The New Faces of Barbie
Ever since the Barbie doll was first released in 1959, the doll’s slim figure and curves have been criticized for being an unrealistic standard for feminine beauty. A study done by the American Psychological Association in 2006 tested 162 girls between the ages of 5 and 8 years old, and discovered that girls who were exposed to images of Barbie were more likely to gain low self-esteem and a desire to become thinner. However, beginning in the early 2000s, Mattel has since been working to add diversity to their iconic Barbie doll. On Jan. 28, Mattel introduced a new line of Barbies with three different body types: petite, tall, and curvy, which are different from Barbie’s usual skinny frame.
Mattel’s new diverse line of dolls boasts an addition of 22 eye colors, 7 skin tones, 24 hairstyles, and four body types, including the original. Focus groups showed that both mothers and their children favored a curvy, blue-haired doll, #27 Sweetheart Stripes, over many of the other new additions to Barbie. Parents appreciated that the doll had a more “realistic” body type, while many kids liked the doll’s eccentric hair color.
The new body types that have recently been introduced to Barbie customers differ from the thinness of the original Barbie. According to Tanya Lee Stone’s book, The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie: A Doll’s History and her Impact on Us, young girls, as well as celebrities, have been comparing themselves to Barbie for generations, seeing her body type and appearance as an image of “perfection.”
“When I was little, I wanted to be perfect, like all of my Barbies.,” a twelve year old girl in Stone’s book said. “I realize now that it was a mistake.”
Recent sales of Barbie have begun to plummet, with sales declining 14% between the years of 2014 to 2015, even after the previous “reboot.” Mattel hopes that the new dolls will boost sales and make Barbie more widely accepted.
“I think it’s really important because our culture as a country is really opening up and accepting diversity, because nobody looks like a Barbie. No one is realistically that size. Girls have hips, they have waists. Some girls have boobs, some girls don’t. They are not perfectly proportioned in the way that Barbie is, and I think it’s important to bring out the different ethnicities and body types, and heights even,” Rebecca Bailey ‘16 said.
Since the new dolls have been released, the hashtag “#TheDollEvolves” has been trending on social media. Celebrities like model and body activist, Ashley Graham, have been posting positive feedback about Mattel’s new additions. Graham uploaded a picture to Instagram of the new dolls, saying “Now THIS is a #Barbie doll I can relate to!”