Dear Mattel Inc.,
Hi. Yes, it’s me: former storyteller, fashion designer, and architect to the 11-inch disproportionate toy you so famously tout. I heard, after 57 years, you decided to switch things up this week, unveiling a new line of diverse and realistic dolls. These additions are now taller, shorter, and curvier than the original, boasting seven skin tones, 22 eye colours, and 24 new hairstyles. (I applaud you for finding over 20 different colours for dolls’ eyes.)
First things first, that “Evolution of Barbie” commercial is a little underwhelming. The casting director really wowed with the one-of-every-colour group of girls, because I definitely remember my childhood playdates being that well-managed. Secondly, “girls know it doesn’t matter what shape you come in, that anything is possible”—as said by Tania Missad, Director of Consumer Insights—is probably the last thing girls are considering when their parent gifts them a short, curly, hazel-eyed doll in denim shorts. Sure, your new Barbie can be a doctor, teacher, astronaut, or stay-at-home mom, and yes, she looks like your cousin, but anything was possible before you bought her and her motley cohort.
As soon as these dolls hit the market, a quiet stir began to rumble in the stomachs of those unrepresented in the launch, especially Ken. If Barbie wants to relate to as many women as possible, then surely her man must mirror the expectation, thus creating Dad Bod Ken. Sayonara six pack—make room for soft, round-bellied Ken holding a beer.
Once #DadBodKen hit the social media fan, the slactivists took to the keys, asking for overweight Barbie, post-partum belly Barbie, and even a transgender doll. If you’re going to include some, you need to include all women. However, these well-meaning internet citizens are not your target demo, am I right, Mattel?
I’m not sure about other kids, but my Barbies slept around, left clothes on their bedroom floor, fought with their Kens, and made an obscene amount of Barbie-sized pancakes fresh from my own human-sized kitchen. Their friends cut their hair and changed their name to Adam because Ken went AWOL, taking his place in the relationship, and then fatally lost their heads, limbs, and toes during a homicidal sugar-high.
And I turned out to be a healthy, self-loving, and self-conscious woman. I didn’t look at her extraordinary legs and hate mine in response; I simply made her a cool homemade sock dress, ruining my mismatched collection. Nonetheless, I do support your revamped idea to appeal to my generation, who will soon be having children, and I will nostalgically want to get my (female- or male-identifying) child the doll they want. And if they want a tall, slender, busty blonde, or a short, curvy, bright-eyed dark-skinned doll, I will let them decide.
So, Mattel, when’s the busted up Hot Wheels Oldsmobile with a missing tail light coming to the market to encourage kids not to expect a Mustang when they grow up?
Yours truly, Molly Barbie-loving Barrieau.