Barbie's midlife crisis
March 6, 2009 10:43 AM   Subscribe

While US sales declined steadily in recent years, worldwide Barbie sales have been on the rise. So what better way to celebrate Barbie's 50th birthday and increase worldwide sales than by giving her her very own flagship store in Shanghai [Flash, sound].

And here in the States, Mattel is trying to revive the brand by bringing her into the 21st century -- with Totally Stylin' Tattoo Barbie and, of course, her own Twitter page.

But some think that Barbie has no place in modern times. One West Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of Barbie dolls "and other similar dolls that promote or influence girls to place an undue importance on physical beauty to the detriment of their intellectual and emotional development."

Other questionable Barbie marketing decisions include Pregnant Midge and Teen Talk Barbie.
posted by mudpuppie (20 comments total)
She lookin' pretty tight for someone her age.
posted by sfts2 at 10:46 AM on March 6, 2009

Also, today on BBC News: What would Barbie look like if she was a real woman?
posted by dunkadunc at 10:53 AM on March 6, 2009

Oh law makers, you can't save the children from everything. For some crazy reason, girls (and boys, heck - even adults) style themselves after popular images. The popularity of the item is what matters, not the item itself. Get rid of Unnaturally Proportioned Barbie and replacing her with Sexy-in-a-Book-Smart-Way Barbie would only work if people liked them. Banning Barbie would probably only make her more attractive.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:05 AM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I thought Sarah Burge was the real life barbie? At least that's what her website says (SFW, mostly pics of her at parties being .. barbielike?)

To be honest, these pics of random models look a lot more Barbie-esq.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:09 AM on March 6, 2009

filthy light thief, i think you have it. Barbie is a reflection of the most popular female ideal, whether we like that or not. In western society, it's always the men who are the observers who have to pursue women, and the women who have to put on the appropriate show to get pursuers.

When I was a kid, I used to dress up like Fidel Castro and run around in the woods pretending to be guerillas or terrorists blowing shit up. Maybe it was a kneejerk reaction to how lame GI Joe was.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:20 AM on March 6, 2009

Perhaps the Illinois legislature could pass a law redefining Barbie as a skanky ho?
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 11:32 AM on March 6, 2009

As a nanny for a five year old girl, I'd like to go on the record to say that the Barbie Movies are one of the most brilliant marketing ploys for the worst brain-sucking g-dawful movies in the entire known universe. The plots are awful, the stereotypes sickening. At least the animation is fairly decent.

The only, ONLY good thing I have to say about them is that a lot of the background music is classical, which at least exposes young girls to classical music somehow.

The dolls are fine with me, especially if I can make Ken wear a nice dress. The movies - I would like to invoke the great Bill Hicks and say whoever made this crocks of shit should kill themselves.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2009

So what better way to celebrate Barbie's 50th birthday and increase worldwide sales than by giving her her very own flagship store in Shanghai

How about some nipples and genitalia?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2009

Have you actually seen the Totally Stylin' Tats? They lack ... something. I guess I was hoping for more hardcore biker barbie look, but at least there are no BFF-type tattoos. I'd hate to have parents try to reason their excitable little girl down from the exciting thoughts of Shelly + Cindy Friends Forever tattooed.

"Honey, what if you and Cindy have a fight? Like last week, when she didn't want to lend you her Jonas Brothers CD?"

"But that was last week! And Mom bought that CD for me yesterday. We're best friends forever! We even wrote it in our binders! See?"

"Yes, well, tattoos last longer than binders."

"Yeah, we know, Dad. That's what forever means! Duh!"
posted by filthy light thief at 12:14 PM on March 6, 2009

How about some nipples and genitalia?

that reminds me, under filthy light thief's second link I saw this.
Somehow I don't really like the implications.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:18 PM on March 6, 2009

I just don't understand this fascination with Barbie and fashion models, both. Barbie is supposed to be all about the clothes. Buy a doll, buy more Barbie clothes. Or make your own! Same thing with fashion models. They're just thin women to be moving, breathing mannequins to display clothing.

Models were originally thin because the designers didn't want to have beautiful women distract from the clothes. The focus used to be on the clothing, the designer. You didn't want a woman with sexy curves stealing the spotlight. It's the same with Barbie. Sexy? No way, she's a homunculus with a big head, and long legs and arms to allow the miniature clothing more detail. Dolls before Barbie were almost certainly mishapen too; whether made from straw or sticks, they definitely were going to be slender underneath their clothes.

Call me when they have bulemic Barbie, but I really imagine that most girls (and boys), without prodding from adults, would describe Barbie as having a flair for fashion, multi-talented (so many professions!) and having many friends before they would call her skinny. I mean, no one identifies Dora the Explorer as being fat, even though her proportions are way wider than a normal kid, right?
posted by explosion at 1:02 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Barbie is supposed to be all about the clothes

Heh. My Barbies had a lot more fun than that.
posted by goo at 1:28 PM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

By the way, Mattel just won a $100 million dollar lawsuit against Bratz on the basis that the guy who came up with them worked for Mattel at the time.
posted by delmoi at 1:54 PM on March 6, 2009

I used to make my GI Joe figures (the 80s small plastic version, not the original 12"ers) make port calls with my sister's Barbies. I think it was quite normal, nothing macrophilic going on.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:25 PM on March 6, 2009

All I know is, when I accidently turn into the Barbie aisle at any given department store, the monotonous fullisade of hot plastic pink packaging burns my retinas. I can actually feel my soul leaving my body.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:29 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Time for Cougar Barbie.
posted by banishedimmortal at 3:57 PM on March 6, 2009

From the Twitter feed:
is getting doll'd up for her first fashion show!
"Doll'd"? I thought she was 50, not 250.
posted by No-sword at 4:05 PM on March 6, 2009

This site has some very cool retro collections, Beach Movie and
visits with the originators.
posted by hortense at 12:17 AM on March 14, 2009

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