#Unapologetic: It’s Time For Barbie To Apologize

June 27, 2014  |  

It’s one of those New York City nights and I’m plowing through the human congestion in Times Square.  For all intent and purposes, it is a beautiful night. People are in great spirits and so am I, as the energy is electric. Then, I look up and see a massive, bright billboard for Barbie dolls. The typical blonde, white Barbie was in front of a pack of other “multicultural” dolls, as I recall.

Under the Barbies was the hashtag “#unapologetic.”

The over-thinker in me kicked in immediately, momentarily forgetting the crowd. There are a number of different ways to take the word unapologetic, but I’m thinking the marketing team at toymaker Mattel is trying to tell us all something. They aren’t about to to apologize for Barbie’s idealistic, nearly unattainable image. “As a legend herself, and under criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’ gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done, and be unapologetic,” a Mattel spokeswoman told AdAge in an interview.

Even white folks are tired of this heffer and how her super thin, super perfect plastic body tells young girls that they have to be skinny to be “in.” And, while I don’t know for certain, it’s fairly safe to say that men are driving this image. Shoot, Barbie even appeared on the 50th anniversary of Sports Illustrated magazine’s annual swimsuit issue earlier this year.

Based on my last post, regarding the baby sling controversy, it seems some of the most vocal African American folks are fine with accepting subliminal messaging that nudge our thinking in a certain direction. But, I am not one of those African Americans. Even the Black ones look like the typical white Barbie with browned skin. So, I’ve rejected Barbies of all hues since my daughter was a very young child. I’d sooner have her playing with Monster High dolls than a Barbie. (Confession: I did get the Alvin Ailey limited edition Barbie and the Black Female President Barbie for my daughter. Sue me.) Barbie continually takes stabs at the esteem of girls, informing them that their kinky hair is wrong or their skin isn’t fair enough.

So, I think its time for the brass over at Mattel to have Barbie throw herself on the mercy of the people with a new hashtag: #sorryformakingyoufeelyouwerentgoodasme. Girls have muscles now. They are smarter, and not reliant only on their outward appearance to get by. They wear their hair natural and thick. The world is very broad and standards of beauty are as varied and beautiful as the universe is long. America no longer subscribes to Barbie’s look and feel, the dream of the White male (and maybe some thirsty brothers), and if it does, they stand shoulder to shoulder with others like Lupita Nyong’o these days. Rapper Nicki Minaj has all-but-dropped her blonde Barbie shtick and adopted a more sister-girl looking image to great acceptance.

Barbie will still hold fast to her idyllic, fake life, which has carried on since the 1950’s, says the #unapologetic campaign. That is, until Ken cruises by in a drop-top with a Sister/Asian/Indian/Latina in tow. Maybe then, Mattel will smarten up and stop trying to spit in our faces with their brazen stance on beauty. The winds of change are going in another direction and that phlegm is coming back fast – a quickly as Barbie sales sag.

 

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  • Pash-in

    I agree, I loved Barbie and I still do, but I never saw her as the “cookie cutter idealist form of perfection”. I loved the her for the fact she was independent and could be and have anything that she wanted. She was so well diverse, came in so many ethnicities. Even an African line. But when it came to her physically features and proportions. They are not realistic and I knew that even as a child, her rib cage sticks out, her waist wasn’t a waist, her neck was way too long, ect. I didn’t know of any girls I grew up with thought she was the picture of perfection. As kids we are innocent, until the media and society starts add pressure of what beauty should look like, until then your just playing with a pretty doll.

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  • I think its great that they show girls in a number of successful career options, but that’s not good enough when they are all shaped more like an hour glass than an hour glass or the “barbie’s of color” look like they are wearing black face. It totally defeats the purpose. There are other options out there for dolls and I suggest we look further.

  • kimj

    Although her looks are stereotypical, I feel the opposite about Barbie. Barbies come in a variety of colors and cultures but the dolls provide esteem to young girls in other ways than outward appearance. Barbie has held thousands of jobs including veterinarian, scientist, doctor, beautician and even president. She’s independent and although she has a man she has her own. Shouldn’t showing girls they can be smart, and successful in variety of fields out weigh the image.