Skip to content

Happy 51st Birthday Barbie!

March 9, 2010

Add to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to MySpaceAdd to Twitter
Some brands have become so much part of global pop culture that we almost forget where they originate. Barbie, who turns 51 today, is one such brand. The tall blue-eyed natural blond with legs up into the air was introduced at the American Toy Fair in New York City on March 9th of 1959. Since then the brainchild of Mattel founders Ruth and Elliot Handler has traveled the world and is sold in over 150 countries.

Despite her popularity – or perhaps because of it – Barbie has been the subject of many controversies. Most commonly, critics have argued that the American icon promotes an unrealistic body image for young girls and puts them at risk for becoming anorexic. At a 1/6 scale Barbie measures 5 feet 9 inches and weighs in at 110 pounds according to a pink bathroom scale that came with a 1965 version of the doll. This would mean 35 pounds underweight for a woman her height.

More controversy appeared in 1992 when Mattel released the Talking Teen Barbie who uttered phrases like “I love shopping”, “Will we ever have enough clothes” and “Math class is tough”. After the American Association of University Women qualified this as offending to women, Mattel agreed to erase the math class sentence. Barbie’s body proportions have been slightly adjusted also, most drastically in 1997 when her waist was widened. According to Mattel this would make her better suited for contemporary fashion designers such as Christian Louboutin, Versace and Dutch couturier Mart Visser who designed a Barbie clothing line in 1997.

In her 51 years on this earth Barbie has had many careers. Everything from stewardess, to surgeon, to US air force pilot. Most recently she has been recruited as a computer engineer. Barbie designers worked closely with the Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering to ensure that Barbie met the standards of her title.

I still remember getting my first Barbie doll about 30 years ago – and I still have it. Last Christmas, my 5-year-old daughter unwrapped her first one and refused to let anyone touch it for a week because “ this is my first Barbie and it’s very special”. I guess she’s right. And I predict that if Barbie will continue to reinvent herself she will become 100. At least.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: