Friday, January 29, 2016

My Barbie, Myself

Mr. and Mrs. Mattel (if Barbie has parents) have announced a blessed event: 33 new Barbies, born fully formed and not wearing newborn sizes. "Fully formed" is the interest here. The new Barbies are tall, petite or curvy with different skin tones, hairstyles and feet that can sit on the ground. For the past two years, Mattel has been jiggering with the original stick-thin formula "to bring the doll in line with realistic body standards and reflect the diversity of the kids playing with the dolls" according to USA Today.

The concept is not new. American Girl dolls have long been offering multiple ethinc variations of their iconic doll (though the bodies are still realistic seven-year-olds). The goal was a little girl could order a doll that might look like her, if she wanted, or foster a whole United Nations (if her parents were filthy rich).

Mattel's move is all well and good, but take a look please at "Curvy Barbie". Isn't she really just pear-shaped Barbie (in which case she looks like me)? Look at those arms. The majority of plus-size or "curvy" women have weight on their arms as well. Is there a plastic shortage in Mattel-land?

I'm not going to join the outcry (already) that these dolls are still perfect— perfect features, perfect hair, not a blemish, not a bulge. Make believe is —still— a real element of play. Without emphasizing our imperfections will they become less important over time?

The new Barbies are not documentary; they're docu-drama. They are reality as portrayed by actors, which is okay as long as you accept that. I'll be curious which of the new Barbies sell the best. I wouldn't want Petite Barbie unless she gets a petite wardrobe. Otherwise it will be too hard to find pants that fit.

And now, what about this guy?


  1. What's next--will people be complaining that there isn't a post-menopausal Barbie?

    Gee, my childhood was a long time ago, but if I remember correctly, I never minded that my dolls were prettier than I was!

  2. If I can also remember back that far, nobody cared who was prettier than who until high school— way past our doll-playing days!