Could there have been any other choice for the letter B?
My eldest loves her dolls.
Love her or hate her?
Is THE doll of dolls.
And, for anyone who has followed this blog in the past, there are a lot of dolls here:
Among those, you will spot a few Barbies.
But my daughter’s favourite doll?
Well, that would be Una.
And I feel a bit fraudulent claiming the Barbie-cred here, because she’s actually a faux-Barbie.
Please don’t tell my daughter.
We found her at a garage sale when she was three.
And they have been together ever since.
She broke her (very cheap and ageingly brittle) plastic leg, and grandpa set up a dolly hospital to mend her.
He finally put a metal splint in her leg and binded around the whole thing with glue.
Because he’s a PhD engineer, dammit. And no toy was getting the best of him!
But the complete adoration of said dolly leaves me wondering at the timeless nature and resonance of Barbie.
Barbie was invented by Ruth Handler in the late 1950s. Her husband was this guy named Elliot, who had a business partner named Harold “Matt” Matson.
Can you guess what company they formed?
Mattel started as a small company to manufacture picture frames. They used scraps to make dollhouse furniture. That was more profitable, so they became a toy company.
Ruth and Elliot had a daughter named Barbara. Ruth watched her daughter playing with paper dolls and giving them adult rolls. Most toy dolls at the time were infants. Ruth suggested an adult-bodied doll to her husband.
According to Wikipedia, during a trip to Europe in 1956, she came across an adult-figured German toy doll called Bild Lilli. She bought one for Barbara and brought two more back to Mattel. Lilli was a character in a newspaper comic strip: a “blonde bombshell”, working girl “who knew what she wanted and was not above using men to get it.” The doll was initially sold to adults in Germany, but had become popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were …
… sold separately.
The rest? Well, history.
Ruth redesigned the doll, named it after her daughter, and launched her in 1959.
And she has reigned ever since.
As a child in the 1980s, I owned the Barbie caravan and (I somewhat cringe to tell you that) my favourite Barbie was Pink & Pretty Barbie.
Today, my eldest loves Barbies and my youngest feels she should because her sister adores them.
It’s an interesting balance.
We’ve seen most of the Barbie movies. I’ve blogged about them before and like them a whole lot more than I thought I would.
All told and taking into account her impossible figure and all discussion of possible harm that entails, the overt message of the brand to young girls is something I can be okay to positive about my girls watching.
I mean, how can you not love a woman who has been everything from a SeaWorld trainer, to a paratrooper, to a Doctor to President of the United States… Really, you can check out all her careers here.
There’s also the fact that when she was introduced in 1959 she was considered a rebel: single and childless, living a glamourous life with boyfriends and a beach house in Malibu she paid for herself. She was to represent the new independent vision of womanhood – an escape.
And getting back to present day? My youngest was gifted a Fashionista Barbie this past Christmas with a more realistic waistline – so I recognize the efforts.
However, I look at the Disney Fairies and Monster High dolls – who astoundingly make Barbie look, um, large, in that their clothes don’t transfer because they’re too small – and I think that damage has been done and what we need to do is look forward, not back, as far as the dolly representation of women goes.
I think Barbie – as well as other brands – are making some efforts.
Overall, I’m good with Barbie.
Last thought? My 7-year-old likes Britney Spears. And we play Just Dance. One of the songs is Britney and Will I Am’s Scream and Shout which has quickly become a favourite for both my daughters. I have a Britney “best of” we play in the car. So they started asking for this one. One of the lines in that song screams who is singing it.
WHO? Will I Am and Britney, Bitch!
She misses the bitch reference entirely.
She is convinced it is a shout out to Barbie’s bestie Midge.
Because collaborating with Midge and giving her credit? That’s something Britney would TOTALLY do!
PS: Bonus points for tieing another “B” in here, right? Someone is keeping track, right?