As 2016 sets its mark on the world, we enter a new chapter in the books for Barbie. For anyone that may not know who Barbie is, Barbie is the iconic doll that was launched in 1959 and was the product of Ruth Handler, who actually based the idea on a pre-existing German doll Bild-Lilli. Ruth had a daughter, Barbara, and at the time, most dolls for girls were more like baby dolls. On a trip to Germany, Ruth found the Bild-Lilli doll, which had more adult features and was actually marketed towards adults, gave one to her daughter, and then approached Mattel about her idea to market a more adult doll to young girls. The name Barbie is even inspired by her daughter Barbara.
The rest is literally history. Barbie has been an iconic image since her debut. She has undergone many subtle changes over the years in an effort to remain relevant. There was Ballerina Barbie, Career Barbie, Beach Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Glamour Barbie, and the list goes on. Barbie has been used to inspire girls to be whatever their imagination desired. Barbie represented all that was pink and pretty with the world. She was your playmate, confidante, and girlfriend….even for those of you that ripped her head off for fun.
To expand her appeal across multi-cultural and ethnic boundaries, the Barbie dolls received a makeover that gave them additional skin tones and hair color/textures, but the basic structure and recipe of Barbie remained the same. Let’s fast forward to 2016. Mattel has just released a new version of the Barbie brand doll. Now she will have more ‘normal’ figures and sizes. For years, many groups have spoken out against Barbie because to them, she represented an unattainable beauty that was harmful to children. Her skin was flawless. She was always beach body ready. She was tall, thin, and had perky breasts. She was the epitome of Western culture beauty and glamour.
When does Barbie stop being Barbie? Do these new dolls really boost self confidence because now you can have a doll that looks exactly like you? Should Mattel leave Barbie alone and create a new line of more ‘real’ dolls? Isn’t the point of imagination, existing in a fantasy world for just a short time? Check out Barbie’s transformation over the years below.