On Jan. 28, the Mattel© toy company, manufacturer of the Barbie™ brand, announced it is releasing dolls with three new body types: “petite,” “tall,” and “curvy.” In addition, the new line hitting stores this spring will offer dolls with more diverse features, such as seven new skin tones, twenty-two eye colors, and twenty-four hairstyles. The traditional Barbie™ figure will still remain in the line-up.
Robert Best, The Senior Director for product design of Barbie™, said recently in an advertisement video for the new dolls, “This is radical, because we’re saying there isn’t this narrow standard of what a beautiful body looks like.” Children also shown in the video ad expressed their excitement that the dolls could look similar to them and others they know. The overall impression the diverse group of dolls shown had on the girls was favorable.
The move by Mattel© is an attempt to account for cultural changes, diversity, and to make the dolls a more relatable, realistic reflection of women. In an interview with “Time Magazine,” head of the Barbie™ brand Evelyn Mazzocco, stated, “Yes, some people will say we are late to the game. But changes at a huge corporation take time.”
The company may also be looking to regain some sales that have been lost recently. While Barbie™ still rakes in nearly one billion dollars in sales every year, revenue took a hit when Mattel© lost their license to manufacture Disney Princess dolls and other toys. The demand for change has pushed them to the production of the new Barbie™ shapes.
Since she made her first appearance in the world of toys in 1959, Barbie™ has been viewed in a critical light just as much as in a positive light. Despite being the best-selling doll in the world, the original Barbie™ has spurred on conversation of unrealistic body proportions and beauty ideals. Studies about the potential psychological harm the doll may cause young children have risen up, as well as several anti-Barbie™ protests in years past.
Indeed, if any given human was seen walking around with a traditional Barbie™’s physical proportions, it would look far out of the ordinary. One 1996 study indicated that Barbie™’s waist would be nineteen inches smaller than that of the average American woman, hips eleven inches smaller, and head two inches larger. Forgetting about her tiny hands, feet, and joints, many critics see her shape as problematic given the role-model position she is often seen in for children.
Although there may be lingering problems surrounding this change for critics of the iconic doll, there has been much more positive feedback. Beyond creating new body shapes for Barbie™, Mattel© has also introduced dolls with new “careers” such as computer engineer, president, and astronaut, and a line of DC Super Heroes is also coming out this spring. Be on the lookout!