Barbie Redesign Reaction

This past week, Mattel made a pretty big announcement. The Barbie Doll, which has been on the toy market for over fifty years, has received its first major redesign. The new Barbie Fashionista line includes eight different skin tones, 14 facial structures, 23 hair colors, and 18 eye colors. Most importantly, in my perspective, is that Barbie now comes in three different body shapes – petite, tall, and curvy. But like any controversial issue addressed on the internet, there certainly was some backlash. I want to look at some of the popular negative comments that came out in regards to this announcement.


“I don’t think a toy can have that much of an effect on body image.”

Kids grow up with toys that teach them about their future. They dress up as firefighters, play with pretend kitchens, and take care of dolls. The world is filled with images and expectations that are pretty unavoidable. While you might have a positive body image and feel confident with who you are, others aren’t so #blessed. Changing Barbie is not going to fix the world, but it can put a break in the stream of unrealistic images. I mean we’re talking about a doll that in 1963 came with a book on how to lose weight with one of the instructions being “don’t eat.” We have all heard that the previous Barbie dolls had super impossible body proportions. She didn’t even have the 17% body fat required to menstruate. If changing Barbie can help promote healthy body image and a broader view of beauty, then it’s a step in the right direction.


“This is just a marketing scheme.”

Many complain that this redesign from Mattel is just a way to boost profits after their sales were down for a third consecutive year. Their solution: make differently shaped dolls that require differently shaped clothing. Brilliant. What people need to remember is that Mattel is a company and this company's’ first goal is to make money. If they can make money and address a concern of their market, then yay. Two birds with one stone. Surprisingly, it is possible to be politically correct and economically successful. Target is doing the same thing. Going gender neutral is a way to be more politically correct but it also allows kids to see 2x the amount of toys and clothing resulting in more sales. I don’t think any company would make a marketing decision that would purposely harm their performance and revenue.


“The new dolls change the focus of ‘Barbie can do anything’ to a doll known for body image.”

Barbie has always been known as the doll that can do anything. One day she’s a teacher, the next an astronaut. What is important to note is that now little girls will be able to see themselves doing anything. If a girl can see a doll who looks similar to herself doing every career on the planet, they will be encouraged to try new things and test themselves. They won’t feel limited or constricted by standards set in society.


“It categorizes people too much.”

There is no way to make a doll that represents every single person in the world. That’s impossible. Obviously, there are more than three body types, eight skin tones, 18 eye colors, and so on. Naturally, categories are created with Barbie, but now at least there are more categories than before. If you weren’t blonde and skinny, you were out of luck. If you look at the picture below, every doll looks different. If anything, it allows little girls to imagine different backgrounds stories for all of their dolls. I think it’s important to look at how far you’ve come and not how far you have to go. This is the first big change in the Barbie design. It’s exploratory and has left room for further growth and development.


Now I just want to know if Ken and other toys that reflect boy’s body image will be next?