Barbie's (Much Needed?) Facelift

In recent years Mattel, the maker of Barbie, has been bombarded with criticisms over the doll's ‘simplistic’ and ‘unattainable’ appearance. Her body proportions mirror those of a mutant more-so than your average woman; according to The Daily Mail, a study concluded that if she were a real woman she would be “forced to walk on all fours” and “physically incapable of lifting her over-sized head”. She would be 6 feet tall, weigh 100 pounds, and have a 39-inch bust.

 

The company announced Thursday that they would release a new, more inclusive and realistic design of the doll. The new line will feature dolls of eight different skin tones, fourteen facial structures, twenty-two hairstyles, twenty-three hair colors, eighteen eye colors and three body types- petite, tall and curvy. Many predict Mattel is making the leap to compensate for the plunging sales. In 2013 alone, their sales dropped 6%- with a notable 13% decrease during the holiday season. According to the CEO, this occurred because the “landscape [was] changing”.

 

 

This diversification of the doll begs the question as to when a doll seemingly became more than a doll. Has it always been the case that young girls desired to become or form their feelings of self-worth based on an inanimate object intended solely for entertainment? More than a billion dolls have been sold in 150 countries, despite Barbie not only being physically non-viable but also frequently perpetuating gender stereotypes. It was only last year that the company introduced a Barbie whose ankles were movable, in order to allow the doll to wear flat shoes for the first time. The objectification to the aesthetic of Barbie, and even Disney Princesses, is arguably a more recent phenomenon as is reflected in its sales. Many of the criticisms appear to come more from young adults and adults than their intended audience- children. This is arguably so because young children may not pre-occupy themselves with trivial matters such as forming their standards of beauty based on a doll rather than the women around them. Maybe some children, like myself, use(d) Barbie for its sole intended purpose of entertaining?

 

Nevertheless, there have been staunch advocates for a more practical Barbie. According to Felice Leon, if there had been a Barbie around in the 1990s who looked like her, her life would be different. She argues factors of her life, such as her body image, would not be the same. In some ways she idolized the doll, and this idolization manifested itself in the way she perceived herself. Had she had positive images of different body types that affirmed her own, she would have been more forgiving to herself. Surely Leon is one of many who believe that Barbie negatively affects young girls in their formative years. In fact, studies have shown that children identify body image with the toys they play with, though some have also proven that children identify with them in different ways and other influences minimize this impact.

 

Some believe that Mattel is making strides while others believe Barbie’s time in the limelight is over.

 

Images obtained from

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/31/barbie-57-when-will-...

http://www.post-gazette.com/image/2014/03/08/ca0,3,1032,850/two-doll.jpg