Barbie truly is an icon of our time. Even if you did not play much with her as a kid, we have been shown her image on TV, online, and in stores constantly. Her face is everywhere, a classic symbol of children’s toys and female childhood. Of course, anyone of any gender can play with Barbies and other dolls, but I’m talking stereotypes here. With her fashionable clothes, often progressive messages, and often ‘perfect’ image, many people wanted to grow up to be like Barbie. More than just a doll, she represents many things to many people. She is a role model, a friend, a toy, a good memory, a symbol, an icon, a piece of art; all of these labels and more can be applied to the blonde doll. Not only is she a symbol she is also a simple toy, something we impress labels and items onto.
A big player in pop culture, Barbie has evolved over the years. Her appearance has changed, her careers have changed, her style has changed, but she remains a pillar of Western culture. Nowadays, alongside appearing in films, tv shows, and commercials, she is also a YouTuber in a recent career change. Barbie has had a long life and, like a vampire, has remained a teenager all this time. Her achievements over the years have been simultaneously scrutinized and praised for its messages to young people. She has had a surprisingly multi-faceted life for a children’s doll. Let’s check it out.
While the fashionista and career woman that we all know and love was released in March 1959, Ken was released two years later in March 1961. This makes Barbie two years older than Ken in terms of release, although there is little known about their official ages besides the fact that they are teenagers or young people. It’s amazing that the young lovers stayed together for so long (even if they did take a break for a bit).
Being a busy career woman her entire life means that Barbie has never had much time for herself. Sure, she has Ken but even they have had an on-off relationship in the past. Because Barbie has an image to maintain, she has not had any children of her own. She has babysat for her siblings and friends but never gotten around to carrying on her fashionable name. I totally support Barbie’s decision to refrain from having kids and am glad she supports her sister’s and friends’ children where she can.
Barbie is an old girl despite her looks. Born in March 1959, she was ‘born’ and put on our shelves. I say ‘born’ as she is a teenage doll rather than a child, and there are no teenage babies. That makes Barbie 59 years old, which is impressive. How she can still walk effortlessly in heels at her age is beyond me. Barbie is a classic that seems as though it will never go out of style, but only time will tell. Even if she does decline in popularity, 60 years is an impressive amount of time.
Barbie has been around for decades, so a little teenage rebellion was long overdue. That is, until 2000 when she got a belly button piercing. Unexpected as it may be, Barbie showed us that even older girls can have a little fun if they want. She is the queen of fashion and belly button piercings were on trend back in the day (though some would argue that piercings never go out of style). Good for you Barbie, you work that agency.
While Barbie seems like the biggest doll in the world, even she got her roots somewhere. When thinking of a new design for a doll, Ruth Handler found inspiration during her travels to Germany. She came across Lilli, the toy for grown-ups who was a high-class girl. Lilli was sold in shops and other places tailored to grown-ups. Handler liked the idea of a grown-up doll and pitched it to Jack Ryan, the ‘father of Barbie’ and eventually convinced him.
Barbie hasn’t always looked as we see her now. When she first came onto our shelves, she had a different art style and looked sideways without smiling. In 1971, she finally faced forwards and then in 1977, she got that small toothy smile we all know and love. Her looking sideways without smiling gives her a sophisticated air that is desirable in a grown-up doll. While this is great, I think that Barbie is more approachable now than her initial design
Barbie’s age has been hotly debated and, like many women, she is loath to disclose it. Many put her between 17 and 22, with most people leaning towards 17. Being around since 1959 put her in league with Emma Thompson, Marie Osmond, and Sarah Ferguson. Her birthdate makes her a baby boomer who has lived through the Space Race, the disco era, the rise of technology, and many other wild events. Talk about aging with grace – she’s got grace in spades.
Some people really love Barbie. I mean, they really love Barbie. So much so that they want to be as like Barbie as possible. Through the use of exercise, plastic surgery, and other cosmetic enhancements, certain women have achieved what was thought to be impossible and became Barbie. Valeria Lukyanova, in particular, bears an uncanny resemblance to the iconic doll. Looking at her makes me feels uncomfortable in an uncanny valley way, to be honest.
A charming and hospitable woman, Barbie’s stellar personality is famous across the world. I mean, there is a reason that she has so many friends. Now we know why; she’s a Southern belle. Barbie was born in the fictional town of Willow, Wisconsin and has been putting that Southern friendliness to good use while building her empire. Starting out as a country girl turned teen model, now she has a highly successful legacy for other young people to aspire to.
Barbie has experimented a lot over the years. Trying to keep up with trends is her thing, along with trying new careers and loving a whole zoo full of animals. While Barbie is losing her high-heeled footing a little in the toy world, she is known as a frontrunner. However, sales were never higher for Barbie than when she tried out a particular trend: hyper long hair. During the 90s, Barbie began her Totally Hair phase and it was a huge hit with kids.
It is no secret that Barbie has been at the center of some rather big controversies. One of the biggest criticisms leveled against her is due to her size. Barbie’s measurements, if she were a full-sized person, would have a 39-inch chest, an 18-inch waist, and 33-inch hips, which is actually ridiculous. No woman fits this standard and the reality of how disproportionate measurements are shows when you see photos of her to scale. Her figure does change depending on which version of her you have.
Barbie is an imposing figure of the toy world, not just figuratively but literally. At a very tall 5 foot 9 inches, Barbie truly does stand tall amongst her competition. This is not even taking into account her ginormous shoe collection. While this is taller than average for many women in the world, there are women of this height, so it is not unusual. Tall women often dislike wearing heels, but Barbie owns wearing them without worrying over her height – go Barbie!
Another controversy surrounding Barbie’s image is her weight. While weight does not really mean anything in terms of our worth as people, some do place significance on it. Barbie’s weight is unusually low for her measurements, sitting at 110 pounds. This is very small and not a recommended size for people to be in order to be healthy. Her weight is an issue because she has been made to be a role model for young people; there are fears this promotes unhealthy lifestyles.
Barbie has had some interesting changes done to her body over the years; she’s changed hair color, fashion choices, and makeup aesthetics. However, one of the biggest changes also brought a lot of controversies. Video Barbie had a camera in her necklace that recorded up to half an hour of video, which was displayed on a screen on her back. Hello Barbie has a recording device that is always listening, recording conversations, and sending them to Mattel via WiFi. She even spooked the FBI on this one.
While most think of Barbie as a standalone, she does have a large family behind her. Not only are there her parents, who we know little about, but there are also her many siblings and cousins. In order of age with Barbie as the oldest, we have Skipper, Anastasia, Todd, Chelsea, Kelly, and Christine. There is also Tutti, Francie, Stacie, and Krissy. That is a massive household to maintain. Poor Barbie and Skipper had a lot of work on their hands when it came to babysitting.
They say that blondes have more fun and that may be true in Barbie’s case. When she was initially sold in stores during her first run, Barbie came in two versions. She came with the classic blonde ponytail we know and love as well as a brunette version. For some reason, the blonde version of her sold incredibly well and so the brunette was discontinued. However, Barbie has dyed her hair numerous times over the years and now has brunette counterparts again.
While Barbie’s shape receives a lot of criticism in the modern world, she was once a trailblazer in the toy world. Before she first hit the shelves, most dolls for young people were babies and children. Ruth Handler wanted young girls who wanted to act out their future teen selves an appropriate doll to play with. Now there are tons of teen dolls out there but people don’t realize that Barbie is the reason that they all exist today.
Barbie’s shoe collection is truly a force to be reckoned with. She has more shoes than any person should have at this point. However, if you look carefully you will see that the majority of her shoes are heels. Barbie has been wearing heels almost her entire life and was not seen without them until the mid-2000s. Certain versions of Barbie can be seen with flats or that can wear both heels and flats thanks to adjustable ankles. Adjustable ankles sound painful, to be honest.
As we have mentioned previously, Barbie has been critiqued over the years for everything she stands for. From her looks to her weight to her sizes to her consumerism, everyone has an opinion on Barbie, positive or not. Some posit that she faces so much backlash because she is a woman, others because she is a children’s role model and so she needs to be mindful of her actions. Either way, she has a lot of eyes on her and still succeeds in spite of that.
Barbie’s feet have always been tiny; partially because she herself is a small doll and also because her shoes are literally tiny. It turns out, that when you scale up her size to a regular person’s size, she has a size 3 shoe. This is out of proportion for her body technically, but most of her body is out of whack if you size her up, so what can you do. Also, good on her for finding size-three adult shoes, it is often pretty difficult to do.
With all of these controversies regarding representation and Barbie’s weight, Barbie has changed things up. Within the last few years, Barbie has been released in various other shapes including curvy, tall, petite, and more. This attempt to introduce children to other figures was met with mixed reviews. However, the Fashionista collection introduced even more diversity into the Barbie brand. As long as they make children happy then that’s what’s most important.
Barbie is an inspiration for a lot of people. From kids to artists to fashion designers, Barbie brings creativity into people’s hearts around the world. There are paintings of her, songs about her dresses designed for her, jewelry made for her; people even incorporate Barbie’s body parts into mixed media projects. It makes sense that someone so embedded in our consciousness and so expressive in their choices would inspire art.
Consumerism is prevalent throughout many societies in the world today and some have argued that Barbie exacerbates that practice. With her constant wardrobe additions, new pets, new clothes, and new friends it seems that Barbie is never satisfied with what she has. As we touched on before, she is not even satisfied with her own body and has made some changes to it over the years. We are down for self-improvement – perhaps Barbie’s lifestyle will change in the future.