When is a Barbie Doll Not a Barbie Doll? 

Mattel announced a new line of their iconic Barbie doll last week, with new body shapes: original, tall, petite, and curvy. Sounds like the KFC menu to me.


I have no problem with dolls in all shorts of shapes and colors and hairdos but should each doll be called Barbie? Doesn’t it dilute the Original Barbie?


The new line is as you might expect – diversity of color, of body shapes, of ethnicity (there’s an Asian Barbie too).


I think American Girl doll does it better. They have dolls of every race and shape too, each with a DIFFERENT name, each with a rich history, each with a story behind the doll versus Mattel deciding to add more shapes and still justify calling her Barbie.


I didn’t play with a Barbie doll as a kid but I can remember amusing myself for hours with Paper Dolls. Changing clothes all the time and playing in my little dollhouse. It was endless of hours of self-amusement.


Bottom line, I go back to my headline. Is a Barbie still a Barbie when her original figure is changed? I don’t think so.


14 thoughts on “When is a Barbie Doll Not a Barbie Doll? 

  1. … aka RLRR. In 1959, when the doll was introduced, I was six, and I cheerfully became a Barbie devotee.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this mess ‘o P C Barbies plays out in the marketplace. I am doubtful they will fare well.

    I think Barbies are a variation on what marketers call “aspirational” … you don’t want a Barbie that looks like you, you want to look like a Barbie! I know I was annoyed that my mother bought me the Barbie with red hair and a “bubble cut” because I had short red hair … I wanted the one with the blond ponytail, dammit! If my red headed Barbie had also been “curvy” (who’s kidding who here, in marketing parlance, “curvy” is code for “fat”), I would’ve lost all interest.

    I understand adding Afro Barbies, Asian Barbies, Latino Barbies. But variations beyond that? Eh, not so much.

      1. Short answer: Yes, assuming Mattel considers this a likely profitable repositioning of the Barbie “brand.”

        1. I can understand the Barbie brand being critical in the sale of the new shapes and styles but none of them IS Barbie. They can be sold as Barbie’s family of friends, in the Barbie aisle, with Barbie branding but be named something else.

          To back up to your earlier point – I agree 100% that kids our age didn’t want their Barbie to look like them, although American Girl has made a fortune on a line they call Truly Me – a doll you can create with your kind of hair and features. In other words, what do I know? Nothing. I was happier climbing trees.

  2. I never had a Barbie nor did I want one. She looked too ‘fast’- remember that expression?

    Barbie can have friends, cousins, sisters, half sisters, step sisters but there is only one Barbie in my book.

    Why aren’t American Girl products made in America? And, why does a Depression Era doll cost so much?

    1. “Fast”, there’s a word you only hear now in regards to not eating. My favorite use of it was in the movie Working Girl when she met up with Alex Baldwin’s character at his wedding and he asked her how life was in Manhattan. She answered “fast, very fast.”
      AG has gotten a lot of flack about dolls being made in China. Their response is that for decades good dolls were made in Germany. Germany. China. Same. Not.

  3. Of all the young girls in my extended family and circle of friends, few play with dolls. A couple had AG dolls around age 5 but gave them up (or more accurately the parents refused to pay the highway robbery prices of the dolls and accessories.)

    I never played with dolls at all because I had to fight for my life being the only girl in a family of four children. My brothers would have beheaded Barbie.

  4. Swanton, I remember the expression “fast” — or, in its likely application, a “fast girl” — very well. I heard my mother use it often enough in my pre-teen and teen years. That would be the same mother who bought me the Barbie doll in 1959. I guess she wasn’t thinking S-E-X at that time, in that context. Good ‘ole Liz, she didn’t have a whole lot of imagination … and sometimes that was a good thing.

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