|Picture courtesy of ourmuddyboots.com|
Barbie Millicent RobertsAge 55 but looks 20
Controversially unrealistic body proportions
Barbie has been known as a fashion icon since the 1960s. She was created by Ruth Handler for her daughter Barbara, whom Barbie was named after. Ruth wished to make a doll that little girls could dress and engage in pretend play with, much like how the paper dolls that were popular at the time were used. The concept of Barbie was inspired by the German doll Bild Lilli.
Barbie has been seen over the years with many different friends and family members. Her one true love, however, continues to be Ken.Barbie’s occupation is ever changing. She has had as many careers and jobs as she has had outfits. In addition to fashionista, Barbie has been architect, astronaut, computer engineer, and the U.S. president.
Barbie has had her share of controversy. She has been widely criticized as being a bad role model for young girls and society in general for her influence in setting unrealistic body standards in women. The recent emergence of Lammily, a doll created to celebrate the average sized female body, has been seen as a reaction to Barbie. Lammily has been referred to by many as the anti-Barbie.Barbie has been noticeably absent in doll reviews on YouTube. She was not among the top toys listings of 2014 that appeared during the Christmas season. Among retailers such as Toys R Us, her shelf space has shrunk in half over recent years.
Why? Where is Barbie?According to an article from The Daily Beast, “Barbie is out, Monster High is in.” This article from October 21, 2014 describes how Barbie sales have been declining and that the young girls who once were Barbie’s core demographic are gravitating towards Monster High dolls and digital toys.
Many theories for the fall in Barbie’s popularity are presented in “Barbie is Out, Monster High Is In”. One theory is that parents may be making a conscious decision to steer their children away from Barbie due to “antiquated, sexist, and unrealistic representation” and that she sends “mixed messages” to girls, telling them to “be whatever you want to be” while also holding up a “ridiculous body image.” Barbie collector and dressmaker Nikeeyia Howell opines that the lack of diversity and progressiveness is a problem. She notes that, “the black version of the doll” she regularly encounters on store shelves has “very light skin [and] if you want a darker skin, black Barbie, then you have to get one from the S.I.S. line.”While some may say that Barbie is losing in the toy wars because of the lack of realism in her image, I have a different take. Since when have kids been concerned with reality when it comes to play? Elements of reality definitely come into it, of course. Kids are often imitating what they see adults do. But along with the “real”, there also needs to be some aspects of creativity where imagination is stimulated. Barbie is missing the fantasy science fiction ingredient that Monster High has.
In the last decade, popular culture has seen a growing fascination with monsters, vampires, and the supernatural. Adults love to immerse themselves in the paranormal world. Case in point: television shows and movies such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead, and Supernatural. Kids also love this otherworldliness.Oddly enough, while working on this blog post, there seemed to be a sudden resurgence of Barbie appearances on YouTube. It seems that there was an unveiling of new varieties of dolls from the Barbie line at Toy Fair 2015 in New York. What was noticeable was the diversity among Barbie and friends. The Mommy and Gracie Show posted a video on YouTube of their visit there with the comment, “Holy Diversity Batman … They have so many new skin tones and hair textures.” Among those seen were an Asian character, bi-racial character, and even a character with semi-shaved head. I have also seen reviews of dolls with articulated ankles so that Barbie and friends can now wear flat shoes and take a rest from their high heels. It appears that Mattel is attempting to respond to some of the criticisms and complaints.
Here’s a look at some of these new dolls in the world of Barbie:Bi-racial doll from Barbie Fashionistas line on “Jason Robert Keef” YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3sdoWQtJC4
Check out Barbie’s friend with semi-shaved head in “Doll and Playset Reveals from Toy Fair 2015” on “Mommy and Gracie Show” YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuNotI6xiFk