As I walked down the aisle with my niece I felt as though I had fallen into a bottle of Pepto Bismal when in fact we were only in the Barbie section of the local toy store. There were hundreds of pink boxes with the 11 and inch doll in them. I was instantly brought back to my childhood and the hours that I spent playing with this timeless toy. Amazement arose because the tradition of this toy has survived for so many years.
Ruth Handler a co-founder of Mattel, invented Barbie in 1959, when she noticed her daughter playing with paper dolls imagining them to be different people who were working, swimming, and playing with friends. Barbie got her name from Handler’s daughter Barbara. Ken, Barbie’s boyfriend was created in 1960, and was named after Handler’s son. In 1963, Midge, Barbie’s best friend was created and in 1964, Barbie’s sister, Skipper, was created. She’s tall, slim, and beautiful. She has a smile that never ceases, a body that never ages, and a wardrobe that every woman dreams of.
With these great qualities under her belt Barbie has become the most popular selling woman in the world. From “Sponge-N-Print,” “Make-up” and “Doctor” Barbie to one hundred-piece gift sets and fashion play cards to “Birthday Fun at McDonald’s” and Barbie’s “Baywatch” Rescue Boat, it could be concluded that this is no ordinary toy. She is a timeless creation who does more than smile and look pretty. In a journey through the sea of pink she is known as everything from the ideal American of femininity, to a disgrace to all women, and a bimbo.
Despite criticism from feminists and other activists, Barbie has survived four decades of political, social, and cultural changes. In the toy industry that is a huge defeat. Toys normally have a short life span because of how quickly fads come and go, yet in a world of uncertainty she remains stable. She is able to change with the times. As young girl’s tastes and fashions change, so do Barbie’s. Whatever clothes are in the Pre-teen section of the local department stores is likely to be found on Barbie, or an accessory of Barbie’s.
Her clothing is a perfect history of fashion over the past forty years. At 43, Barbie never ceases to change with the times. After causing much controversy, especially with “Barbie Liberation Organization,” Barbie has a confident outlook on the future. Equipped with a new focus, she has plans to become even more spectacular with many new friends. Barbie’s new look consists of a wider waist, smaller hips, and a smaller chest, compared to the impossible measurements of 36-18-38. Mattel adopts current fads in order to present Barbie as a role model.
Mothers buy Barbie in hopes of not only presenting entertainment, but also positive reflections of society and femininity. Barbie leads a balanced, busy life; her goals are socially acceptable. She allows children to use their imaginations in an ultimate fantasy world but also gives them realistic dreams for which they can aspire. Barbie has remained a prominent figure because Mattel has correctly assessed what it means to a little girl to be an adult. And all this has happened because a woman wanted her daughter to have more to play with than a paper doll.