The saga of Barbie and Ken isn't exactly the Song of Solomon. For one thing, the Mattel match is made of plastic. For another, Mattel probably doesn't mean for the couple to teach us a lesson about God's prevailing love. Yet Barbie and Ken remain the power couple of toys, ranking right up there with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, thanks to Toy Story 3.

Barbie and Ken publicly "broke up" in 2004, when Mattel, faced with competition from dolls such as Bratz, was looking for media attention. Barbie sales have improved since then. Now, Mattel has launched a campaign to put Ken and Barbie back in the spotlight through social media, and on Valentine's Day, the couple got back together, and their love "is red-hot once again."

"Barbie and I are destined to be together, don't you think?" Ken tweeted earlier this month. He signed up on (see video) and dedicated a cupcake to Barbie in New York City. Mattel plastered Ken's message to Barbie ("Barbie, I know we're plastic but our love is real") on billboards in major cities. Aside from expressing confusion on her ownTwitter feed, Barbie so far has been passive in the campaign. You can vote on how Barbie should respond at or on Facebook.

Ken has remained a part of Barbie's story for 50 years, almost as long as Barbie has held a place in pop culture. Barbie has been just fine without him, navigating a career as a politician, doctor, teacher, coach, chef, astronaut, singer, race car driver, and dancer (and all without aging). She also dated an Australian surfer named Blaine. So the question has been raised: Does Barbie really need Ken back?

In my opinion, it's the wrong question.

In Barbie's world, everything is about Barbie. She's a woman defined by her accessories. Her costumes and job titles are all an extension of the roles she can play, and Ken becomes one of those accessories. That didn't change when Barbie became a career woman. Ken remains the amorphous male role model that few girls even try to personify. (I certainly didn't; Ken mostly sat around in his suit or swimming trunks while Barbie hustled around him with her friends. He was around when she needed him but conveniently tucked away when she didn't.)

Ken seems to have fallen out of favor at the same time the idea of a committed relationship did. Now, Barbie can trade in the same old Ken for a younger, hipper version of himself, which Mattel is calling "Sweet Talking Ken." (According to Mattel, "He's the ultimate boyfriend for every occasion … [b]ecause this handsome Ken doll says whatever you want him to say!") It's eternal love without the trade-offs that come with long-term commitment.

Turning Barbie into an independent, career-driven woman instead of one whose existence revolved around romantic love was not a bad idea. But it's not the solution to concerns about Barbie's influence on girls' self-image. The influence of Barbie on girls' play has been criticized for many reasons, mostly related to body image issues, but Barbie is not the only girls' toy guilty of promoting a culture of selfish play.

Which came first: Barbie and Ken, or the cultural revolution that teaches young women they are fine on their own, and can discard a man like last season's accessory if he doesn't make her "feel good enough"? This sentiment translates now across age and situation, from homeroom to the bar scene to online dating websites.

As girls get older and their emotions become more linked by pop culture to sexuality, we are bombarded by advertising insisting that if these man-shaped accessories don't make us feel like the ideal woman, it's their fault not ours. The idea is dangerous because it contributes to the self-absorption that can take over the lives of even well-intentioned Christian women.

I don't think it's fair to blame a piece of plastic, but perhaps the culture of play that surrounds Barbie and Ken is the real culprit. There must be small, everyday ways to counter the cultural trend without turning off imaginative play or opportunities for little girls to play grown-up. What are your ideas?