Zoe Scheltema presents the new diverse Barbie range to a diverse range of consumers including her mother, a famous comedian and some anonymous blokes on Tinder.
She’s tall, she’s thin, she’s blonde, she’s a fashionista and she’s an astronaut. Barbie is the toy that every little girl wants.
It’s long been argued that Barbie, however radiant, was not a realistic representation of your average human woman. The type of average human woman that values the importance of having full formed organs in their bodies. By her proportions, if she were real, she would only have been capable of having half a liver and a couple of inches of intestine.
It was revealed last week that Mattel have released a new line of Barbie dolls, a line that incorporates not only the original doll but featuring options of Tall, Petite, and Curvy. Not to mention a whole new range of ethnicities.
For some it was a long time coming. Mattel managed to make an OREO BARBIE prior to this, so they definitely have a team of people who are capable of coming up with compelling and interesting ideas.
In an age where real women are increasingly becoming better represented in the media, and particularly in fashion, I thought I would ask a few different people about this latest group of trendsetters and what they mean to them.
The half Samoan Comedian:
Rose Matafeo says “as a little half Samoan, half white kid with frizzy curly hair,” she was never able to see herself in any of her toys, and least of all her Barbies.
“That’s why when I was a kid I wanted to be white so bad. I wanted straight hair, pale skin and blue eyes, because I went to a mostly white school. All the things I saw or watched around me were bloody white.”
“I’ll never forget when my mum once saved up all these Foodtown vouchers and got me this beautiful Spanish doll, and I made her go change it for this fucked up terrifying blonde one in a tiny wedding dress who looked like a child bride.”
“That’s genuinely one of the most traumatic memories of my childhood, because my mum (who is not brown) always wanted me to love that part of myself like she did. There wasn’t much she could do though, when so many other things I was exposed to as a kid just sort of erased that reflection of myself. I think any chance to change a toy that has such massive and far reaching appeal like Barbie, so that little kids can see a little bit of themselves and the real life people around them reflected in these dolls, that’s a brilliant thing. “
Growing up Rose had one Barbie – Aerobics Barbie. It had a sparkly pink jumpsuit and a teeny tiny cassette player which she says was the greatest thing about it.
The best Barbie product she ever owned however was a Barbie Foodcourt. She says it was a dream toy scenario and I could not agree more.
“I didn’t care that I didn’t have any Barbies to actually go to the foodcourt, but I do remember thinking if I did, they would probably only eat the salads (the salads were shit, just a piece of plastic with a sticker of salad on it). If I had a curvy Barbie, I could imagine her sinking a hot dog or two, you know?’
Oh don’t worry, I know.
I think it’s always interesting to get a male perspective on these sorts of things, do guys really think that skinny girls are hotter? Could it be true that all guys only like one type of girl?
No where is it easier to ask this question, than on Tinder.
Straight up and to the point.
Let me put you in touch with my Dad mate.
Someone Googled “what is a contemporary man’s response to the new Barbies?”
I deleted him.
There are those who may think that advocating for Barbies and being a feminist may not quite go hand in hand.
I managed to track down an exception to that rule in Billie Sergeant who is self described as “a girl who only cares about Mad Max and Rami Malek and barbies.”
She wasn’t allowed a Barbie when she was younger due to her parents thinking that what they promoted was unhealthy. However, her grandparents would sneak her a cheeky Barbie for birthdays and the like. Although she admits that Barbie has come about from old-fashioned ideas of women being homemakers or objects, she thinks that Barbie always had a positive message for girls.
“Barbie was an astronaut! Barbie was a lawyer! Barbie was always about being happy to be a girl. I think most of the backlash against Barbie came out of this feminist idea that women should reject traditional femininity because it was inherently harmful. I don’t think that’s true. Girls can wear floral dresses and high heels and still be feminists you know? Feminism should be about women being able to make a choice.”
That choice now extends to be able to play with a doll that looks a lot more like you than they might have before, and she thinks that’s pretty cool.
“Representation in media and consumer goods is important for kids growing up, they like to see themselves in the media and so often it’s just not there.”
My mum proudly announced that she had the first ever Barbie doll.
“It had short wiry hair,” she says.
Wiry as in, you could use it to scrub your dirty dishes by the looks of things. As the mother of two daughters, one of which always thought that she had a fat ass (me), I was slightly surprised when she came out with the following:
“I don’t think a little girl would buy a curvy Barbie. When you buy a Barbie, you’re buying a fantasy, you don’t actually think that that’s what people look like. People don’t want them to look normal.”
Well, colour me and my ass shocked.
“Regardless of the body shape, the face still looks the same and the face is too perfect. Nobody has a face like that. We won’t be equal with Barbie until they start making them with buck teeth and big noses.”
Alright steady on.
Dad’s listening intently (he’s half listening while looking at boats on Trademe and eating cashews), he disagrees. He thinks Barbie should represent real bodies, chiming in with “so when will they make a Ken doll (definitely pronounced ‘Kendall’) with a builder’s crack?”
It’s a good question and one that I can’t answer at this stage in the game unfortunately, Dad.
Barbie’s come a long way, although there is always room for improvement. If I were to create the perfect Barbie to represent me I’d throw some split ends in there.
Let those kids know what they’re in for if they bleach their hair too much.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.