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Posts tagged ‘barbie’

“A Friend of Barbie”

On March 29, 2012, Mattel announced that it will release a bald doll for children who have lost hair due to cancer or other illnesses. However, discussions of this doll are not as recent. Over a year ago, a Facebook movement began, urging Mattel to produce a bald version of their famous blonde Barbie. Since then, the page has received more than 150,000 “likes,” the amount necessary to gain Mattel’s direct attention. The movement began with Jane Bingman, whose daughter has lost hair after undergoing chemotherapy, and Beckie Sypin, who has lost her own hair while going through non-Hodgkin lymphoma, both hoping for a doll that girls experiencing hair loss due to illness could relate to and aid in the coping process hair loss. Sypin says their goal was to get “the message out that being bald is beautiful and is no big deal.  There’s no need to cover up.” Though the doll will be produced, Mattel has informed Bingman and Sypin that they do not accept ideas from outside sources. Mattel reports the doll will not be sold in retail stores for profit. Instead, they will be distributed through hospitals that treat young cancer patients where they can be of most help. These bald dolls will be “a friend of Barbie” and include hats, scarves, wigs, and other hair accessories to provide the “traditional” fashion play experience.

The creation of these new dolls who are designed to appeal to a specific audience that can relate is strongly similar to the studies of Elizabeth Chin in “Ethnically Correct Dolls: Toying with the Race Industry,” in which Chin examines the “ethnically correct” doll and how race and outside appearance is involved. In Chin’s studies, it was shown that, though the girls can play fine with dolls that are not exactly like them, they prefer to play will dolls they can relate to. This is why Natalia and Asia wanted dolls of their same skin tone and would braid the hair of the white dolls to resemble their own hair. Therefore, the production of this bald Barbie by Mattel, based on Chin’s studies, will actually make a more enjoyable playtime for children experiencing hair loss due to illness because they will be able to relate to them through appearance.


The “Wanna Be” Barbie

Bratz Dolls

The original Bratz

When I was younger I had Barbie everything. I had the Barbie dream House. I had Barbie and Ken; I had just about everything. Except I never had a black Barbie. I really didn’t the purpose in getting one. They looked exactly like the white Barbie except with a darker skin color. As years went on more and more Barbie stuff would come out. There would be new Barbies, new Barbie accessories. However, one day I was watching TV and I saw something that wasn’t Barbie. I saw Bratz. the Bratz dolls really intrigued me. Bratz dolls came out in 2001 when I was 9 year old. The Bratz dolls were made by MGA Entertainment. These dolls looked like they were for girls of different ethnic backgrounds. They originally started off with 4 girls; Sasha (black), Jade (Asian), Chloe (White), and Yasmin (Hispanic). There was one for every girl that may have wanted one. Bratz did not start off with just one white doll and later add on another; they began with different dolls. This gave little girls more of an option to pick which one they wanted. It also helped because these were dolls that were more like them. In our class discussion of Ethnically Correct Dolls, I felt like this connected to the discussion. It was mentioned in class how it was harder for the little black girls to connect to the white Barbies because they lacked black features. I found this to be true. I didn’t want a black Barbie because it looked just like the white ones. They had the same features, the same type of hair. Nothing was different. However, with Bratz I could relate more to those. The black Bratz doll had curly hair, big lips, and had the same color eyes as me. I feel like the Bratz creator was truly thinking about every little girl when they created these dolls. I have to say Bratz was my favorite doll to play with growing up.

Barbie or American Girl, and Does it Matter?

In Andrew J Rotherman’s article “What Barbie Could Learn From American Girl,” for Time he claims that American Girl is a wholesome alternative to Barbie’s “vapid sexuality.” He supports the historical back-stories that are paired with each doll, claiming that Barbie will be better if she could teach young girls something.

Rotherman and Elizabeth Chin, author of Purchasing Power: Black Kids and American Consumer Culture, agree on one thing: toymakers like Mattel, maker of Barbie and American Girl, have the goal of empowering young girls, though Chin specifically concentrates on girls’ self esteem in “Ethnically Correct Dolls.” I think Rotherman and Chin’s agreement stops here, however.

Rotherman argues that when Barbie is shown as an astronaut, veterinarian or Marine Corps drill instructor, this image of women in powerful and successful positions is negated by the unrealistic way “Barbie is still off to her hot tub or other age-inappropriate activities.”

I think Chin would argue that it doesn’t matter what Barbie does; it’s all foreign to the kids she studied in New Haven who wanted dolls that were like them, familiar to them.

“They wondered why there was no fat Barbie, no abused Barbie, no pregnant Barbie” (369).

Addy Walker, the Civil War era American Girl doll (click for source)

American Girl has Addy, an African American ex-slave in the Civil War era. While the history education that comes along with the dolls is important, Chin would probably point to the ways through which the girls she studied can create the familiarity they crave “through their own imaginative and material work.” They braided the dolls’ hair to “bring their dolls into their own worlds” (369). Dolls become part of the kids’ lives. The stories created around the dolls revolve around what the child knows, not the story that Mattel created around the doll.

Chin argues that having ethnically correct dolls isn’t really that important, or doesn’t make much of an impact because the low income communities that could benefit from these dolls don’t have access to the dolls physically and financially. It seems ironic then that Rotherman, co-founder of a non-profit that deals with low-income communities, believes that American Girl is a better alternative to Barbie when it is so much less accessible to the communities he is trying to better.

Smile! You’re on Barbie camera!

Toys, were the staple of childhood. Whether you played with Transformers, Hot Wheels, action figures, Barbie or GI-Joe’s, the toy required that you use your imagination to create a scenario or plot, with a particular goal in mind that you and your toy could achieve. I am purposely using past tense for this description because kids have become so absorbed with today’s technology that toys no longer require the extensive thinking and imagination that they one did.

The New York Times wrote an article on how toys have changed, and once caught ahold of it, Stephanie Clifford wrote an update version of the article. “Classic toys are becoming much less classic because of upgrades meant to entertain technology-obsessed children.” Stephanie explains that the reason for children growing up with the desire to be more technological is because they see all the gadgets that their parents are playing with and operating. The main attraction that they are writing about is the new Barbie. The new Barbie has become a digital camera, her camera lens in behind her and the picture then appears on her t-shirt. The photo can then be uploaded to a phone or a computer. In my opinion this takes away the whole point of Barbie, all that she will be now is a camera, little girls won’t know how to make up a story and have their dolls act it out.

There are a lot of people, myself being one of them, that feel toys and technology should not mix and that children should still have to utilize their imagination. I feel that this new technological advance could cause something similar, just not as extreme, as the moral panic that our society experienced when children became obsessed with comic books. Perhaps this new technological craze that is taking over the toys could stand to resemble how comic books were seen taking over children’s innocense.

A picture showing how Barbie is now becoming a digital camera.