EDITORIAL: Barbie to become more diverse and body positive


Kiera Pagano // The Chief

Barbies now come in four different body types.

At least this is the message that Mattel, the company that produces Barbie, seeks to put forth in its marketing of a new line of Barbies with new hair and skin colors as as well as new, more realistic body types.

For years, say the name “Barbie,” and the iconic image of a blonde, thin, and fashionable doll would come to the minds of consumers around the world. On January 28, 2016, Mattel set Barbie on a new path: one of unabashed diversity and acceptance, instead of one that championed fitting in.

These new dolls, set to be released throughout the year, feature seven new skin tones, several new hair colors and different textures. While these features contribute to the more diverse appearance of Barbies brand-wide, the three new body types: “tall,” “petite,” and “curvy,” really show a marked movement away from Barbie’s previous “original” form.

Let’s break down the facts. According to Chapman University, if the “original” Barbie was a human, she would be forced to forgo walking and standing erect on two feet, and instead move around on all fours. Due to her unrealistic proportions, Barbie would be considered anorexic, and would not menstruate. In fact, Barbie would be almost five inches taller and thirty pounds lighter than the average American seventeen year old female, according to the Centers for Disease Control, if she were human.

In particular, the new “curvy” shape seems to be gaining the most attention from consumers. Many praise the new shape, believing that it posits a more realistic body shape.They feel that the “curvy” Barbie’s thicker thighs, slightly protruding belly, and flat feet are much more representative of the population at large.

“[The new Barbie] will lower the chances of self conscious young girls and boys,” one anonymous student who responded to a survey conducted by The Chief said.

In the age of social media, children are exposed to new experiences and people every time they open Instagram or Snapchat. Barbie’s new shapes, according to Mattel, are a reflection of what children see every day.  In terms of Kardashians, the new Barbies cover all of the bases: “tall” Kendall Jenner, “petite” Kourtney Kardashian, and “curvy” Kim Kardashian, included. Thus, the new line of “Fashionista” Barbies has ushered in diversity to match this increased accessibility of the internet.

Although this so called “Evolution of Barbie” has occurred after many years of criticism of Barbie’s unrealistic shape, It is likely that these new features are an economic response of Mattel as well. In fact, they may be a strategic maneuver to save face in lieu of declining sales. According to CNBC, Barbie brand sales are currently at their lowest in over twenty years, most likely due to competition from the technology sector. In fact, according to the same report, sales of Barbies peaked in the late 90s: making the generation who had Barbies during the brand’s golden age eighteen, seventeen, and sixteen years old.

Thus, it is beyond likely that millennials— including current students of Massapequa High School— played with Barbies when they were younger. To anyone who played with them as a child, the iconic doll may conjure up the image of an idyllic childhood, one where a fashionable doll could hang out with her plethora of equally fabulous doll friends, as well as her boyfriend, Ken.  Or, alternatively, do millennials’ memories of Barbie consist of constant comparison of her tiny, unattainable waist to their own?

Do children even pay attention to the size of their doll’s waist?

“As a kid, I never saw Barbies in any way other than my really pretty friend,” senior Sophia DeVita. “Although my looks didn’t match Barbie’s exactly, she never made me feel less beautiful.”

Whatever the case, it is clear that the Barbie brand has changed forever. Ultimately, only time will tell how children will react to these new dolls. But who knows? As the saying goes, “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.”

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