Playing Devil's advocate with Barbie and her new body types

It's a noble move by Mattel. But will kids really, truly want the new Barbies?

Playing Devil's advocate with Barbie and her new body types

Barbie dominated social media on Thursday, after Mattel took the wraps off the doll’s expanded Fashionistas line, which features three new body types – tall, curvy, and petite – and seven skin tones.

It’s obvious what Mattel is trying to do with this evolution: reflect a broader view of beauty with diverse body types and ethnicities. And parents might be inspired by the news and buy the new dolls. But will kids really, truly want them?

Barbie gave the exclusive about the new dolls to Time magazine on Thursday and landed the cover of its latest issue. But the publication did not shy away from pointing out several concerns, including the fact that focus groups of children called the doll "fat" and some even "snickered" at Barbie’s curves.

Mattel argued in the article that this is one of the reasons behind the new Barbie designs: to change the idea of what beauty is and foster inclusivity among youth. But will that change happen fast enough to benefit Mattel’s bottom line? After all, Barbie sales dropped 20% from 2012 to 2014 and fell last year.

And where does Mattel draw the line with being inclusive? The new dolls opened Barbie up to criticism on social media on who the company is still leaving out.

A number of Twitter users and even some celebrities posted about their disdain for the new dolls. Some noted that the curvy Barbie in particular is sending the wrong message – that "being overweight is OK."

Some media outlets were also suspect of Mattel’s motives. The Guardian ran a blog stating that the doll’s new body types are "a ploy to save the brand, not represent its customers."

Time also warned that the new dolls could erase Barbie’s brand recognition and status as an icon. And to add more fuel to the fire, the article also mentioned that Barbie might be too "late to the game," with its evolution.

Regardless, the new dolls largely received a fanfare of supportive press on Thursday, with publications such as People and Huffington Post calling the makeover "positive" and "groundbreaking."

Social media commentary on Thursday was also primarily in favor of the new Barbie body types. 

At the end of the day, there is no denying this is a risky, noble move on Mattel’s part. But it remains to be seen if Barbie can get and keep children’s attention, and if the new Barbie designs really change the way beauty is defined.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in