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Artist Wins Barbie Doll Case

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Dec 30, 2003 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – A Utah artist who devoted much of his time and creative efforts to photographing Barbie dolls in lewd and dangerous acts with common household appliances won a major victory in a federal appeals court Monday.

The artist, Thomas Forsythe, won his right to create whatever type of art he wanted under the shield of the First Amendment, regardless of the offense caused to Barbie's maker, Mattel Inc.

The three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that "social criticism" is protected by the First Amendment and that Mattel's earlier victory in 1999 in a lower court be thrown out, according to Reuters.

Mattel had originally sued the artist for copyright and trademark infringement.

According to reports, Forsythe routinely depicted Barbie dolls on the verge of being pierced or stabbed with appliances, and often times his art renderings were reportedly perverse and "sexualized."

The series of Barbie photos were called "Food Chain Barbie," according to Reuters, and sometimes involved Barbie dolls immersed in food substances being subjected to dangerous situations.

The court ruled that the artist's work in no way jeopardized Mattel's sales or the public's perception of the toy doll.

The artist's defense of his work was that he was seeking to challenge the beauty myths that have become intricately tied to the flawless female image Barbie represents.

Forsythe was quoted by Reuters as saying that the image of a Barbie doll wrapped in tortillas and covered in salsa in a casserole dish was intended as a critique of the "objectification of women" and the "beauty myth" associated with the world's most famous doll.

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