Getting Over Barbie
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! I’m referring here to Barbie dolls, not The Godfather family. For me, Barbie is the wound that never heals. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to have her when we were growing up because our mother thought she was...well...too voluptuous for young girls. Now comes word that Mattel is coming out with a new line of Fashionista Collection Barbie’s – 33 dolls in all! – and my mother is no longer here to guide my moral choices. What to do...?
I’m always struck by how passionate and opinionated people are when the subject is Barbie. The “Original” doll is probably the most politically incorrect toy ever designed. (That’s the one I coveted because we didn’t know what politically incorrect was back then).
We just knew a stunner when we saw one and we wanted to be and look just like Barbie. To us (the future generation of feminists), Barbie was what I would call an “aspirational” role model.
Ken aside, this was a woman who had it all.
The tip-toes that never rested. The waist that never expanded. The bust that never ceased to amaze.
She was athletic (aerobics instructor, football coach, cheerleader, scuba diver, Olympic gymnast).
She served in three branches of the armed forces.
When Barbie wasn’t fighting fires and arresting criminals (even as a Canadian Mountie), she was circling the globe as an Ambassador of World Peace, running for President (and winning)...while simultaneously serving as Chancellor of Germany. (Hillary may want to consider lifting Barbie’s campaign slogan: Go Vote! Go Run! Go Lead! Go Girl!)
On a slow day, Barbie was styling pets, working the cash register at the candy counter, and driving in the NASCAR circuit.
Need I remind you that she looked absolutely fabulous while doing all of the above?
But while my peers were busy outfitting their Barbie’s in strapless bathing suits, elegant cocktail dresses, designer suits and body-hugging active wear, I was relegated to buttoning another baggy blouse on my life-size Patti Playpal doll.
And now my dream doll is back with a vengeance.
According to Mattel, the 21st century Barbie will come in three new body types (tall, curvy and petite), seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles! (Is this a retailers’ inventory nightmare, or what?).
The Collection will be officially introduced February 13 at the New York Toy Fair and rolled out to retailers starting in the spring. (If you’re desperate, you can buy one now at shop.Mattel.com).
"We have to let girls know it doesn't matter what shape you come in, that anything is possible," said Tania Missad, director of consumer insights for the doll line.
But make no mistake, the dramatic changes to the doll have as much to do with the bottom line as they do with evolving sensibilities. Worldwide Barbie sales fell 4% in the third quarter of 2015. And the company's stock price was down nearly 43% from its 2013 peak. Lego has toppled Barbie from her stiletto perch to become the current most popular toy brand.
And speaking of stilettoes...
Perhaps the most shocking feature of the new Barbie dolls will be their flat feet. The better to fit into their (comfortable, unflattering) flat shoes.
This gives me pause. (Maybe I am over Barbie...).
Flat shoes and a plus-size wardrobe?
They might as well change her name to Patti Playpal.