News of the Fictional


Just because they're fictional doesn't mean they can't change.

Updates and Comments to

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived

Fictional characters are just like real people: they grow, they change, often in response to the rest of us. We don't want you to think that just because what we wrote has been printed, we aren't aware of the continuous evolution of these characters. We live in a very dynamic world.

So here are some of the things some of our characters have been up to.


Rosie the Riveter 2018

Naomi Parker Fraley died in January 2018, aged 96, one of the women who were models for illustrations of Rosie the Riveter.  [The cell-phone generation might not recognize this character, used to encourage women to take industrial jobs in WWII.  It was a radical concept--women handling tools.  Impossible!  Females stayed at home or with children in that sexist era, except for a few secretaries and nurses.  Until war production demanded more workers.]

Although Naomi had been a lathe operator, she hadn't posed for the famous poster, in which "Rosie" flexes a bicep, and glares at us as she raises a fist.  "We Can Do It!" was the caption. 


Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a metal-worker during the war, hadn't posed either, but in the mid-1980s believed that she was the defiant woman in the poster.  When she died, news reports lamented the loss of the real Rosie.  But no connection between her photograph and the poster had been established, only that she looked like the woman in the now-famous 1943 illustration by J. Howard Miller. 


Miller's poster girl hadn't been named, but she came to be called Rosie in parallel with the larger woman in the "Rosie the Riveter" painting by Norman Rockwell.



Seton Hall professor James Kimble solved the mystery in 2015 by linking Miller's poster to a photo of Naomi that had appeared in a Pittsburgh newspaper.   

Ironically, the "We Can Do It!" poster doesn't show any tools or machinery.


Lady Chatterly 2017

November 16, 2017:  BBC news posted a story of an art exhibition display called Lady Chatterley's Tinderbot.  The display is the result of a Tinder app that used lines from the 1928 novel to have limited conversations with real men.  It's on display in a theater in Salford, Greater Manchester, and part of a presentation by  several artists that the theater titles "humansbeingdigital."    The artist of interest, Libby Heaney, created profiles for Lady Chatterley, her husband, and her lover.  The exhibit's scheduled to run from late November 2017 through most of February 2018.  The bot used some explicit language, but the BBC didn't post that.  You have to go yourself, apparently.


Barbie November 2017

In late 2017, Mattel unveiled a new Barbie to be available in stores the next year.  It's a Muslim Barbie, not only identified by the hijab that covers her head, but also by being modeled on an Olympic fencer on the US Bronze-medal saber team. 

Photos show the doll in Olympic white, holding what we first assumed to be an epee.  However, photos of saber competition show a much thinner weapon than we've seen in movies of Western and Civil war cavalry.  In any case, we are certain that this is not a light-saber, cutlass, broadsword, or Claymore. 

Competition records imply that she's holding an Olympic saber, but don't test a Barbie with any kind of sword.  Barbie's a success at anything she does.  And if she doesn't win the first round, remember: plastic doesn't bleed, you do.

Barbie January 2017

In the end of January 2016 (see below), news media reported that Mattel was making a change for Barbie.  No longer would the doll appear exclusively as the impossibly proportioned tall, thin-waisted ideal.  Her trademark body type was joined by three other dolls, all sold under the same name.  The new Barbies were intended to be more realistic: one each in tall, petite, curvy.  The "curvy" type seems to have gotten the most press, but she doesn't have the hourglass shape you might expect from that description.  We'll call her "Pudgy."  She's got a figure many girls can actually achieve--given enough cheeseburgers.

For better or worse, there were more options available than three new body types.  These were reported to be as many as thirty hair colors, and at least twenty-two hairstyles, seven skin tones, fourteen face shapes, and eighteen eye colors.  Wait.  Aren't there only seven eye colors?  Did they add red, tawny, chartreuse, maroon, periwinkle, sand pebble, beige, cornflower, squash blossom, pinkeye, and bloodshot?  There could be easily over a million possible Barbies, and more if they add body types to match Whoopie Goldberg, Marilyn Monroe, Linda Hunt, and Mother Theresa.

While we're thinking about form, what happened to the original Barbie, the saucy Parisian with her sleek black hair and zebra-stripe swimsuit--can't they bring her back?

Is it time they offered the Zombie BrideTM Barbie® to kids?  We'll assume that Mattel isn't ready to go with gray-skinned Walking Dead Barbie yet, complete with rotting detachable limbs.  Vampirella® Barbie seems a bit much, as would Golda Meir Barbie.  Maybe Angela Merkel.

There was also the question of the video series and its side characters.  We'd counted at least thirty Barbie videos by 2016.  Would those all be remade, and with how many of the new Barbies?  What would happen to the Fairies, Mermaids, and Princesses of these videos?  And the more ordinary characters in Barbie's world.  How about Skipper?  And Chelsea, Stacie, Camilla, Laureen, Midge, Blaine, and of course, Ken?

We'd wondered about Ken, that clean-cut suburban white kid, her on-and-off boyfriend.  How long would it be before he had a similar makeover?  We expected several new body types, including ones that look like John Cleese, Ben Kingsley, Al Roker, and Alfred Hitchcock.  In June 2017, our wait ended with the announcement of fifteen new Kens with nine hair styles, eight hair colors, two additional body types, an undisclosed number of eye colors, and from what we've seen pictured, perhaps nine skin tones.  A mere ten thousand or so possibilities.  Poor neglected Ken.  They should at least add a Shaquille O'Neal version, and Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith, Bill Cosby, Jackie Chan, and Michael J Fox.  And we dare them to make a Woody Allen.

Barbie 2016

On January 28, 2016, Mattel -- Barbie's marketing vehicle -- announced that she's undergoing a thorough makeover. The news made headlines the world over, of course. In an effort to keep up with her audience, Barbie's going to appear with different shapes and different skin tones -- just like real people. One size and color hardly fits all. Last year's Fashionistas™ line will be further enhanced. So here are some of the variations on the Barbie theme:

  • Original, tall, curvy and petite body shapes, for a total of 4 body styles
  • Several skin tones, for a total of 7
  • A few different eye colors (colours in Britain), for a total of 22 (the BBC says 30, but in any case it's going to be a lot more varied than simply blue or brown)
  • Some new hair styles, for a total of 24
  • New face shapes, for a total of 14

There could be as many as 8 Million possible Barbies -- but only 33 are planned to actual production so far.

The new Barbies are expected to be in showrooms in Spring 2016. (She's probably still going to be banned in Saudi Arabia.) We think that what we wrote in 2006 -- "The trailer-park Barbie with three menial jobs and a dozen kids is not one you’re going to find" -- will continue to be true for a while. But in the fictional world, nothing is certain.

What real people do you think were the models for the three new body types? What do you think they should have chosen? Will you join a Twitter campaign to add more?

Barbie 2015

When we wrote on Barbie, we found only a couple of videos starring her. In 2015 there were more than two dozen videos, such as "Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus," and picture books, too. You might find only one or two videos, but check or Amazon, and it's amazing. We saw Barbie picture books and a few $8-$12 dolls in two New Jersey supermarkets. What stores don't have a Barbie item now? OK, maybe not at Napa Auto Parts stores.


Superman and Batman 2016

In 2016, DC Comics launched a reworking of their storylines, covering anything from Action Comics to Wonder Woman, and the revisions will probably be rolled out over the next several months.  The heroes of this new series seem to be the recognizable ones we're used to, but a good many details may be different. 

After an overall "Rebirth" issue, applicable to their entire universe, each affected hero has a "rebirth" #1 issue as a prologue, then a series of issues with the "R-" word after the hero's name, starting with a second #1.  

(Superman's second venue, Action Comics, seems immune to the numbering chaos -- so far: the "first" issue is #958--got that?)


Godzilla 2015

On 3 June 2015, Godzilla was formally granted Japanese citizenship. The monster, born on 9 April 1954, is a resident of the Kabuki-cho neighborhood of Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. The monster was appointed Shinjuku's tourism ambassador in April 2015.

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived


News Page last updated January 6, 2018