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On March 9, 1959 at the American International Toy Fair, the toy company Mattel introduced something no other toy company was ready for. With a black and white striped swimsuit and soft orange hair, with a smile any boy would fall for, the Barbie doll caught everyone’s eye. First, I will go through the history and evolution of the Barbie doll, Second, I will share with you the many adventures the doll has had, and third, I will state the magnificent impact it has had on our society.
The inspiration of Barbie came from the creative mind of Ruth Handler when she discovered her daughter Barbara (whom barbie is named after) and her friends playing with paper dolls, which were created with glamorous fashion sense. Ruth believed if a new toy that greatly attracted children was created, it will distract them from getting addicted to the new technologies being introduced. In the year of 1959, over 300,000 Barbie dolls were sold and are still continuing to be sold at that extent. Now, when I was researching about how many kids enjoy playing with Barbie, I also wondered how many adults like to collect Barbie and I found that the original Barbie is being sold at auctions for $27,450.
How has Barbie remained one of the best, top-selling toys around the world? Well, when Mattel first released Barbie, they agreed that the doll would keep up with every fashion trend, popular culture, and real life events. Barbie is also about equality. The first male Barbie doll, by the name of Kenneth (or Ken for short), was introduced as Barbie's boyfriend in 1961 when they moved into the dreamhouse together. I wish I was 16 living in a dream house with my boyfriend… But just like every teenager, Barbie and Ken went through a little bit of a breakup.
Introducing a new Barbie I like to call the Rebellious Barbara. The new Barbie after the breakup had tattoos and new short hair that customers weren’t too satisfied about, so it was shortly taken off of shelves when Ken and Barbie's love rekindled. Now imagine dating a girl that has had over 130 careers in her lifetime. And I mean CAREERS. Mattel started creating Barbie with different careers such as nurse, astronaut, veterinarian, etc., to send a message to all girls that they can be whatever they want to be.
While we’re already talking about being whatever you want to be, let’s get back to the equality part of Barbie. In 1967, the first African American doll was introduced to the public named “colored Francie.” And let me be the first to tell you that the public went WILD. Over 20 million were purchased in the first year of being on store shelves. But many of years after colored Francie was released, even more skin tones, body shapes, and hair color came into place. Barbie fashionistas got introduced to the doll industry when customers started complaining about how the Barbie doll would make young girls think their body isn’t good enough. Fashionistas included seven different skin tones, fourteen different hairstyles, and different body shapes including petite, tall, and curvy.
Fashionistas have had a major blowout in sales, even earning a hashtag #thedollevolves. Now you may think since technology has completely taken over our world, Barbie sales have decreased, but they have actually increased by thousands because of the variety of dolls Mattel has came up with.
Now take a moment and think about how bad it would be if a doll had a more adventurous life then you do. Well, you’re about to feel that right now. Barbie has had 130 careers as I had mentioned earlier, one of them being an astronaut. She has been to the moon three times, 1965, 1986, and 1994. Yes, Barbie went to space four years before the first moon landing. Another terrific not so very achievement Barbie has had is running for president six times… and hasn’t won any of them. If a guy who doesn’t know how to spray tan won president his first time, there must be something terribly wrong with Barbie. But if I was her, I would shake that off because if I had a closet that consisted of Gucci, Vera Wang, Versace, Dolce & Gabana, and Givenchy, being president would be the least of my worries.
Mattel isn’t only the heart of Barbie, they make clothes to keep up with the generation as well while also selling Barbie clothing made by designers too. So if Mattel produces more than 91 million dolls a year, imagine how many clothes they produce.
Next, in 2001, Barbie started her movie career in Barbie and the Rockers and ever since, Mattel has produced over 100 films including Barbie and the Nutcracker, Princess and the Pauper, Barbie in a Mermaid Tale and more, not to mention her appearance in the Disney movie Toy Story 3, released in 2010 and making her latest appearance in Barbie Video Game Hero this year.
Now onto the societal part of Barbie, which is a very controversial topic around the world. In the beginning of my presentation, I mentioned that some customers complained about Barbie giving young girls body image issues, meaning they would want to be like Barbie. Well… this has happened a lot throughout the nation from plastic surgery, dressing like Barbie, hair dyed blonde because of Barbie, and more, one being Nikki Exotika who spent over one million dollars on cosmetic surgery just to look like Barbie… Don’t you all wish you had one million dollars just lying around like that? It’s not like she could’ve traveled the world with that money or anything.
But Barbie’s looks aren’t the only thing that lies within the doll. Let’s bring it back to when pregnancy came into play. In 1988, the first pregnant Barbie doll was introduced known as Barbie’s friend “Pregnant Midge.” The controversy with this doll was that it encouraged teen pregnancy. Therefore, it was taken off of shelves but are available on certain collectors' websites.
Next, Barbie is also very popular with PETA, believe it or not. In the year of 2015, Mattel took SeaWorld Barbie off of shelves due to SeaWorld's questionable practices. Next, Barbie is most popular for representing womens' rights and equality. Baylor University professor Lenore Wright stated that “Barbie’s portfolio reflects her financial success, independence, and material wealth: a dream house, a town-house, a convertible, a pool, a camper, a Jacuzzi, a couture wardrobe, a horse, a dog, and so on” and she did all of this without any help from Ken, showing that any woman can support herself. As Barbie entered the work world, she was modeling as an amazing role model. The second wave of feminism was beginning to be felt. Women were being told that they shouldn’t have to settle for being just a housewife. When Barbie was first created, Ruth Handler wanted it to represent that girls and women have choices in the world. No matter what someone says, they can be an astronaut, doctor, babysitter, car racer, or even a princess.