To me, these dolls all look like they live in suburbia, USA and Europe, and their middle class lives are atypical of most girls’ lives. That may be the point in a doll for a big toymaker, but still not true for a lot of daughters and mothers. However, Barbie is ubiquitous, found all over the world and changing her is helpful insofar as she looks like she could actually move (if her legs had muscles that is).
When it comes to Barbie’s body, it won’t be one size fits all.
On Thursday, Mattel unveiled curvy, petite and tall versions of its fashion doll, whose unrealistically thin shape has attracted criticism for decades. The three body types will also come in an assortment of skin tones, eye color and hairstyles.
The move is about more than just making Barbie look different. Once Mattel’s powerhouse brand, sales of Barbie have plummeted in recent years, as the doll has struggled to remain relevant to little girls who do not look like her. HOW COULD THEY? SHE CAME FROM AN ERA WHEN AN IDEAL MEANT GIRLS AND WOMEN WERE IMMOBILE WITH BODY PARTS THAT PLEASED MALES.
“This is about drawing a wider demographic that had turned away from Barbie back to Barbie,” said Jim Silver, the editor of TTPM, a toy review website.
Last year, Mattel introduced dolls with a variety of skin tones. The company also shifted its marketing campaign to focus more on Barbie’s career ambitions than her body image.
“The ones in multiple skin tones did phenomenal for Mattel and it showed them that people wanted much more than the blond, blue-eyed Barbie,” Mr. Silver said.
Still, Mattel executives have struggled to rebrand Barbie as an aspirational figure, one not so closely identified with her unnatural body measurements.
“It’s hardly a bolt of genius to say let’s make dolls that look different,” said Sean McGowan, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Company. “It’s more like saying ‘Yeah, we stuck with that one single iconic image for too long, let’s try multiple ones.’ ”
The new dolls are available for preorder online, and are expected to hit store shelves at major retailers including Walmart and Toys “R” Us in March, according to a Mattel spokesman, Alex Clark.