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All I can say about this is that all the match results are accurate...


by Samantha Lying


"I HATE Barbie!" shrieks Shinobu Asagoe.

The outburst is a shock, transforming the friendly features of this up-and-coming tennis star into a fierce snarl. Just as quickly, normalcy is restored and she covers her mouth, laughing apologetically:

"Sorry, Samantha-san, we are taught to vent our fury at Satsujin-Barbie school."


Asagoe has recently become the most high-profile member of the Satsujin-Barbie (Murder-Barbie) cult, a growing Japanese sect that reputedly rejects what its members see as corrupting Western values.

"That is a misunderstanding; we are not reactionary," corrects Asagoe. "We embrace modernism but, to traditional Japanese, Western values are emetic. (I had to look that up: it means vomit-inducing. Asagoe studied English in school; she is a good student) So, the negative feelings one gets must be diverted our case, towards the ultimate symbol of Western decadence -- the Barbie doll."

It is this focusing of rage that, tennis analysts believe, has enabled Asagoe to record her best-ever year in 2003. Although struggling against "normal" people, she has staged an unbroken string of upsets of highly-touted players who conform to a certain image...


It began in January in Australia, where Asagoe was matched up against respected veteran Barbara Schett in the Hobart QF.

"The sun is very bright in Australia and I had to keep squinting my eyes. I found that when I did so Barbara-san kind of looked like Barbie. The samurai spirit swelled in my soul and I vowed to not only defeat her, but send her career into a tailspin."

Her success in Hobart gave her confidence going into the Australian Open -- she lost first round to Virginia Ruano-Pascual, who does not look like Barbie.

February brought a match-up with rising Russian Elena Dementieva.

"I successfully recovered my killer mindset when I saw her. Her distinctive squeak-screams of frustration reminded me of the squeaking noises created when I pull the limbs off dolls. Honorable Barbie-conquest was mine."

A fallow period followed with an early loss in Miami to Venus Williams ("I tried to think of her as the Black Barbie, but I looked at her face and thought, 'Who am I kidding?'") and a first round exit at the French Open courtesy of Lisa Raymond ("I tried squinting as hard as I could but there was no way I could picture Lisa-san as a Barbie doll.")

Salvation came on the lawns of England's grass courts, where "Barbie-Butcher" cemented her reputation.

First came Birmingham and an early match-up with Russian giant Elena Bovina.

"I took one look at her and knew achieving Barbie-rage would be no problem. She was so shocked by my ferocity she was ill for weeks!"

Asagoe moved through to the semi-finals against teen sensation Maria Sharapova.

"The players were getting more and more Barbie-ish; it was unbelievable. You know those screams she makes that she's not aware of? Those are repressed memories of me surfacing every time she looks across a tennis court."

Next up was the finals versus Magdalena Maleeva.

"She's blond," sighs Asagoe, "but Maggie-as-Barbie was too big a stretch."

On to Wimbledon and her greatest triumph: a 2nd round defeat of Daniela Hantuchova.

"That was the most Barbie-ish Barbie-bitch yet! Her proportions and muscle mass were about perfect for a two-ounce plastic doll! I resolved to ruin her life."

Mission accomplished, she moved on to the hardcourt season (her favorite surface) where, regretably, she has struggled, meeting too many squat brunettes and therefore recording only a single match victory...against Els Callens.

"The first stage of ritual Barbie mutilation is shearing of the hair, so Els-san was close enough; my imagination is developing."

As she heads into the US Open is there anyone she particularly relishes the idea of running up against?

She licks her chops, "I would love to slap my goon hand down on that Dwarf Barbie -- especially on her home court, but realistically the best shot I have is, if I can make it to the 3rd round, I should get one of the two Barbies with the monster-fathers."

I remind her that her first round opponent is Maggie Maleeva.

She slumps...

"I will try and focus on her hair."

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Whoa…a little hate there. She is a little Barbie, herself, and benefits from the same thing in her culture and ours. She works it, too.

Time and intelligence will bring her a broader perspective. She'll see the parallels underneath and not the symbols on the surface. That's when she'll be able to define herself by what she is rather than by what she is not…or what she thinks she's not.

Until then, at least she's entertaining and I'll keep rooting for her.
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