Iconic doll Barbie is getting a makeover. According to a cover story in Time, Mattell is set to unveil three new Barbie dolls:
Barbie’s got a new body. Three new bodies, actually: petite, tall and curvy, in Mattel’s exhaustively debated lexicon, and beginning Jan. 28 they will be sold alongside the original busty, thin-waisted form on Barbie.com. They’ll all be called Barbie, but it’s the curvy one—with meat on her thighs and a protruding tummy and behind—that marks the most startling change to the most infamous body in the world.
Naturally there are critics and in some ways, I too worry that the message the toy company is sending girls isn’t that they should celebrate their own body type; its that body type is all that defines women. After all, these dolls are known by their particular body shape—petite, tall, curvy. And of course there’s “regular” Barbie—the one with unrealistic body measurements.
Of course this is nothing new for the Barbie line of dolls. As The Atlantic reported last year, even the Barbie career line of dolls were sexualized:
A few studies suggest that Barbie’s particular physical appearance—her sexualized body, her tight jeans (for Doctor Barbie), or her minidress (for Dentist Barbie)—may have something to do with the dampening of little girls’ career aspirations. There’s a plausible pathway for this: Maybe it’s because playing with sexualized and distortedly thin dolls makes girls think more about what they look like and less about their aspirations.
On the other hand, there are those that worry that curvy Barbie will somehow tell girls that it’s okay to be fat. And many wonder what will happen when regular (translation: bizarrely thin) Barbie’s clothes don’t fit curvy Barbie? Perhaps Mattell will have to launch a full spandex line of Barbie clothes.
Sales will tell us if little girls want these new dolls but something tells me that these social experiments are nothing more than marketing strategies. According to the Time article, Mattell needed to shake things up a bit. Sales for Barbie were way down and company executives needed to make some changes. Changes are good and perhaps this will draw in new customers. But more than anything else, it’s getting people talking about the company and that’s good for business.