Revolutionizing the Barbie Body


Mattel announced a new line of diverse Barbie dolls on January 28th, 2016. The keyword “body” is clearly exemplified in Mattel’s new line of dolls through the line’s different representations of the body. In this line, we see dolls that are curvier with larger legs and hips as well as dolls taller and shorter than the original Barbie. What I found interesting was the addition of more hair colors, including a doll with blue hair and another doll with purplish-red hair. Mattel is showing girls that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and races. In her Keywords for Children’s Literature essay, “Body”, Kelly Hager discusses the need for more representation of diverse body shapes in literature and the mass media. Media is stuck on the “hyper-thin” ideal of beauty which doesn’t accurately embody the current society (20). With this new line, Mattel is changing the expected body image of Barbie to an array of body types that clearly represents actual society. With this new line, Mattel is promoting girls to love their skin and understand that there isn’t just one standard for a beautiful body.

Like Mattel’s new line, Toni Morrison discusses true issues with the one desirable body in her novel, The Bluest Eye. Morrison’s character, Claudia, shows these body standard issues and how differences of race play into her rejection of the white baby doll. Morrison says, “Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs – all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. ‘Here,’ they said, ‘this is beautiful, and if you are on this day ‘worthy’ you may have it’,” (The Bluest Eye.21).  Morrison illustrates the problems of society and how children feel when they do not fit society’s standard of beautiful. Childhood is a time where girls’ bodies are growing and girls have no control over the way they look. Media’s standards give girls false ideas of the beautiful body and force girls of other looks, in Claudia’s case race, to believe they have less value.

Both the Mattel Toy Company and Toni Morrison understand how media portrays the keyword “body” in very one-ended ways and have acted against this common portrayal. It’s refreshing to see Mattel’s addition of diversely shaped dolls. I hope Mattel continues to add to this line and that other toy producers and the media follow this trend.

12 thoughts on “Revolutionizing the Barbie Body”

  1. I really like this post because you established a connection between the key word body and the new representation of girls of difference race, shape, and size in into the traditional Barbie line. Barbie has always depicted the “ideal” body image for women when in reality there has been many studies that show that Barbie’s body is physically impossible to attain. I think it is a very progressive and exciting thing that the Barbie doll company is now representing more girls, so more girls can find them more relatable when they play with them.

  2. I did not know that there was a new line of Barbie dolls coming out. It will be interesting to see how young girls react to these new dolls. I know for me I never necessarily associated my idea of how a body should be to the barbie doll because the doll seemed to be a girl much older than me. At the time I was playing with Barbie dolls the doll did not depict the current age I was. I think I got a lot of my ideas of body image from TV shows and movies. Did anyone else have a different experience playing with Barbie dolls and shaping their ideas about body image around them?

  3. I think the Barbie discussion in regards to body image is very interesting because the tranformation the dolls have taken on can be both incredibly positive and incredibly negative. I was talking with my family about how Barbie has begun to change its image and be more inclusive of all types of beauty. My cousin mentioned that she was babysitting for two girls whose mother had bought them one of the curvy Barbie dolls. The girls were choosing which dolls each of them were going to play with and they both fought over the skinnier Barbie and one of them was incredibly upset when she was forced to play with the curvier Barbie. This brings up the question of whether the different body shapes Barbie has introduced is promoting a healthy image of beauty or if it is showing girls at a young age that their are differences in body size and one is better than the other.

  4. I love the part of the video when the little girl says “it’s cool to be different” and “these Barbie’s look like the people that I see walking by”. It is very inspiring to see girls understand the difference between they people that they see in the media, on TV, etc. and real life people in their lives, and that they know which one their dolls are modeled after. It’s another hint at the idea that children are not oblivious to the world around them and they understand more than we give them credit for. As a child, my Barbies were my favorite toys to play with so it is great to see the direction that they company is choosing to go.

  5. Great post! I’m personally very supportive of Barbie’s new look, and think it’s certainly a step in the right direction. But, I’ve seen some criticism of it, such as this tweet: . “Having a ‘curvy #Barbie’ isn’t a win for girls/women. It’s a win when the discussion is no longer about our bodies.” – Carol Roth. I think that’s an interesting way to look at it as well. Though, again, I personally think that Barbie is doing their best and it’s a great step towards more representative toys/media!

  6. These new dolls are exactly what we need to help girls be comfortable with who they are. It is also important for girls to see dolls that look like them and to know they are beautiful. I think the media portrays standardized images of beauty as a way to control the minds of girls. Its all about marketing and advertisement. However, through this new line, I feel girls are going to embrace that beauty comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes. In addition, they could learn to embrace each others beauty and uniqueness.

  7. Seeing Barbie expand out to include dolls with different body types that portray the reality that not everyone has the same body type, it got me thinking about the American Girl company. We have discussed throughout the semester how the company has a limited representation of non-white dolls. However, the dolls also seem to generally have only one body type as well. Although I wouldn’t consider the body type of the dolls to be as thin and problematic as the original Barbie was, I wonder would it would look like for the company to expand in this area?

  8. I was happy to see that Mattel has changed Barbie to reflect the way in which the world looks instead of a stereotypical model. Mattel is sending an important positive message to girls around the world. There were several highly impactful quotes from the video. “ It doesn’t matter the shape you come in, anything is possible.“ “This is what our future looks like because this is what the world looks like.” “It is important for Barbies to look different; like the real people in the world.” I would like to see Mattel take the next step by introducing their Ken dolls to a look of diversity for boys. Self esteem and self-confidence affects everyone as they go through life.

  9. I definitely think that these revolutionary barbie dolls demonstrate the ways in which Mattel is trying to empower young girls of all sizes. However, I think that one interesting thing to explore is the labels that are marketed along with these dolls. I did a little research and I found that these dolls that are being sold are labeled as “original”, “tall”, “petite” and “curvy”. While I don’t think any one of these labels are inherently demeaning to any particular body types, I do think that by labeling and differentiating these dolls into separate categories, Mattel kind of normalizes and perhaps even idealizes the “original” body type. If Mattel were to consider removing these labels, I think they will be able to not only empower young girls more positively, but also to cultivate more inclusive and accepting attitudes among young girls.

  10. The bluest eye talks about this ideal another time when Claudia is describing Maureen Peal. The way she is describing her makes her seem like some sort of life sized doll with all the accessories. Maureens description works against the self body image that Claudia, Freida, and Pecola are already struggling with.

  11. I think that this is the coolest thing ever. When I had barbies when I was a little girl, I remember them all being the same height and same body type. They were all skinny with super skinny legs and I wanted so bad to look like that when I grew up. If this new line of dolls came out when I was a child, I would have begged my parents to get me one. You made a very good connection between this and The Bluest Eye. It’s about time Barbie became more diverse.

  12. I think it’s really awesome that a company as large as Mattel is responding to the pleas for more representation and diversity in toys like Barbie. This shift is also being seen in TV shows, movies, and more and hopefully it will continue as there’s still a lot of work to be done. While this change is exciting, I think that including a Barbie doll that is differently abled, for example in a wheelchair, would be a really big deal.

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