A Barbie…with curves? That’s right …after decades of criticism that its best-selling doll failed to accurately portray a woman’s true proportions, Mattel has released three new body shapes to its iconic Barbie line.
On Thursday, Mattel introduced curvy, petite and tall Barbie. The three body types will also be sold in an assortment of skin tones, eye colors and various hairstyles.
Barbie sales have plunged in recent years because the doll has struggled to remain relevant to little girls who do not have blonde hair and blue eyes. The move is about more than just making Barbie look different, it’s about rebranding. The initiative is part of a broader cultural shift at Mattel, where executives have been trying to transform the company into a forward-thinking toymaker.
Barbie’s new shapes also coincide with a progressive cultural shift underway in stores. Barbie’s new appearance comes at a time when parents and health experts have argued that too many dolls, models and even clothing companies conform to an extremely thin body type. They have campaigned for corporations to offer a greater variety of sizes to give girls and boys more confidence in their own body shapes.
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Body Image in Children
An Australian study shows that almost 40% of children are thought to be dissatisfied with the way they look, and girls as young as five express a desire to be thinner. Body image has consistently appeared in the top three issues of concern in the Mission Australia Survey of Young Australians from 2006 to 2013.
Body image has always been a complex subject and researchers are still trying to fully understand how body image, or body dissatisfaction develops in very young children. Children learn by observing and imitating what they see around them. Their early ideas about weight and appearance are shaped by their friends, family, media, social media – and apparently toys.
Research with 3-5 year olds has shown that young girls who viewed the images of Barbie had significantly lower scores on the Body Esteem scale after being exposed to the images. They subsequently indicated a preference for a thinner body.
Barbie in 2016
“I think today, frankly more so than any other time, Barbie is truly representing what girls see,” said Richard Dickson, who is Mattel’s president and chief operating officer and the executive in charge of Barbie’s reinvention.
Seems far from a stroke of genius that Mattel is just now thinking about this. Perhaps Mattel should have borrowed a page from Dove’s playbook. In 2004,Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty. The campaign started a “global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty after the study proved the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable.” We’ve been preaching diversity and acceptance for years in society. It seems rather odd that it’s finally made its way to the toy aisle.
But I don’t have small children. I hardly have my pulse on the toy industry. So, I’ll turn it over to you. What do you think? Do you think there will be increased sales with the new product line?
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SOURCES: TOMO, YouTube