Barbie and Ken – The Break Up

In 2011, Greenpeace launched a campaign to highlight the issue of deforestation in Indonesia using the figures of well-known toy dolls, Barbie and Ken. By transposing an existing narrative into their campaign work, an example of detournement, Greenpeace created a narrative environment in El Segundo, California to protest against Mattel and to demand that the company stop using packaging from materials produced by rainforest destroyers.

The protest event took place on the facade of the Mattel building and its surroundings, bringing the issue to the awareness of local residents. Deploying an ironic and sarcastic tone of voice, Greenpeace transformed the love story of Barbie and Ken, framed by marketing discourse, into a dramatic break up story, framed by environmental discourse. The characters in the love story are re-positioned as adversaries in an argument about environmental awareness and responsibility.

In real life, the local police got involved, responding to the fictional story. The police blocked the actions of the performers and the Greenpeacethose organisers. This escalation of the event to a public order issue drew in a larger audience. Witnessing the event then became an experience in itself, allowing the Greenpeace message to be delivered in an organic way.

More information about the event can be found here on Greenpeace UK’s blog

Contributed by Pinar Akan