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LESSON FORTY-THREE HERE!
In today’s lesson, entitled A Broader View of Beauty, you will listen to a passage about where the Barbie doll’s creator got her inspiration, and why, after nearly 60 years, Barbie is undergoing a big transformation. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
A Broader View of Beauty
Listen and Learn
Lesson Forty-Three PASSAGE ONLY track:
Inspiration can come when you least expect it. Take, for instance, how the original Barbie doll came into being. As Ruth Handler watched her pre-teen daughter Barbara playing with some paper dolls, she noticed that Barbara often gave the dolls adult roles. Aha, thought Ruth. She approached her husband Elliot, who serendipitously happened to be the co-founder of Mattel Toys, with a proposal. Why not create a doll with an adult body and a fabulous wardrobe? At first, Elliot dismissed her idea: parents would never buy their young daughters a toy doll with a sexy female figure. Eventually, however, Ruth convinced Elliot and Mattel Toys that there was a market niche for a doll that would allow little girls to imagine their adult future.
The first Barbie doll was introduced as a “Teen-age Fashion Model” at a toy fair in March 1959. Available as a blonde or brunette and wearing a black-and-white zebra-striped swimsuit, she was an immediate hit. Within a year, over 350,000 Barbies had been sold in the United States alone. Every little girl seemed to want one for Christmas.
To date, more than 800 million Barbies have been sold around the world. This ongoing success has come largely because of her ability to change with the times. She has evolved from a fashion model to a career woman, and, in her lifetime, has had more than 180 different careers, ranging from nurse to astronaut. “My whole philosophy,” Ruth Handler once said, “was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
While some see Barbie as a “positive” role model, others have severely criticized her. She has been blamed for giving girls a “negative, unhealthy” body image and has come under fire for causing eating disorders among pre-teens and young women. Barbie’s body shape is, without a doubt, unrealistic. Her physique—the tiny waist, long, thin legs, and petite frame—occurs in fewer than one in 100,000 adult women. Mattel has claimed that Barbie’s proportions were created for ease of dressing and undressing, not to replicate an adult figure. Fair enough. But that doesn’t justify the ultra-thin figure Barbie flaunts on her TV show, and in movies, books, and online games.
Children are influenced by the images they see around them. Research suggests that girls as young as five are already worried about their looks or “getting fat.” This year, 57 years after Barbie debuted, Mattel has responded to criticism and introduced a new range of Barbie dolls designed to promote a healthy, more realistic body image. Now children can play with Barbie dolls of all shapes and statures. Barbie also comes in a wider range of skin tones, hairstyles, and eye colors, reflecting the diversity of those who play with them. Evelyn Mazzocco, Barbie global general manager, recently told Glamour magazine: “We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand. We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty.”
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn: Lesson Forty-Three LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions are of various types. Follow the instructions for each question. Feel free to pause and listen several times if needed.
1. Write a brief answer to this question.
What inspired Ruth Handler to create the original Barbie doll?
2. Decide if this statement is true or false.
At first, Ruth’s husband Elliot didn’t go for the idea of creating a doll with a sexy adult body because he didn’t think parents would ever buy one for their young daughters.
3. Choose the best answer to complete this sentence.
In March 1959, the first Barbie doll was introduced as a __________________________________.
a) “Female Fashion Model”
b) “Blonde Beauty”
c) “Super Career Woman”
d) “Teen-age Fashion Model”
4. Write a brief answer to this question.
To date, about how many Barbie dolls have been sold around the world?
5. Choose the true statement.
a) Barbie has been a hit only because every little girl gets one for Christmas.
b) Barbie’s success has so far been limited to the United States.
c) Barbie’s success has come because so many young girls look just like her.
d) Barbie’s ongoing success has been a result of her ability to change with the times.
6. Decide if this sentence is true or false.
In her lifetime, Barbie has had more than 80 different careers.
7. Reading between the lines. Write a full-sentence answer to this question.
Why most likely do so many people view Barbie as a “positive” role model for young girls?
8. Decide if this sentence is true or false.
Some people have criticized Barbie for giving young girls a negative body image and even for causing eating disorders.
9. Complete this statement with the TWO best answers.
Mattel has recently introduced a new range of Barbie dolls designed to ___________________________________.
a) make dressing and undressing the doll easier
b) promote a healthier, more realistic body image
c) reflect the diversity of those who play with them
d) make Barbie more popular on TV and in the movies
10. Write a full-sentence answer to this question.
How does the new range of Barbie dolls reflect a “broader view of beauty?”
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA WORDCAST: Listen and Learn! Lesson Forty-Three
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.
She approached her husband Elliot, who SERENDIPITOUSLY happened to be the co-founder of Mattel Toys, with a proposal.
In the above sentence, SERENDIPITOUSLY is the adverb form of the noun SERENDIPITY, which refers to something interesting or pleasant that has happened completely by chance. Synonyms for SERENDIPITY include coincidence, fluke, happy accident, and good fortune.
It was pure SERENDIPITY that we moved in right next door to the highest-rated elementary school in the country.
The discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming is an example of how SERENDIPITY plays a prominent role in science.
The adjective SERENDIPITOUS and the adverb SERENDIPITOUSLY, therefore, mean occurring or happening by chance. Look at the following examples.
Last night I had a dream about my old junior high school classmate, and then, quite SERENDIPITOUSLY, I ran into her this afternoon on the subway.
Through a SERENDIPITOUS chain of events, Anne Frank was able to tell the world her story through her diary.
Ninth-century Chinese alchemists SERENDIPITOUSLY discovered gunpowder while trying to find an elixir for eternal life.
She has EVOLVED from a fashion model to a career woman, and, in her lifetime, has had more than 180 different careers, ranging from nurse to astronaut.
The verb EVOLVE is used in general writing or speech to mean to develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex or improved form. Synonyms include grow, advance, progress, and change over time. It is usually used intransitively, as in the following:
From its beginnings as a large, cumbersome instrument, the mobile phone has EVOLVED into the small, flat, convenient pocket device that we all know and love today.
The popular Hollywood star constantly tries to EVOLVE as an actor, taking on increasingly challenging roles.
The only way the print media are g
oing to survive is by EVOLVING in line with changing public needs and demands.
EVOLVE is most often used by scientists to talk about living things that change over time from one form to another.
Paleontologists now agree that modern birds EVOLVED from dinosaurs.
We tend to believe that human beings have stopped EVOLVING, but the truth is that we are changing and developing all the time, though nearly imperceptibly.
EVOLVE can also be used as a transitive verb with a direct object, as in:
We have now EVOLVED a system that allows parents to become more directly involved in their children’s education.
Mattel has claimed that Barbie’s proportions were created for ease of dressing and undressing, not to REPLICATE an adult figure.
REPLICATE is a verb that means to copy something exactly. DUPLICATE is the nearest synonym.
Chinese scientists claim that they have a cloning technology that is advanced enough to REPLICATE humans.
Even the best zoos in the world are unable to REPLICATE the natural habitats of wild animals.
Contestants on the Kids Channel cooking program had to REPLICATE their favorite fast food.
When speaking scientifically about genetic material or a living organism, REPLICATE means to produce an exact copy. Reproduce is the nearest synonym.
This new cancer treatment prevents malignant cells from REPLICATING themselves.
According to the latest research, embryonic stem cells have the potential to REPLICATE any type of bodily tissue.
But that doesn’t JUSTIFY the ultra-thin figure Barbie flaunts on her TV show, and in movies, books, and online games.
In the above sentence, JUSTIFY means to give an explanation or excuse for something or for doing something a particular way. Explain, warrant, defend, give reasons for, and provide a rationale for are some synonyms and phrases you can use in place of JUSTIFY.
“How can you JUSTIFY not turning in your homework assignments for three weeks in a row, Richard?” his teacher asked in anger.
Ignorance and fear never JUSTIFY bigotry.
The civil-rights advocate and peace-activist Dr. Martin Luther King believed that nothing JUSTIFIES the use of violence.
JUSTIFY also means to show that something is right or reasonable.
Though many parents were at first concerned about her qualifications, the new teacher has fully JUSTIFIED herself and become a key member of the faculty.
My daughter never practices and has made no progress, so I can no longer JUSTIFY paying her piano teacher $30 an hour.
Manchester United’s new defender has vowed to JUSTIFY that he is worth every penny of the £8 million the team paid for him.
FYI: In printing technology, JUSTIFY means to arrange the lines of printed text so that one or both edges line up straight.
In my opinion, a paper appears neater and more organized when the margins are JUSTIFIED.
The noun form, JUSTIFICATION, refers to a good reason why something exists or is done. Grounds, just cause, basis, and rationale are some good synonyms.
Being “too busy” is poor JUSTIFICATION for parents’ not helping their children with their schoolwork.
In a press interview, the mayor admitted that there was no JUSTIFICATION for raising city bus fares by 15%.
But that doesn’t justify the ultra-thin figure Barbie FLAUNTS on her TV show, and in movies, books, and online games.
In the sentence above, FLAUNT means to show something that you are proud of to other people in order to impress them. Display, exhibit, parade, brandish, and show off are some near equivalents.
Though Kenji comes from an affluent family, he never feels the need to FLAUNT his wealth.
Jessica would never FLAUNT her intellect, but we all know that she is smarter than the rest of the class.
Have you ever noticed how Will always keeps his shirtsleeves rolled up so he can FLAUNT his expensive watch?
FYI: FLAUNT is often confused with FLOUT, which means to openly fail to follow or obey a rule, law, or custom, as in:
FLOUTING tradition and conventional wisdom, the school district has instituted a new “no homework” policy.
Barbie also comes in a wider range of skin tones, hairstyles, and eye colors, REFLECTING the diversity of those who play with them.
REFLECT is a verb with many uses. For today’s lesson, we will look at how it is used in the passage above. Here, it is similar in meaning to indicate, represent, display, or demonstrate.
Our school newspaper aims to REFLECT the views and opinions of our teachers, students, and staff.
Johnny Clegg’s music REFLECTS his love for the people and culture of South Africa.
The dosimeter readings taken outside the Fukushima power plant did not accurately REFLECT the amount of radiation that the people working inside were exposed to.
The noun form, REFLECTION, refers to an indication of the state or nature of something. Synonyms include demonstration and evidence.
Healthy skin and hair are often a REFLECTION of good general health.
Your appearance is a REFLECTION of your character, so when you go for your interview, make sure you dress well.
The new employment figures are a REFLECTION of the general improvement in the economy.
Your decision to stay behind and help others at great risk to your own life is a REFLECTION of your compassion and courage.
REFLECTIVE is the adjective form and is used to describe the condition or nature of a person’s actions, as in:
Stephen’s lack of enthusiasm is not REFLECTIVE of the soccer team as a whole. The other players are all committed to winning.