Culture Jamming

In the early 1990s, the Barbie Liberation Organization or BLO, an anonymous band of performance artists based in the East Village of New York, delivered some early Christmas presents to toy stores in two states. Teen Talk Barbie and Talking Duke GI Joe has just been released, and these merry pranksters decided to perform corrective surgery. On the dolls. After switching the voice box gizmos from Barbie to GI Joe and vice versa, they soldered them back together, and returned the altered toys to shelves at Toys R Us. Much to the surprise of the children whose Santa-esque parents purchased the dolls for Christmas, Barbie now cried, “Vengeance is mine,” while GI Joe urged, “Let’s Go Shopping!”

As reported in the New York Times in 1993:  “Obviously, our goal is to get media attention.We are trying to make a statement about the way toys can encourage negative behavior in children, particularly given rising acts of violence and sexism.”

Hactivism or Culture Jamming has a long history of effective social and political pranksterism that includes The Onion, The Yes Men, and the Guerrilla Girls.

Recently, JC Penny elicited a blogstorm of protest and a petition at Change.org over it’s girls t-shirt slogan, “I’m Too Pretty to Do Homework so My Brother Has to Do It for Me”, which was subsequently pulled from circulation (see Jezebel for more):

Forever 21 produced its own “Allergic to Algebra” dumb-dumb winner which has elicited widespread criticism aided by a DIY activist post on Reddit:




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