Long criticized for her unachievable body proportions, Mattel last week unveiled curvy, petite and tall versions of Barbie.
The push for more diversity started in 2015 when 23 Barbies with new skin tones and hair colors (and, oddly, a flat foot version) were added as part of its Fashionistas line. The 2016 line will include four body types (the original plus three new bodies), seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.
The curvy Barbie in particular received attention because the iconic Barbie shape has often been accused of being anorexic. Her out-of-proportion bust was also seen as unrealistic and stiletto pumps too image-conscious for girls.
“We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, SVP and global general manager Barbie, in a statement.
Many applauded the move.
“Our call hasn’t been to throw Barbie out the window, but for her to be one body in a plethora of bodies,” Pia Guerrero, founder of Adios Barbie, a body image website, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s nice to see that they have different shapes and sizes because those bodies do exist.”
Some, including Ms. Guerrero, were still dismayed at the hourglass figure on all the dolls. Others felt the labeling would bring up body image issues to girls too young to care about them. Others felt girls recognize that Barbie is a toy and wondered what all the fuss was about.
The other storyline was whether the changes would do much to revive the popularity of the 57-year-old Barbie, whose sales have been declining by double-digits in recent years. Some felt the range would appeal to a wider demographic. While Barbie now encompasses 180 careers, some felt the unnatural body measurements challenged the doll’s ability to act as an aspirational figure for girls.
Other challenges facing Barbie include a shift toward electronics and games in recent years and greater demand for less gender-specific toys. Mattel’s Monster High line and the Disney Princess characters from Hasbro also have stronger backstories outside their looks.
- Barbie Expands Doll Line Adding Three New Body Types – Mattel
- Barbie Adds Curvy and Tall to Body Shapes – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
- Barbie breaks the mold with ethnically diverse dolls – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub.)
- Mattel to Add Curvy, Petite, Tall Barbies – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
- Barbie’s new makeover sparks social media backlash – The Sun
Will girls better relate to the new range of body types for Barbie? How do you think the changes to the line will affect the brand’s future?