drink Caffeine (maybe a splash in my decaf 🙂

    Are you afraid you might lose an Atheist brother? You can attempt to belittle in any Barbie Doll fashion who desire … dear, darling, Max, it does not change the course of what will be.

    Peace to you my dear, Catholic Max

  13. Hilary Boone,

    I read about the Greek Orthodox 12th century church taking in the Palestinian Muslims fleeing (July 2014), and sheltering them. What is the status on this—do you know?

    Peace and Love

  14. Atheist Max,

    How would you know? You do my know ME. Wow, Max, what kind of drugs did they put you on in that Roman Catholic House that you should persist in your diatribe? If you decided that you do not believe then so be it, but why continue to degrade those WORKING to help move voice, and learn. I am not trying to lure people into a religion because I am not of a religion. That I believe in Spirit because I EXPERIENCE this does not make me tribal or nonsensical. I think my posts have shown as much. That you do not understand what I share is another matter. The mind is an amazing organ, which has the capability to go beyond your Catholic plane.
    Now, as for why God isn’t saving all these people is something I hear every now and then:


    Spirit filtered through HUMAN hands, Max. God gives choice—always. Spirit shows no partiality, Max. Who-what should he save? Roman Catholics? Greek Orthodox? White Evangelical Religious? White Evangelical Gay Religious? Black Evangelical Straight Religious? Atheists? Nontheist? If you think you have the best way of HUMANIZING mankind, Max, then proceed, but I do not believe an all Atheist world will be a world without pain and suffering. This, my dear, Max, is common Sense.

    Peace to you.

  15. RT,

    Please identify whose comment you are posting to. It is difficult when the comment is vague.


  16. Atheist Max, ah yes, you’re sure, aren’t you? Who can be sure of anything — really sure? Tribalist nonsense? That’s your opinion. Don’t try and lay it on anyone else with a sneer.

  17. There you go again — a type of pontificating (!!) with the sneer always obvious and present. You have a nerve to attack Opheliart in this way.

  18. It’s your coffee talking, Atheist Max. There you go again — mocking Opheliart for her beliefs. Is it possible, at all, for you to have a reasonable discussion on matters like this?

  19. Max: It’s possible you are a high school student who believes he has figured out the world. There are so many like that. It’s possible you are a little older. That’s okay. As others here have said humans have free will and therefore bad things happen. That’s the nature of this world. Your thoughts about God are very primitive. There are deeper truths than you have fathomed.

  20. We can add the modern example of the Kurds providing sanctuary for the Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yahdzis and other refugees and protecting them with armed force. Jordan is doing the same.

  21. @Carm,

    Mindless, unsupported claims about gods and spirits are ridiculous and laughable.

    I shall mock as I please.
    Next we’ll discuss the magical computer fairy who whispers sweet nothings into the internet to make words appear where once there was only white space!

  22. @Carm,

    “with the sneer always obvious and present.”

    That is what sneers are for. Sneering is what you do when someone talks about ‘of the spirit’ and such. That is how we get Barbies and Kens with biblical properties (although no genitalia I’m sure).
    That would be pre-original sin. As it is impossible to sin without sex organs.

    Gee – God should have thought of that! Would have saved a lot of trouble.

  23. @Opheliart,

    “God gives choice—always.”

    Good grief.
    What are people to do with such gibberish? Who says gods put the choice there? How do you know this? Where are you getting this plethora of contradictory information? How do you repeatedly make these god claims one after the other??

    Don’t you get tired of inventing all this jibibble?

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