I know this is dated and not so hot off the press anymore, but oh my lord if you still haven’t seen the Barbie advert from Autumn 2015 (for those of you living under a rock), then please please please do me a favour and watch it now. It’s not only funny, but also one of the most uplifting adverts I have ever seen, and quite possibly one of the best (and with going to the cinema at least once a week, I see a lot of adverts).
Mattel has received a lot of stick since its creating the Barbie doll, particularly for its lack of diversity in the Barbie range with the only doll on sale for the first thirty years being a white female with wholly unrealistic body measurements (my favourite issue of controversy was when in 1963 Mattel released an outfit called “Barbie Baby-Sits” coupled with a book on how to lose weight; this book’s advice read: “Don’t Eat!” … that way you’ll pass out before you realise you’re hungry! Score!).
Eventually in the 1980s, a new range of Barbie was launched including Hispanic dolls, later to be followed by dolls from all across the globe. However, controversy rumbled on when Barbie dolls were programmed to say stock phrases in the 1990s. These phrases included things like:
“Will we ever have enough clothes?”
“Math class is tough!”
and “I love shopping!”
Obviously these stereotypically ‘dumb girl’ phrases annoyed parents and the general public, and, quite frankly, me.
Things mainly went downhill from there for Barbie. In 1997 the company introduced a Barbie in a wheelchair, but failed to check that the doll would be able to fit inside the stairs and elevator of Barbie’s $100 dream house – a rookie mistake that was embarrassingly pointed out to the company by a 17 year-old girl from Washington.
And in 2009, Mattel released a range of dolls with tattoos on their lower backs – not the best idea to sell to children at a young age. I don’t think I need to spell out how this one was received amongst protective parents and Barbie-hating people in general.
Despite these controversies, and trust me there were many more, Mattel’s latest advert for Barbie was really heartwarming (cheesy, I know) and I think marks the beginning of a new era for Barbie. Gone are the days of sexist slogans and stereotypical occupations, and in comes the new 21st Century girl power that all young girls (and boys) should aspire to acquire and harness. I just hope it stays that way.