Barbie At 50


Barbie is celebrating her 50th birthday this week - and frankly, she doesn’t look a day over 16 (I suspect plastic surgery may have had a hand in this). When she was launched in March 1959, she was the first adult-bodied doll and was marketed as a ‘Teen-age Fashion Model’.
She has come a long way since then. She has had many ‘looks’, from the brunette ‘Jackie O’ to the iconic Californian blonde. She has been an astronaut, a doctor and a vet. She has an ethnically diverse circle of friends, and a long-term partner, Ken (there was that fling with Blaine, but we don’t talk about that . . .) Anyway, she may look like a dizzy blonde, but with three dolls being sold every second, and over a billion sold worldwide, Barbie could well be one of the world’s most influential women.
Perhaps. The scope and lasting impact of Barbie’s influence are difficult to quantify. Yet there are those with serious concerns about Barbie’s dubious aspirations and suitability as a role model. Even now she faces a ban in Lincoln State, USA because ‘such toys influence girls to place too much importance on physical beauty, at the expense of their intellectual and emotional development.’
Indeed, a brief and dizzying glimpse at Barbie’s (exceedingly pink) website confirms that Barbie’s chief interests are fun, fashion and friendship. Any positive aspirations are somewhat undermined by the ever-present message that girls should never attempt anything without lip gloss and the right accessories. Mattel may be tapping into something ‘true’ in the female psyche, but they are certainly not telling the whole truth.
The whole truth cannot be found on a sparkly website and does not come in a box - with accessories and values included. A biblical vision of what it means to be a woman reflects the complexity of ‘being human’, but to find it you will have to dig deeper, think harder and reflect longer. Barbie’s world, however, is instantly recognisable and immediately accessible to the average 6-year-old girl. The mysterious world of the Bible on the other hand, with its covenants, concubines and head-coverings needs some explaining. But that’s ok. Real women with flesh and blood, souls and brains were made to grapple with the tensions and contradictions of their existence – preferably over lunch with the girls before a spot of retail therapy perhaps?

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2 Responses Mar 14, 2009

I did bad things to my Barbies.<br />
I would give them horrible hair cuts.

WOW! I hope I look that good at 50!! lol. See... she doesn't just affect young gals to look at the superficial aspects of beauty... it grabs our attention at ALL ages! lol