Barbie: A New Role Model?


Mattel’s new ‘petite,’ ‘curvy,’ and ‘tall,’ Barbie doll, next to an original Barbie doll.

Since the day of her creation, Barbie has always been surrounded by controversy. Her ‘‘perfect’’ body type and “vanilla” features have caused extreme concern in parents across the globe since 1959. But now, after 57 years, Mattel has finally released new Barbie types—three to be exact. Besides being able to purchase an “original” Barbie doll, children have the ability to pick from curvy, tall, and petite models. These new dolls come with the option of seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 hairstyles. After so many years, this is a truly significant step in Barbie’s long history.

By doing this, Mattel is finally telling children that there is more than one definition of the word “beautiful.” They are now promoting positive body images and cultural diversity to young children. This is something that has been requested by the parents of these children for a long time.

Evelyn Mazzocco, senior vice president and global general manager of Mattel was quoted on as saying, “We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty.”

While this might seem like an extremely positive change, some people are not so happy about these changes. Executive Director Michael O’Heaney of the Story of Stuff, an organization that works to prevent pollution says, “At best, this is a lame attempt at updating a throwback, a trailing indicator of our changing society and culture. At worst, Mattel is offering a marginally less unhealthy beauty image to our children, our daughters in particular, but one that still centers on looks and accessories rather than brains and athleticism.”

While this might seem like a plausible argument against the new Barbie dolls, it seems that no matter what Mattel does, their precious Barbie will always stir up controversy. This doesn’t stop Mattel however, as Barbie remains the highest selling doll in the US.

With Barbie’s recent changes, one might wonder what the future looks like in terms of how today’s children see the word. Hopefully the diversity that Mattel finally extended to its Barbie line is one that will inspire the acceptance of diversity in our own culture. This change was obviously necessary if it wanted to accurately reflect the diversity of our population.

So is this going to start a trend? The simplest answer is, nobody knows. While some say yes, others say no. In the end, it is up to you, me and the rest of society to decide.