Barbie is extraordinarily influential, especially for young girls, but often, that impact is not always a good one. The legacy of Barbie started in 1959, but over time, there has been quite a bit of controversy over the message she conveys. While Barbie is a fantasy, her body is not even realistic. And for the majority of the time, she only existed in one color. But, real women come in all sorts of shapes and textures.
But, Barbie changed 5-10 years ago because Mattel, the parent organization, began to listen to how customers were feeling about the way Barbie negatively impacted the self-esteem of young girls. Children grow up with this ultra-feminine image of a woman in their minds, an image that conveys an unrealistic body image and perfect lifestyle(Marmar University, 2019). Also, since Barbie represents the ideal of femininity, it can also be said that Barbie created a unanimous idea or image of what it means and looks like to be a woman. And of course, this could be perceived as problematic since there are many different ways women can dress, look, and act. And just because some may not fall in line with certain ideals does not mean that their womanhood can be challenged.
Likewise, customers recognized how Barbie’s plastic skin and perfect life were not indicative of reality. As a result, not only has the parent company made Barbies that are different skin tones and body shapes, but they’ve also made Barbie a doctor, astronaut, and a career. But, this quick switch has to make you wonder if this is performance activism, or a result of Mattel truly wanting to be inclusive.
With all of that being said, there is a new Barbie movie being released. We wonder if the movie will stay within the lane of perceived perfection, or if it will promote diversity and inclusion. At the same time, many people don’t think that Barbie being perfect is a big deal because we know it’s not real, and she’s a doll. However, there are women who have had 43-45 different plastic surgeries to look Barbie. And even though we know it’s not real, it doesn’t stop us from comparing ourselves to it. And maybe filters are the same way? Just because we know a filter is there, doesn’t mean it’s not impacting us.
There have been multiple studies showing that young girls compare themselves to Barbie. There was a study with girls ages 4-6. Those that played with the more specific body type dolls had more concerns about their bodies. They were seen doing more body checks, looking at themselves in the mirror, and feeling dissatisfied.
Even as a young girl, Cassandra can remember looking at perfectly photoshopped and Barbie-reminiscent women. She compared herself to them in the same way she did Victoria's Secret models and tp women in magazines. Cassandra felt as though she were being told, “These women are the epitome of beauty.”
Consequently, it is so important to see ourselves represented In the media. When people see themselves represented as an admired character who makes positive decisions and doesn’t objectify their body, this can be very helpful. That’s why it’s important to balance out the make-believe world with reality. We can have a healthy set of both. While we can love art and nostalgia like the Barbie movie, we have to take the steps to understand reality and value what we see in the mirror.