Last year, Mattel launched their new range of ‘Real Girl’ Barbie Dolls. A new collection of Barbie dolls that supposedly reflected real sizes, ethnicities and shapes.
One year on, on the day of Barbie’s birthday (Happy Birthday), I question whether these new dolls made a real impact, or were simply made to order. These new Barbies’ were an important move for Mattel, and prompted us to question the ideal and talk about our bodies and how we view them. But have the Barbie creators gone far enough? It was a long time coming, and it was a major modification to the brand. Adjusting to change and increasing demands isn’t easy for any woman, and it certainly hasn’t been for Barbie. However, it wasn’t hard to notice that the three new body types, initially introduced were not that much disimilar from the original. They are presented as tall, curvy and petite, though Mattel have since added more dolls that focus on skin colours and hairstyles, offering a more broader perspective on women’s beauty. However, we can’t ignore these similarities. Tall Barbie is lean and modellike, and is the spitting image of the original Barbie, with a big smile and bright eyes. Curvy Barbie is toned and is perfectly pretty. It would be doubtful that her weight topples the average. Petite Barbie is shorter, and very cute. Upon closer inspection, she is no different than the traditional model.
You can see where I am going with this. These models are new and different, but have they provided a dangerous message to children? Mattel created Barbie as an alternative to baby dolls for young girls, that ironically appealed to grown men. I can’t help but think this is a paradox of sorts; Barbie was created to prevent the woman stereotype and denote the subliminal motherhood messages, so they created a doll that tells us we can do anything, but only if we look a certain way. Barbie has always been an idol and a role model to little girls (and boys) throughout the world. With a huge wardrobe and multiple careers, Barbie has certainly broken through her plastic ceiling.
Though we should look at this as a good first step, I also think it has been a few steps back. The appeal to men hasn’t been removed, and we are still subjected to an aesthetically pleasing doll, which though petite, curvy or tall, are in perfect proportion and high self esteem. We are supposed to be promoting women’s self esteem, not the dolls. It is once again sending a message that beauty is a priority and that it should play a role in our success and lives. Offering a doll that appeals to both children and men is outdated and only causing more problems. Another major issue is that the original Barbie is being included in the collection, offering the opinion that she is the normal one. There has been a call for the brand to adapt for several years, and it is no secret that Mattel’s sales have slowed down. So though the new Barbie may be part of a feminist shift, it isn’t wrong to question their motives. Barbie will always be an easy target and no one ever said change would be child’s play.