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Death may become Archie, but what does Barbie have to do to get noticed?

"Well, at least you get to do something unexpected like die."

Barbie is sitting in a New York City watering hole with freckledface carrot top Archie Andrews. They're acquainted with one another, of course, having been entertainment icons for several generations. Barbie texted him to see if he could meet her for a drink. She wants to talk about their careers.

"I was happy to take that bullet for Kevin," Archie says, referring to his recent death in the Life With Archie series, which saw him intervene in an assassination attempt on his friend, a gay senator and war veteran.

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"Yes," Barbie replies in a slow, drawn-out voice. "I have been thinking about this Kevin Keller." She drums the tips of her Barbie Pink™ manicure on the top of the table. "He has done well, being the first openly gay character in your brand."

"Gosh, no kidding," Archie agrees. "When he made his debut in September 2010 in the series Veronica, it resulted in Archie Comics' first-ever second printing!"

"I know, I know," she says from behind a tight pink smile, flicking her high, bouncy ponytail off her shoulder. Barbie yanks at the small waist of the sleeveless pink sheath dress she bought for her recent Entrepreneur Barbie launch. She was hoping to be recognized on the streets of Manhattan. It takes a real effort these days, what with with all the plastic-looking people around.

"And that's what I want to talk to you about – what they do with me." Barbie leans in, practically hissing across the table:

"Who's doing what?" Archie responds, reeling back in his chair.

"My makers, Archie." Barbie sighs heavily. This dude could do with getting out of Riverdale more often, she thinks.

"You're not happy with Entrepreneur Barbie?" he asks, suddenly understanding. "I heard you got your own LinkedIn profile. They gave you a wireless device. And a spreadsheet to carry around. How cool is that?"

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"Just another lame attempt at modernity," Barbie says, waving her hand through the air. "Look, the fact is, my global sales are down 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2014. I'm dying, Archie, I'm dying." Barbie flops herself across the table, thanks to her bendable waist. "And not like you, who dies decisively – saving some guy's life! 'The way in which Archie dies' – and I'm quoting your boss here – 'is everything that you could expect of Archie.

He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. It's what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years.' Sheesh!"

Archie shrugs meekly. He knows a thing or two about women, having famously strung two along for most of his life. And, sometimes, it's best just to listen. He offers a wan smile and remains silent.

"My problem is I'm all over the place," Barbie goes on. "People don't know what to make of me. I'm a mom. I'm an astronaut. I'm a presidential candidate. That LinkedIn profile shows 150 jobs! And my makers are acting a bit desperate. Earlier this year, they stuck me on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. Now this entrepreneur thing. Gah! Modern womanhood is a mess, which makes it so much harder being a female icon. You have it easy, Archie. I have to look good, always groomed. Because if I'm not, how am I contributing to the advertising-consumer industrial complex? Nobody will admit it, but it's my job to make little girls into obsessive shoppers!"

Barbie breathes deeply before continuing. "And then, the older gals, the 'feminists' " – she makes air quotations around the word – "give me a hard time because they say I'm not empowering girls to be all they can be – only proving it's about appearances. I can't win!"

"@!#t per cent" is all that appears above Archie's head. "I understand," he says, calmly, into the silence that follows her rant. "Look, if it makes you feel any better, I'm not really dying forever and ever. I'm still around in the regular teenager series. My approach is, you know, just be grateful. You've got a fabulous wardrobe. You never have to grow old."

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"I have an idea," Barbie interrupts him. "I'm thinking that I have to reflect modern society as it is. I'm not a bubble-head, you know. And I figure there's an opportunity with the LGBT vein that Kevin has tapped into. I could come out as a lesbian or, wait, I could be Bi-Barbie! It has a certain ring to it. I could be a gay man in drag, and they could make my perky boobs detachable!"

Archie puts a hand on hers. "I have to get going. It's been great chatting. I told Betty I'd help her with something. But listen, I'm a nice guy, so I'll ask my people if you could make a guest appearance in Riverdale. Veronica wouldn't like it, but it might be fun. And the change could do you good."

Barbie softens. She tilts her head to one side, one hand under her chin, eyelids fluttering.

"Oh, Archie."

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About the Author
Life columnist

Sarah Hampson is an award-winning journalist whose work started appearing in The Globe and Mail in 1998, when she was invited to write a column. Since 1993, when she began her career in journalism, she had been writing for all of Canada's major magazines, including Toronto Life, Saturday Night (now defunct), Chatelaine, Report on Business and Canadian Art, among others. More


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