The toy world (and parenting world) was taken by storm yesterday when Mattel introduced three diverse-body type Barbies: petite, curvy and tall. In addition, Barbie is coming in different hair textures and colors as well. The dolls will be released throughout the year: seven skin tones, 22 eyes colors, 24 hairstyles.
Earning the cover in Time Magazine (titled “Now can we stop talking about my body?” What Barbie’s new shape says about American beauty) Mattel’s new dolls took social media by storm, #Barbie trended on Twitter and parents couldn’t stop talking about it—some love and welcome the new dolls, some say it’s too late, other say it’s about time.
So why the change?
As many decisions, it was about the Benjamins. Barbie’s General Manager, Evelyn Mazzocco explained in the Time video that the decision to reinvent Barbie was inspired by softened sales. In 2014, The Disney movie Frozen’s Elsa dolls surpassed Barbie sales and Lego surpassed Mattel as the biggest toy company in the world.
Barbie has received a lot of criticism for portraying unrealistic body ideals that young girls want to emulate. Many felt that the proportions the original doll had didn’t portray real women’s bodies, giving little girls impossible expectations about what they should want to look like.
Thanks to social media, parents have been more vocal about expressing their discontent about the lack of diversity in Barbie. Jess Weiner, a Mattel social media strategist explains that millennial parents have been using social media to express their concerns over Barbie, calling her a bad role model for girls and expressing their discontent over the unrealistic body types. Social media has given parents a voice about what they want from brands: “Millennial parents more than other generation of parents are concerned about what brands signify in their households.”
NOT REFLECTIVE OF THE WORLD WE LIVE IN TODAY
Barbie was not seen as authentic and a reflection of our families, classrooms, communities and world —a world where Robert Best, Sr. Director of Design for Barbie explains, “As you look around the world and especially the world kids are experiencing, is really one that is multicultural and diverse.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MULTICULTURAL AMERICA?
Mattel’s decision to really diversify the way Barbie looks is a testament to the reality of our time: we are living in a world with different body types, in a complex world of different shades. Play is finally being aligned with reality.
What is this going to do for young girls of diverse backgrounds? Girls will no longer look to conform to the mold and wish they looked different, trying to fit a mold that was unattainable. They will be able to play with dolls that look like them, with similar hair color and skin color. They will be proud of who they are and feel comfortable in their own skin– with their bodies, with their hair, with their whole selves.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF MATTEL
This decision will show little girls everywhere that there is not only ONE way to be beautiful, but rather many ways, and that different shades are beautiful, that curls are beautiful, that brown, black and red hair are beautiful. Mattel’s decision can mark a shift in what American beauty ideals are.
When a company like Mattel, that has worldwide annual sales of $1 billion, recognizes that diversity is something that can no longer be ignored…. this shows that multicultural America is a force to be reckoned with and that American beauty is not monotone. The future of America is beautiful, vibrant and undoubtedly multicultural.
Are you excited about the new Barbies?