I recently saw the Barbie movie (like most people it seems) and whilst I wasn't overly impressed, it was entertaining. America Ferrera's speech on the challenges of being a woman was really my favourite part, as I'm sure many women in the audience could relate to much of what she said. I remembered a while back I wrote a blog on the pros and cons of Barbie dolls, and if they are good toys for young impressionable children or not, so have decided to update it, given how topical Barbie currently is.
I read an article on huffpost.com (from 2014) entitled "R.I.P Barbie...", detailing the reasons for the decline in sales of the popular doll, which has been around since 1959. I read with interest the different viewpoints over the controversial toy, but having grown up with Barbies, owned a Barbie house, cars, horses etc, I honestly don't see much harm in young girls playing with them. I don't remember ever obsessing over growing up with the aim of reaching the glamorous blonde's unrealistic proportions. I also didn't think of her as some kind of WAG, a blonde bimbo with the sole ambition to marry a rich man. Surely Barbie was, and remains, a toy to inspire the imagination. Barbie can be whoever the child wants her to be, and behave in whatever way the child decides. The article can be found here:
Since this article was from a while back, I wondered how the Barbie film had influenced sales more recently, and was surprised that the results were not more significant. As this article explains, sales are likely to increase over the next few years rather then the instant boost I would have expected:
Barbie's manufacturer Mattel have done their best to please parents, and try to keep up with trends. Over the years she's had many adventures and careers, including being an Olympic gymnast in the 90's, an astronaut in the 60's, as well as the more "girly" versions of ballerina, fairy and princess. Try and imagine how many different outfits she must have had over the years...it reminds me of the comical Ken in Toy Story 3, and how he loved to show off his very varied wardrobe. Ken always seemed to be more of a girls' toy, and although he never reached the same dizzy heights of fame as his girlfriend, there's never been any controversy made over him. I found a funny interview with Ken where he describes a typical day in his life. The interviewer suggests, much to Ken's annoyance, that he's really just an accessory for Barbie. Barbie always takes centre stage, and so I don't think it can be argued that she is dependent on her man, I see her as pretty independent. Watch the interview "Groovin' with Ken" here:
Mattel introduced African-American and Hispanic barbies in 1980, and her vital statistics were made more realistic in the 90's. These were wise moves by the company, and I think it's a good idea to represent that all people are different, and enable them to play with dolls which are more like themselves should they wish to.
However, Mattel hasn't always got it right. There have been some terrible ideas from the Barbie camp. I found a great article summing up some of the biggest errors of judgement. There were rumours of a teen pregnancy Barbie, but the real one was pregnant Midge, a Barbie with a baby doll which could be removed from its belly. I'm pretty sure that's not one I would want to buy a young girl. Interestingly, Midge appeared a few times in the Barbie movie, and from this article, it seems Midge may not have had low sales due to being a pregnant doll, but because she was less glamorous than Barbie. I also learned that Allan, featured in the movie, was manufactured as a boyfriend for Midge.
The worst idea I read about was Growing Up Skipper, Barbie's little sister gained an inch in height and, wait for it...grew breasts, when you turned her arm. Thankfully, the doll was pulled from the shelves quicker than you can say training bra. The Barbie movie also referenced this controversial doll.
I was pleased to read there was Becky, Barbie's friend who was wheelchair bound. Unfortunately, she wouldn't consider "Dreamhouse" an accurate description upon visiting her friend, since the toy would not fit in, and there was no ramp for her to use. Becky should have featured in the movie, but sadly not. One wheelchair user describes the positive impact that a doll in a wheelchair had on her own childhood in this Teen Vogue feature:
Mattel have caused debate over a newish range of dolls called Monster High. The dolls are particularly controversial in Russia, where a Russian parents group have even gone so far as to say they are "a threat to national security". The dolls are goth style, but surely this is an over-reaction. I don't accept that they "could give Russian children ideas about suicide". The dolls are very pretty, and not at all frightening. I don't see how they could be seen as dangerous to such an extent. There is also a spin-off cartoon series which is very popular, Russia are also trying to get that banned. What are your views on Monster High Dolls? Would you buy one for your child or do you think they are a potentially dangerous influence on young children? The BBC article can be found here:
Back to Barbie... Girls can admire these pretty toys, but in my opinion, that does not equate to a desperation to become a supermodel as they grow into young women. What are your views on Barbie? Has her time been and gone? I'd love to read your views.