Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mattel Introduces The Newest Barbie. But Will It Do Any Good? And What Is 'Beauty' Anyway?

 Let's be honest: Barbie sales just aren't what they used to be.Mattel has been trying to figure out what the public wants. For years people have been complaining that Barbie gives girls unrealistic beauty expectations. In an effort to combat that idea,Mattel introduced the latest in Barbies today. Now, in addition to the standard Barbie, there will also be Petite Barbie, Tall Barbie, and Curvy Barbie.

At last! Not everybody in the Barbie world has to be the same height! I am represented by the short girl, by the way.
As if that weren't enough, all dolls will also be available with different hair and skin colour combinations, and some will have a flat foot option. You can see them on the Mattel site HERE. You can read the full Glamour article HERE.  Here's what the Barbie site actually says about them:
"By introducing more variety into the line, Barbie® is offering girls choices that are better reflective of the world they see today.
The new 2016 Barbie® Fashionistas® collection includes 4 body types, 7 skin tones, 18 eye colors, 18 hairstyles, and countless on-trend fashions and accessories." 
I was hoping that meant you could choose hair,and  eye colour, and skin tone for the body type you wanted. It doesn't seem to be the case though. There are several dolls of each body type, but they are already made with set skin tones, and hair and eye colours.
 For the time being the dolls are only available on the Mattel website. I can see that, because how much shelf space is all this individuality going to take? Of course, if there weren't fifty million of each character in different outfits, maybe there'd be room. (What happened to the days when you got one doll and then bought clothes for it?!) Mattel is even selling fashions for each size doll. Sounds like a big money commitment.
  But I'm not sure it's going to help sales all that much. In 2014 the Lammily doll was introduced, a doll with supposedly more realistic body proportions than Barbie.
She's still not widely available though.
  And It's not a new idea. Years ago there was the Happy To Be Me doll.

She had bendy arms and legs, and a horrible face. I'm afraid I usually refer to her as 'Happy to be Ugly'. I don't care how realistic her body is, no kid wants to play with an ugly doll that's not quirky or fun, just badly sculpted. 
    It's been suggested that kids who get gifted with the Barbie most like them might be hurt or offended. Don't give the plump kid the 'Curvy' Barbie! But dolls that embrace a child's individuality have been applauded. There was the True Hope cancer Moxie Girlz line. But does a child with cancer want to be reminded of that when they're just trying to play? Do the kids in wheelchairs get offended by being given dolls in wheelchairs? There's no telling what reaction the dolls are going to get, because everybody reacts differently.
  But do kids want realism in their dolls? Is that what's going to save Barbie? After all, the problems started when Bratz started beating Barbie in sales: dolls with giant heads, giant lips, and giant feet...that detached!

And almost no noses. How do they smell? It ain't easy!
And look at the most popular dolls Barbie is getting beaten by these days: Monster High...

...Ever After High...
 ... and Disney Princesses.
None of these are 'realistic'. (And the most realistic ones, the Disney Princess dolls are often even skinnier than Barbie.) Are kids going to start thinking they aren't good enough because they don't have giant heads? Well, these days, that's possible. But my point is, I don't think this is what is going to save Barbie. Maybe nothing will. Maybe kids just want weirder stuff these days. (What creeps me out are all the monster or dead dolls kids play with. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but playing with things like that takes some of the caring and humanity out of play, which is, after all, nature's way of training us to care for others.)
  For the record, it has never really bothered me that Barbie isn't realistically proportioned. For one thing, she's a doll. She's a fantasy object. I never saw myself in my dolls, or thought I had to grow up to look like them. (With some of my dolls that would have been a pretty scary thought!) I think people think about that type of thing more now. I just used to play, and my dolls were their own people. I didn't have to be like them. For another thing, everyone is attracted to attractive things and people. That's why they're called attractive. It's natural for a little kid to want to play with a 'pretty' doll. After all, who wants to play with an ugly doll? (Ok, other than me. As a kid I always loved the goofy looking dolls, like Brat dolls, (Not Bratz dolls. Brat, from the 60's.)

Like this guy.This isn't mine, but mine looks just like this. I've had this guy since I was a kid. He originally blew up a balloon, attached in his mouth, when you squeezed his belly.
 ...or the pathetic looking dolls, like Little Miss No Name...
Ken can't even look at her. He says she looks like 'Ignorance and Want' from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".

...and Susie Sad Eyes and Susie Slicker.

My childhood generic Sad Eyes doll by Chadwick Miller, and my replacement Susie Slicker. (To replace the one my cousin stole...oh let's not go into THAT again!)
The problem seems to be with what humans consider attractive. Do women really have to be unrealistic to be beautiful, or even pleasant? But that's not just a modern problem. Women have always been subjected to certain ideas of 'beauty'. The ideas weren't always the same though.Throughout history the pursuit of 'beauty'  has demanded some weird things of women, and they were all different. From the corset, to make a tiny waist, the bustle, to make the butt look big, (Who thought of THAT one?! I'd have been a natural beauty in those days!),to cultures that stretch the neck, bind the feet,and paint their teeth black, (Popular in Japan during the 1800's and early 1900's.),the idea of beauty has always been different. The problem is that 'beauty' always means you can't just look like yourself. When women aren't expected to change the way they look to conform to any one idea of beauty, that's when the problem will be solved.
  Not only does the idea of beauty change over time,but everybody has a different idea of beauty too. My Dad thought a woman with a big butt was a thing of beauty. My husband Ken likes big hairy eyebrows, and legs. (I don't think it even matters what the legs look like, as long as he can see them.Although, I didn't mean 'big hairy' legs.Just eyebrows.) I recently read an article that said studies show that men and women don't even have the same ideas of what makes a woman beautiful. Apparently, most men prefer women with little or no make up.(You can read the Time magazine article HERE.) There was even one study done that says men prefer the woman with the biggest spinal curve! (You can read about that HERE.) Man, I must be GORGEOUS! (And in constant pain!)That accounts for all those models who look like they're trying to turn themselves inside out.
It gets worse than  this,but I didn't want to get too racy here. By the way, this comes from a site called "Total Beauty"! There you go!



  So I'm looking forward to seeing all these new Barbies, but I don't know that this is going to be the game changer Mattel is looking for.

11 comments:

  1. I liked hearing about this - never mind the beauty standards, it's always nice to see brands evolve their products.

    For me it's not about realistic vs unrealistic as much as it's purely about having different options. Monster High has been great for that - they're unrealistic, but the sheer variety of doll types (heights, unique hand sculpts, different torso sizes on the boys, colours, etc) is definitely something that I appreciate seeing bleed into other lines.

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    1. I agree. Most articles about the new Barbies have focused on the 'unrealistic beauty expectations' aspect. I think it's great to have dolls that aren't all the same height, etc.(Although it does make clothes sharing more difficult.) If they could combine these new dolls with the posability of the Made to Move Barbie they'd really have something!

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    2. Yeah, if I were going to complain, the lack of articulation would be it - but if they're popular enough, hopefully that can come in future.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I just saw the commercial for the curvy and petite Barbies on YouTube today, so this is all fresh for me. I agree with you that I don't think our dolls have to be realistic for us to enjoy or even identify with them. I've written you before about my love of my first Barbie, a Malibu. I was 5 years old, I didn't think of growing up to be her. But, I did identify with her as I lived my first seven years in Los Angeles and loved going to the beach. So I see a beach Barbie and I've gotta have her. I'm a towering 5'3" lol, and not a natural blonde. However I don't feel that I was scarred by my love of my Malibu Barbie and I collect Barbie now. I just wonder why people try to blame so much on ol' Barbie when there are unrealistic beauty standards in every fashion magazine. Mattel really seems like they're desperately trying to please everyone. Which in the end usually pleases no one. I think Mattel should be unapologetic to all the negative press who apparently haven't even noticed that Barbie went through a massive body change in the 2000's to the belly button body. That is a much more realistic body and yet people are still complaining about Barbie. My favorite doll ever is the Kotalin Bizelle doll and she is in no way an average body type. She is long limbed, lean and muscled like a dancer. And stunningly beautiful, and I wouldn't have her any other way. I also liked you bringing up a little plump girl getting the curvy Barbie as a gift. Truly would she like that? It would be cool if there could be data on whether or not plump children choose plump dolls or not. Like how they found out that African American children often didn't buy the AA dolls. I guess I will applaud Mattel for giving people choices at least for a short while. As I don't see this being a long term thing. It also serves to get them publicity for trying to have greater diversity and magazines love to write about things like that. So with them having slumping sales, that is a smart move. It's certainly gotten us talking, lol.

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    1. As for the plump kid/doll question, do kids always want dolls that look like them? And is that necessary? I had several AA dolls as a kid. My kids had dolls of every ethnicity. It helps teach the idea that everybody can be beautiful and valuable, and what's wrong with that?

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  3. I LOVE these new Barbie sizes and stuff. I think they're really cool. I have no theory on sales, but I want them.

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  4. I'm really (and I mean REALLY!) curious about those dolls. Maybe I will even get one of those "more realistic" barbies (which would be the first Barbie doll since I was 11). I think it's a nice option to choose between different sizes, because I always thought it's unrealistic just to have one size... Thank you for showing that article! As always Germany is to slow for such important news...

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    1. You can order them from the Barbie web page. Of course, the shipping will be a fortune.

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  5. Miss No Name and Susie Sad Eyes would give me nightmares. I can't see Mr. BTEG or my girls wanting me to have those on display. Then again, they think my J-Dolls and Ever After High dolls are kinda weird looking.

    A big company like Mattel generally doesn't make a move without a ton of focus groups and market research. If this is a reaction to what kids really want, it's great. If this is a reaction to complaints in the media, not so much. The journalists complaining won't buy your product in any case. I saw someone complaining already that although these dolls are a step in the right direction, won't girls feel pressured to wear the latest trends because the Fashionistas wear the latest trends? What a silly thing to be unhappy about! Right, Mattel is coming to come out with Thrift Store Barbie, wearing stuff she picked out on the rack at the Salvation Army while blindfolded.

    I hope Barbie stays around, because I like the dolls, and competition is good. We'll see if Mattel is making wise choices.

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    1. Ah JDolls, the modern equivalent of the Sad Eyes doll!

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Thanks in advance for your comments.