Saturday, June 2, 2012

Barbie: Family Friendly or Dangerous Threat

Controversy is an everyday event in so many of our lives, and it certainly has been no different for Barbie.  Just last year we saw how Tokidoki Barbie, with all her tattoos, stirred up a bit of commotion.  In 1975 Growing up Skipper and Growing up Ginger were released, and mothers everywhere had plenty to shout about!   The ability to enlarge dolls breasts by a turn of their arm was just a bit more than they wanted to see in a toy for their child.  Newspapers reported nationwide about the upset public. Mattel also got their share of letters from angry moms.  Many stores pulled these busty teenagers from their shelves.

If we look even further back, 1967 brought us the rare, beautiful, and highly sought after Black Francie (that we all wish we had in our collections).  Believe it or not, she was originally named “Colored Francie” which is another example of how drastically our society has changed. She ignited her own negative controversy. Black Francie had black skin, but her facial features were that of a Caucasian person. Of course the African-American community wanted to know what that was all about!  So Mattel fixed that problem only one year later (1968) by introducing what the public considers the first black Barbie, Christy! Christy finally had the black features that the buying public wanted to see.  So for that reason, you will see Christy called the first Black Barbie over Francie.

In 2001 (box marking) another contentious doll that did fine on the shelves for a short time was Oreo Barbie. It was a promotion that Mattel did with Nabisco.  They released the white version of this doll earlier, and sold her in grocery stores alongside their yummy Oreo cookies.  But once the black version of the doll hit the shelves, it became more than just a small issue! It was said that the word “Oreo” can be used as a derogatory term meaning an African-American is black on the outside and white on the inside, or basically that person is a sellout.   Not surprisingly, these dolls immediately disappeared from the market!

In 1997 Mattel decided Barbie’s waist should be larger. The reports of Barbie’s measurements were getting more attention.  The claims she had a 36-39 inch bust, 18 inch waist and 33 inch hips with a height from 5 feet 9 inches all the way up to 6 feet tall, Mattel increased her waist by a 1/8 of an inch! I guess they were hoping for a more socially acceptable doll, but I doubt that anyone really thought her measurements were much more realistic.  Seriously!  Oh, and another interesting tidbit of trivia:  If you look closely at Barbie’s bathroom scale from 1965, you will see that it is permanently stuck on 110 pounds!  With such a voluptuous figure I’m certainly impressed with her weight!

In 2002 Pregnant Midge hit the stores.  She had a magnetic stomach with her plastic baby inside it, and when she was ready to deliver her baby; little girls could just pull out the newborn.  In one case, Wal-Mart pulled all the dolls from their shelves because parents insisted that the doll promoted teenage pregnancy, and she was sending the wrong message to their young girls.  Since so many girls wanted to be like Barbie, the last thing parents wanted was their eight and ten year olds thinking it was glamorous to be pregnant. Interestingly, the very early Pregnant Midge dolls even lacked a wedding ring, but of course that was rapidly fixed!  It must have been a man that missed that one in the R & D department!

Barbie’s controversies continue to this day, and I’m sure we’ll see even more in the future. There are still mom’s out there whom would never allow their daughters to play with a Barbie doll.  But, for better or worse, this mom isn’t on that list!   I played with them, my girls played with them and my granddaughters will play with them. And girls across the globe will continue to make wonderful memories to carry with them into their adulthood.