AR-15 Rifles and the Barbieverse

I was reading an article in the New York Times by Matthew Walther called, “What the Owner of an AR-15 Sees in Every Single Place He Goes” and I had one of those moments when one sees things differently. It came after a paragraph in which Mr. Walther does his best to explain the appeal of an AR-15 to its owner:

“The primary selling point of the AR-15 is that it can be endlessly modified, configured, reimagined. It can become louder or quieter, easier to carry, wield, fire and reload, or more lethal. It is meant to be combined with a seemingly endless array of customizable stocks and grips, blast mitigation devices, piston uppers and conversion kits. These components are themselves paired with a vast assortment of accessories—bests, helmets, straps and other gear designated at ‘tactical.’”

Know what that reminds me of?


Controlling the Barbieverse

Barbie closet, accessories, wardrobeChildren who play with Barbies have a seemingly endless array of environments, tools, and accessories: houses, vehicles, destinations, pets, clothes, careers, siblings, and, of course, Ken.

Mattel’s Barbie website has seven pages of them. Barbie owners can mix and match, combine, customize, configure, imagine, and manipulate the multitudinous Barbieverse components at will. That’s what girls mean when they say, “Let’s play Barbies.”

Ownership and Identity

So, do men want a weapon that will give them the same sense of ownership, control, and identity? Mr. Walther says this:

“To the would-be tactician, every place that humans inhabit—housing developments, apartment complexes, stores, strip malls, hotels, churches, hospitals and, yes, schools—is another opportunity to imagine oneself taking part in military-style maneuvers. Where would you go for cover if you were here? How would you hold this position? What weapons and gear would you use?”

Barbie, Barbie Optometrist, Play Set, accessoriesTo me, that sounds like taking Barbie from her Dreamhouse to her science lab, hospital job, the gym or the spa. You get to imagine how she would get there, what she would do there, and what she would wear for her outing. She would talk to her friends, her dog, her horse. It gives the little girl complete control of an alternate reality: the Barbieverse.

Now, the real-life “he men” who carry an AR-15 would never put themselves in the same category as their daughter or little sister, but they are also playing an imaginary game. Instead of a doll, however, this one employs a weapon of mass destruction.

Controlling an Alternate Reality

I was also fascinated by the idea of grown men imagining themselves taking part in military-style maneuvers. I assume some have served in the military, some would like to have served but did not qualify, and some never even tried, but they all have absorbed the mystique of the heavily armed, infallible soldier who has complete control of an alternate reality. Thus:

“For AR-15 enthusiasts, the gun is not a means to an end—a tool with which you protect your family and property—but rather the end itself, a site of fantasy and meaning making.”

This is a grown-up version of the little boys who say, “Hey, let’s go play Army.” Except, instead of toy guns and wooden rifles, they use the real thing with devastating firepower.

Think I’m going too far? The Nashville murderer’s weapons were decorated with stickers and slogans, like a skateboard or Barbie’s Dreamhouse. But they weren’t pink and pretty. Instead, she supposedly had Nazi Azov battalion symbols on her guns and flags

Problems #1 and #2

I heart my AR-15, gun owners, love my gunsMost AR-15 owners may, indeed, be law-abiding citizens but a disturbing number have serious identity problems and a huge anger management problem.

That’s the second problem America has to fix. The first is how to take these lethal and highly destructive weapons out of the hands of civilians. It’s the weapon of choice for the sick, twisted young men who make up the vast majority of mass shooters.

In the meantime, think of AR-15s as lethal versions of accessories in the Barbieverse. It might help you understand their mindset.

This entry was posted in Lifestyle & Culture and tagged , , , , by Aline Kaplan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

3 thoughts on “AR-15 Rifles and the Barbieverse

  1. I don’t own an AR 15. But people with AR 15s don’t get into cattle cars. More importantly, they shoot people who want to put them into cattle cars… that option was not present for my relatives in the Shoah.

    You’re ignoring all sorts of data, like the fact that 42% of the murders in the US happen in 1% of the counties. You’re ignoring data like cross-country comparisons of actual total murder rates, which shows that the US is actually quite safe – and in particular, very very safe when you take out gun control meccas like Chicago, Detroit, etc.

    Lastly, you’re not really anti-gun, Aline. You’re just wanting all the guns for your side… the government side. The increasingly Socialist side.

    Meanwhile, people who actually read history and think understand that governments cannot be trusted. Period.

    “If society is honest and historically accurate, the only question that has any relevance to the gun control debate is, ‘Do you trust those in government, now and forever in the future, to not take your life, liberty, or property through the force of government?” If the answer to that question is NO, the gun control debate is over.” — KrisAnne Hall, JD

    NO. And given the history of your ideological fellow travelers, who have murdered over 100 million civilians in their quest to create a worker’s paradise, you too should have pause at the government having sole force.

    Let alone the actual hot civil war you’ll precipitate through confiscation.

    • DAvid:

      A. At no point did I talk about confiscating guns. That’s your paranoia speaking.
      B. If you think your AR-15 will protect you from heavily armed troops, you are dreaming.
      C. It does not do your cause, if that’s what it is, any good to throw around terms like socialist. Or fascist, communist, etc.
      D. Most Americans, including gun owners, want better, stronger safeguards, training, safe storage, and background checks.
      E. Conflating all murders with gun-related homicides and mass shootings is intentionally deceptive.

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