An aggressively researched toy story on the “doll-eat-doll world of litigation over inspiration.”




Exploring the little-known battle for the Barbie doll empire.

Lobel (Law/Univ. of San Diego; Talent Wants to Be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free Riding, 2013) bases much of her exposé on the arduous, decadelong copyright infringement litigation in which toy giant Mattel became embroiled in 2000. In 1998, creative artist Carter Bryant, who, after years of employment with Mattel, a company he believed to be “political, risk averse, and stuck in the past,” took time off hoping to reignite his inspiration. After seven months in his rural Missouri hometown, the idea for four sassy, edgy, urban dolls was born and then shelved in favor of the steady income Mattel provided. Bryant’s motivation returned, and using discarded doll parts and clothing scraps, he created rough doll mock-ups and pitched them to Mattel rival MGA Corporation and its competitive CEO and founder Isaac Larian, who immediately greenlighted the project. The massive success of the brazen Bratz line was enough to eventually dethrone the milquetoast Barbie doll. In her crisp narrative, the author pauses to ponder Mattel’s notorious litigiousness and Barbie’s iconic history, which is illuminating and contains some eyebrow-raising factoids—e.g., 1965’s Slumber Party Barbie came equipped with a diet book (first rule: “Don’t eat!”) and immovable scale set at 110 pounds. The epic trial between these two toy titans spanned a decade and became a dizzying, ego-driven melodrama. Lobel’s research is representative of how cutthroat the toy industry can be, a fact that may surprise readers unfamiliar with Mattel’s long struggle to recoup Barbie’s image (“ice queen doll”) as it became replaced by customer fascination with the “modern, voluptuous, multiethnic” Bratz dolls. The author, whose mother is a renowned psychology professor, recognizes the “toy world’s grip on society,” and she bolsters her investigation with interviews and testimonials from attorneys, jurors, esteemed Judge Alex Kozinski, executives at both Mattel and MGA, and a barrage of financial reports and court documents.

An aggressively researched toy story on the “doll-eat-doll world of litigation over inspiration.”

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-25407-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.


A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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