The recent transformation of Barbie into a more diverse and realistic doll has been welcomed by many. Now, Barbie can be of any size, any colour and any appearance. She now reflects the way our society has progressed and moved on. Some say this move was unnecessary, that Barbie should not be taken so seriously and that she did no harm the way she was. This made me consider my own childhood and my cheap plastic barbies that I obtained (after begging profusely) from the local pound shop. Looking back I never looked at Barbie and saw her as something I strived to be like. She was pretty of course and had beautiful clothes but I never recall agonising over how different we were. Afterall in my mind she was just a doll. But that is not to say I agree with those who foam at the mouth at this latest, as they see it negative, transformation. Barbie may have been just a doll to me but as I grew older and discovered just how disproportionate Barbie actually was, facial and body-wise, it caused me some concern.
The reason I think it had little effect on me as a child growing up is that we didn’t have the vacuous black hole we have now that every young impressionable girl falls prey to, the internet and social media. Young girls are exposed to images of the ideal, perfect woman not just through their doll, but later on sites like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Popularity is weighted in how many followers and likes you get from anonymous people. These sites are overflowing with women who portray themselves having it all and looking thin and beautiful leading the perfect lifes and often times referring to themselves as a “Barbie”. In these ephemeral moments they share they seem be living an envious life. It makes these young girls judge themselves harshly in the hazy reflection of their mirror and decide that they are unBarbie-like and therefore ugly and unworthy. Children need to see themselves reflected in their dolls as children so that when they face into this enigmatic world they will have grounding. They can know that they are not ugly or wrong because they have seem a doll in their past just like them.
This of course becomes even more crucial for ethnic minoritys that reside in countries that are largely of one type of skin colour. Girls need to see Barbies that resemble them so that they create a healthy self image and don’t feel that there is only one type of beauty. This has been to the detriment of young, beautiful, smart girls who think they are unworthy of love or kindness because they don’t fit the model they imbibe on a daily basis.
So for me an updated Barbie is no bad thing and I think we will see it only positively effect our younger generation. This conversation needs to be opened wider to other mediums through which girls acquire their self-worth. What about disney princesses that have been largely left alone in this conversation? While I don’t think the old films need to be completely overhauled, as there should always remain the classical piece to remind us how far we have come, I do believe new films should allow for more difference and uniqueness. Nor does this stop only at girls toys and films. As we have seen boys are just as vulnerable to the effects of social media and to the idea of what a man should be like and how he should act.
Undoubtedly only positive things can arise from these discussions. Adapting to the times has rarely had a negative effect on society. Afterall, people make culture not the other way around.