Robin Raskin - I Won't Have Barbie to Kick Around Anymore

Now that Barbie has become the personification of all body types from petite to curvy, I know we’re on the road to political correctness. But here’s a short laundry list of things I’ll miss about Barbie’s uniformly stripper-shaped body.  

THE ONE SIZE FITS ALL: Barbie’s clothes have always been interchangeable. Trade ‘em with friends, or buy em on ebay. Anything you buy for Barbie you know will fit Barbie. That’s about to change. Mattel will sell more clothes, but no more trading and you’re probably going to have to upgrade everything in your Barbie wardrobe for the new sized world.

NO MORE BARBIE MUTILATIONS: It was great to decapitate and de-limb a dumb blond with a ridiculous figure. Tearing her apart from limb to limb was a feminist statement. It’s more complicated to maim a Barbie built in your own image. In fact, for some kids it may involve years of psychotherapy.

THE JOKES ON KEN: Ken has been in and out of the picture over the years, but now what happens to him? Already a UK company, Lyst, has created a line of mock Ken dolls including paunchy Ken and balding Ken.

NO MORE BROWSING THE STORE: Retailers are having a tough time figuring out how to stock the shelves with 4 body types, 7 skin tones, 22 eye colors, 24 hairstyles, and countless on-trend fashions accessories. Moms may love the disappearance of the nag factor at retail, but retailers are going to struggle to keep up with personalized demand. One more reason that bricks and mortar will play second fiddle to online.

SHAPES AND SIZES MAY CHANGE BUT NOSES AND EYES REMAIN 4EVER BARBIE: It takes more than a body type to make a girl relate to a doll. There are flat noses and long noses. Round eyes and slanted eyes. Acne and freckles. Barbie still has a face that hasn’t really changed.

BARBIE SHUT HER MOUTH? Mattel got skittish after the backlash against its $74 Talking Barbie. Hello Barbie used the cloud, voice recognition and Bluetooth to allow girls to have conversations (about limited subjects) with their Barbies. Many parents complained that the dolls were just a little too creepy and they didn’t like the idea of Mattel storing their Barbie chats in the cloud. While Mattel was definitely early to voice recognition, Internet-enabled toys. The new line of body-diverse Barbies is pretty low tech. A bit of a backpedal after a tough tech debut.

SHE’S COME A LONG WAY, BABY: Barbie still has a long way to go to reflect girls and their aspirations. Ever though she’s lost the perennial high heel arch in her foot she still has very few articulated joints. Her face is still the face of one Barbie – a little less makeup but one set of features just the same.

THE JOKES AREN’T SO FUNNY ANYORE: Pregnant Barbie, mummified Barbie, middle aged Barbie, fat Barbie – these were all fake Barbie dolls created in her image and sold via multiple outlets. Somehow the joke isn’t quite so funny now that Barbie’s got so many variations on her own theme that the gag Barbies have lost some of their punch.

At the end of the day I applaud Mattel for making Barbie more diverse and more representative of womankind. I fully expect the trend to continue. As 3D printing and personalization gets easier and less expensive it’ll be increasingly easy to manufacture a Barbie that’s the spitting image of you. But that doesn’t sound like all that much fun to me. I will miss Barbie, the girl I loved to hate for being smart, beautiful and oh so bizarrely proportioned.

Interested in other views of the new Barbie? Here’s a primer:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/01/barbies-hips-dont-lie/432741/

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/02/05/465317939/roundup-heres-what-people-are-saying-about-barbies-diversity-makeover

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/with-their-new-disabled-figure-lego-has-approached-diversity-issues-in-a-very-different-way-to-a6848846.html

85% of those surveyed say that they like the new Barbie http://www.attn.com/stories/5597/young-girls-react-new-curvy-barbie

http://time.com/4192898/barbies-new-body-inside-a-mattel-focus-group/