The Controversial History Behind Mattel’s Barbie
By: Devika Sunand
If you grew up in the 1980s and 90s, chances are you remember playing with Barbie dolls as a kid. And who could forget the Barbie song?
“I’m a barbie girl, in a barbie world. Life in plastic, it’s fantastic. You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere.”
If the lyrics sound a little suspicious to you now, you’re not alone.
The Barbie song by Aqua was released in 1997 and has been quite controversial ever since its release. The creator of the world-famous doll, Mattel Inc., even filed a case against the music band because of its ‘sexual nature, demeaning the brand franchise as a whole.’
The song, which was supposedly for children, consisted of a lot of double entendres and slang not appropriate for kids.
Some of the controversial lines were, “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic,” “I’m a blond bimbo girl in a fantasy world,” “I can beg on my knees,” and the list goes on.
Despite Mattel’s lawsuit, the song became an international hit that was sung by kids and adults alike for decades.
Barbie was manufactured in 1956 by the American toy company Mattel Inc. In the 1950s, the doll was perceived as a perfect model and a ‘teaching tool for femininity’ which represented a perfect western woman. The doll raised concerns for various reasons, one of them being the unrealistic body image and stereotypical character of the doll.
While Barbie is shown to have awesome features, it is important to note that biologically, nobody can attain the physical attributes of Barbie. If Barbie was a real-life woman, she would not be able to walk because of her proportions, and would rather have to crawl in fours. Thus, barbie as an ideal of female beauty standards can be extremely destructive, both physically and mentally.
In 1965, Slumber Party Barbie came with pink pajamas, a pink scale set at 110 lbs, and a diet book on how to lose weight, with only one instruction: DON’T EAT!
Some people go to extreme lengths to obtain the proportions of Barbie. While this is a free world, it is necessary to understand that a plastic doll should not make you feel less worthy of or less attractive or less you!
In 2016, Mattel launched different-sized Barbies as an initiative to diversify the dolls. While the variations are still limited, the fact that the company is taking initiatives to diversify the dolls is a relief.
Playing with unrealistic dolls is not a problem if the child understands the fact that it does not represent real women. If you want a Barbie doll, go get it! But keep in mind that you don’t have to look like a Barbie to be ideal. After all, the world built on imperfections is what makes it beautiful!