Saw Barbie the other day. What a delight. It was cute, sparkly, hilarious, deliciously subversive, inspiring, relevant, and above all, PINK! Plus it made me nostalgic. Not so much for the doll. Although I did have a Barbie, also a Ken, a pre-pregnancy Midge, and a Skipper (flat-chested model). But they’ve been back in their boxes for some time.

Rather, Barbieland conjured up another plastic paradise I used to inhabit: Mormonland!

You don’t need to see the movie to visualize Barbieland. Monochromatic color scheme. Goldfish-bowl houses. Beautiful people living perfect lives…only sans authenticity, freedom, conflict, glands, genitalia, etc.

You get where I’m going, right? Trade out pink for white, matriarchy for patriarchy, a good screenplay for a bad…and voila! You’ve got Mormonland.

Yikes! I think I could do with a little Oppenheimer now.

Watching America Ferrera speed across the desert into Barbieland, I thought of our own trips back to Mormonland, also across the desert, to visit friends and relations in their tidy, LDS tracts. Houses immaculately in sync down to the pinecone door wreaths handcrafted at the latest Personal Enrichment Meeting.

I’m now visualizing a major production number. Relief Society sisters draped in tiers of white tulle, twirling across the cultural hall in a fog of glitter…

Surreal as it seems now, I used to inhabit this world. I had my own Mormonland dreamhouse, (metaphorically) without walls, always open to the patriarchy. The ideal stage for the obligatory Mormon production numbers. That was, until the fog of doubt descended along with the glitter, and my plastic Mormonland dreamhouse dissembled part by part.

Given the rigidity of its construct, it’s strange how fragile Mormonland actually is. But when I found flaws in the structure, it was remarkably easy to take the whole thing down and put it back in its box.

Sure, I had to give up eternity. (So did Barbie—wink.) But the reward was authenticity. Also freedom, conflict, glands, etc. And no more bad screenplays.

Donna Banta

My novels, "Seer Stone," "Mormon Erotica," "False Prophet" and "The Girls From Fourth Ward," are available on Amazon.

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2 Responses

  1. Monya_postMo (@Monya_PostMo) says:

    Thanks for this Donna! You’ve got my head running in more similarities. I am thinking of the conformity – how the Alan: Ken’s buddy doll could wear all of Ken’s clothes. There is an assumption that we all have a role to play and that within those roles, we’re all interchangeable. I’m thinking specifically of our role in marriage and the assertion that any righteous woman + any righteous man could equal a fulfilling match. We’re not actual people in Mormonland, we’re swappable dolls. No sense in getting to know ourselves, only perfecting our roles. And that’s a perfect recipe for misery in reality.

  2. Donna Banta says:

    Great observation, Monya. BYU was all about marriage when I was there. I expect it still is. And I remember being scolded by a friend for being “too picky” when it came to men. “You’ll never find a husband with those expectations!” (Any Ken will do.)

    So many of my acquaintances married after 1 date. I often wonder where they are now. Probably a few of those marriages worked out. But the odds certainly aren’t in their favor.

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