Thursday, January 28, 2016

Barbie Girl in a Barbie World

alternatively titled: Why the Barbie's image campaign and new "shapes" matter.

Mattel has long been criticized for perpetuating an unrealistic physical appearance for young girls through the example that Barbie sets. The company has been trying to fight this reputation as they attempt to keep the doll current for their customers. Most of Barbie's nearly six decades of existence though, she's existed as the bubblegum blonde hypersexualized stereotype. Barbie has also been criticized in the past for, while offering different types of careers, continually making her seem inferior to her male counterparts. She was a computer designer in a book now unavailable for purchase, who couldn't really do anything without the men. When she is trying different careers, the outfits seem to be the main focus. You can be a doctor, but it's important you still look feminine. The emphasis is usually on fashion not function.

In recent years, Mattel has been trying to change course on our thoughts of this doll. They put a boy in their ad in November and the internet went wild. On Thursday, January 28th Barbie announced the expansion of its Fashionistas® line with the addition of three new body types – tall, curvy and petite – and a total of seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 hairstyles. Barbie's even on the cover of Time magazine talking about her body.

With this release, Evelyn Mazzocco, Senior Vice President and Global General Manager Barbie has said "We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty. Barbie has always given girls choices – from her 180 careers, to inspirational roles, to her countless fashions and accessories. We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand – these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them – the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them."

We have to remember as well, Barbie is still trying to sell their product. These are all still femme figures wearing dresses with makeup on. In addition, all of your Barbie clothes will no longer be interchangeable. If you buy "curvy" Barbie, you have to buy a whole new wardrobe including shoes. I think it's important to remember that a company can make great strides and do good things, but at the end of the day they're still worried about profit.

Something else that's come about with their new rebranding is Barbie Vlogs. Currently there are eight episodes and you can watch all of them HERE:

When you have a Barbie, you want her to be your friend not just a doll. You want to know more about her life, her adventures. Beyond books or TV shows, a vlog feels so much more personal in this internet riddled age. She calls her subscribers her friends.

One episode in you can tell that the company has heard the criticisms and is taking them into account. Barbie Roberts, a transplant from Wisconsin to Malibu, lists 10 facts about herself. Fashion is included, but is far surpassed by nuggets of athleticism, creativity, and curiosity. She comes off as a "normal" middle class, every day girl. The second episode goes back to her traditional fashion and hair focus, but is different than what we're used to from Barbie. She encourages her friends to try new things, experiment with clothes and hair. She shows us her selfies. This is important to me because it instills that it's okay to like how you look, even if you look different every week. It's totally normal to take selfies and to like yourself. The fourth episode she gets a little deeper, talking about "raising our voices" and not being afraid to speak up. She encourages her friends to use their voice to stand up for people and help people. In a video mostly about puppies, she lets us know that we shouldn't force people to do things when they're nervous. It's okay to be shy and we should be understanding of those who are.

Intermingled with these episodes there are fun videos of normal YouTuber channels: Draw My Life, taking quizzes, introducing her puppy, favorite holiday traditions, normal chatting with your friend vlogs. She incorporates comments from the last video into her next, just like a real live person would. She speaks to you as an equal, a friend. She celebrates her achievements and sets goals for the future. She doesn't like "resolutions" because that makes it sound like you have something to fix. She likes to make a list of "opportunities" for the coming year.

This type of content, be it the new lines of dolls or the vlogs, being available for young kids is so important and people are taking notice. Not only people with young children, but young adults on Tumblr are sharing gifs from the vlogs and reposting articles in praise of this new campaign. Parents are happy to have more positive role models for their children and more diverse options to choose from. Seeing this doll that you love to play with every day discussing important issues of acceptance and self love is something that kids will pick up and keep. It seems as though it's hard for some people to realize how already ingrained kids' idea of beauty is at such a young age.

"We see it a lot. The adult leaves the room and they undress the curvy Barbie and snicker a little bit,” says Tania Missad, who runs the research team for Mattel’s girls portfolio. “For me, it’s these moments where it just really sets in how important it is we do this. Over time I would love it if a girl wouldn’t snicker and just think of it as another beautiful doll.”

As so many young girls see this doll as an ideal, it's amazing that will be different views of that ideal for them to pick from when purchasing a Barbie. We would hope that our children grow up knowing that everyone looks completely different and there is not a "right" way to look. There will be criticisms of this new release. With so many different shapes of woman and colors of skin, eyes, and hair not to mention different styles, there will be someone left out of these new designs. However, I don't think it's fair to ignore what a huge step in the right direction this is. I'm really excited to see how successful this "evolution" is and where Barbie will go in the future.

To see all the new dolls, visit the Barbie website HERE.

Until Next Time,
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