Barbie has been getting a lot of flack the past 20 years. There’s been an uproar about her unrealistic looks, therefore she is a poor role model for girls. Hmm. To paraphrase from the movie “Toy Story”, it’s a toy. She isn’t real. People are role models, not toys.
The Original Barbie Generation easily realized this fact.
For one thing, there’s her thigh gap. Not only was the term thigh gap not in anyone’s vocabulary, all we had to do was look at every adult female in our lives and on the beach. Live women just didn’t have thigh gap. Twiggy probably didn’t and all other models were healthy and athletic looking. They had curves.
Then there were her feet permanently poised for stilettos. She even had stilettos for the bedroom. Real women had slippers that they wore around the house – even when dressed for the day – that were flat-soled. Live (sane) women cannot live in stilettos 24/7. While attractive, they just aren’t practical for cleaning house — especially toilets and ovens.
Barbie was pure fantasy. The question remains, whose?
Boys never considered Barbie an ideal woman, nor did they fantasize about her the same way they ogled pictures of naked women in the ‘girlie’ magazines. The Original Barbie had arms that only moved up and down from the shoulder. Her legs moved back and forth from the hips. She had no joints in her elbows, wrists, or knees. Boys’ fantasies included a lot more flexibility than Barbie had. They knew she wasn’t real. Heck, if they had ever met a live Barbie, they would have been intimidated by her. She would have been far too much for them to handle.
Also, while marketed as a ‘teen fashion model’, her face placed her age anywhere from late 20s to early 40s and Mrs. Robinson was still years in the future. Clearly the Original Barbie was actually a trust fund socialite. She had no visible means of support yet had a designer wardrobe. Her makeup was perfectly flawless and permanent.
She was high maintenance.
While people have clamored for a makeover, they have failed to realize that Barbie has had numerous makeovers. While the Original Barbie Generation was growing older, Barbie was getting younger. As soon as they made her body flexible, her face and hair became younger. As the Original Barbie Generation considers the pros and cons of moving into active adult communities, Barbie is now getting carded at bars and restaurants.
She kept her ridiculously long legs and tiny feet for thirty years before being reshaped — slightly — to reflect a younger, not older age. Unlike the Original Barbie Generation, Barbie found the Fountain of Youth.
While the Original Barbie Generation was growing up, going to college, starting careers, marrying and having children, Barbie was trying to play catch up to reflect the real world.
Did Mattel misstep? Certainly.
The Original Barbie Generation had far more imagination (and class) fantasizing about a house for Barbie that included lofts, rooftop gardens and patios, tastefully designed by the best architects and furnished by the best decorators. Instead, Mattel designed the Nightmare House of Pink, which not only would have little to no resale value, but clearly had no space for a man-cave, relegating Ken to the status of boy toy forever, leaving Barbie to never marry and become known as Slut Barbie.
This was definitely the wrong message to females of any age.
Then there was the pink car. While we were past the age of playing with dolls at the time, the Original Barbie Generation knew that pink was only suitable for Elvis and taxicabs cruising Key West. The Tonka Jeep — aqua blue exterior, white interior, with fold-down windshield — worked fabulously for Barbie, since she was a world traveler and a woman of adventure. At least Mattel didn’t portray her as a Bitch In A Beemer.
The pink ‘power suit’ complete with pink briefcase? We never would have been taken seriously in the workplace if we ever dressed like that. Certainly never promoted or be management. It was enough we had to wear stilettos in the office. We commuted in sneakers. And women have worked in IT easily for the past 30 years.
Barbie was never meant to represent or imitate any real person. As a doll all her proportions are abnormal compared to human anatomy and no one would want to look abnormal.
Barbie is not to blame for fat shaming, thin shaming, cleansing diets, ‘heroin’ models, gluten-free, fat-free, the obsession with flat abs, Botox and plastic surgery, even video games featuring women of absurd measurements. Photoshop maybe, but not Barbie.
Why is no one outraged over Disney’s portrayal of females? The Little Mermaid was a Little Lolita. Was I the only one who noticed the enormous hips Elsa has? And the way she sashayed? Barbie never sashayed. She couldn’t. And why, if Anna is a princess (being Elsa’s sister), does she look like she belongs in a stable and not a castle? Nothing like fanning the flames of sibling rivalry. Who would want to be Anna?
The Original Barbie Generation made it possible for girls to play little league and soccer and have sports teams of their own.
What can be said about the Cabbage Patch and Bratz Generations?