Barbie’s New Bodies

Mattel has debuted a dramatic redesign of its Barbie line with three new body types and seven different skin colors.

It didn’t take becoming a father to a young girl for me to realize how harmful the Barbie line of toys can be to a girl’s body image. In fact, I’m not sure I even remember a time when the brand wasn’t riddled with controversy; like the name of Washington, D.C.’s pro football team, Barbie is one of those elements of pop culture that’s just seemed like it’s been inherently wrong forever and would continue to be inherently wrong forevermore.

Still, this breakthrough doesn’t quite feel like a moment to be celebrated for some reason. For one, the sales performance of these new designs will determine whether it survives; Mattel recently saw improved sales for its Barbie line even before this rollout, so in the long run they may be incentivized to revert to old habits unless these new dolls are a hit. Even then, only time will tell if they’ll be able to assume the mantel of the original Barbie doll; they may sell fine, but they may also diffuse our thinking of the brand entirely, to the point where they become just generic dolls. Changing design icons—for better or worse, Barbie falls into that category—doesn’t always happen instantly. And finally, even with these laudably substantial changes, I’m still pretty sure that I don’t want to buy one of these for my daughter.

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