The Doll Evolves, as Mattel puts it in is campaign. Sure it does. The brand introduced Barbies of 7 different skin tones, 22 eye colors, 24 hairstyles and three new body types: tall, petite and curvy.
While all of this diversity is to be applauded (after all the iconic doll is sold to kids of all shapes, races and sizes in over 150 countries worldwide) curvy is – pun intended – where the meat is!
Curvy Barbie made the cover of TIME magazine and headlines around the world. It’s supposedly a big deal that the – so often hated – stereotype of the Barbie silhouette is changing. But Barbie is not exactly trailblazing here, curves have been a new beauty trend for a while now; teens and even tweens now wish for a bit (or a lot) of booty and it was millennial role models Beyonce and Kim Kardashian who made that happen!
That is not to say that changing the image of an iconic figure is an easy thing. A thicker Barbie is almost the equivalent of an old Marilyn, a balding James Dean or a fat Brando – yeah, that last one happened so you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s a good thing the doll evolves, for sure. I’m pretty certain it’s going to be tons of fun for the children playing with Barbies plus Mattel will probably score some desperately needed points for political correctness. It’s just a little too little too late, I think. Diversity in skin color is the too late part. Diversity in body type is the too little.
Will Curvy have any real positive influence on silhouette stereotypes, or will she just be Barbie’s chubby friend like the pretty heroine’s bestie in romantic comedies?
For one thing, curvy is not as curvy as that. She is more like a pear-shaped, normal weight girl. Still, as I read in the TIME article, the children asked to play with her, thought she was “F-a-t”, ‘cause, hey, mom has told them you shouldn’t call people fat, it is an insult, and they don’t want to hurt f-a-t Barbie’s feelings!
And while I do get the point behind petite, I really don’t see the politically correct point of tall. Why would a slim, gorgeous doll who is also tall feel misrepresented? That’s what super-models are for! It’s not like tall Barbie looks anything like Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones!
Now, I believe that all self-presumed feminist moms will rush to buy Curvy for their daughters (or sons, don’t play the politically-correct game with me!). The question remains will the kids fall in love with them? Kids are not politically correct. Kids are also not hypocrites like adults are. Even in the testing phase, they only recognize the original white, busty, slender Barbie as Barbie. The marketing strategy targets modern moms – aunts, grandmas – but how will the real customer, the little girl respond? Will Curvy have any real positive influence on perfect silhouette stereotypes, or will she just be Barbie’s chubby friend like the pretty heroine’s best friend in romantic comedies?
Please don’t hurt Barbie’s feelings!
There is one more point I want to make: kids are not born with self awareness about their body weight. Before they are immersed in the world of the adults, their image issues, their role models, their diets and their mean attitude towards anyone who looks different, kids see (and should see) themselves as perfect. So should all of us, by the way. The problem with adults who consider themselves modern or politically sensitive is that they may never call people fat or ugly to their face, but they still think it! Who’s the hypocrite now? So let’s be honest, that certainly does not fall on Barbie alone. It falls mainly on you, mom!