Barbie isn’t my favourite toy in the world. I could wax lyrical about the various ways her very image and persona is harmful to growing children and their (hopefully) maturing minds. It’s pretty easy, I’ve heard all about the damaging ways of the evil Mattel all my life.
But wait a minute, and look closer. Children derive pleasure from all sorts of silly toys and none of them are held up to the same level of accountability as Barbie. She is expected to be a realistic role model. A women with aspirations and goals outside pet doctor (never veterinarian, oddly) or home maker. Even the very real and difficult careers of teachers and doctor get the Barbie treatment, sanitised and playful. Like OMG U GUISE. How dare Mattel make something so whimsical and not at all true to life?!
IT’S FUCKING PLASTIC TOY.
The only reason we know Barbie is supposed to be female is those two triangular moulds on the torso. Otherwise, it’s just a doll, a doll I played with as a child for years without ever looking at her and thinking, why don’t I look like that? I didn’t do it with Barbie anymore than I did it with my Teen Mutant Ninja Turtle figure. Why? Because even my 5 year old mind knew the difference between a toy and reality. My Lucy doll is a rag doll, who used to have purple wool hair before my little sister ripped it out. She has a hat stitched onto her head. I never wondered what was wrong with me because I didn’t have a hat stitched onto my head. Again, I knew it was a toy.
Regardless, Barbie has been the blame for pretty much every problem young girls and women have. Who says so? Why, the adults, of course. Putting their own bias and insecurities onto a bit of shaped plastic instead of thinking the way a 5 year old does and realise it’s just a doll. Barbie will always be unable to reach any form of realistic expectations if if Mattel tried because everyone on the planet has a different idea of realistic. For some, it’s a size 22 short women wearing wolf t-shirts and leggings who clean for a living. Others think it’s vintage clothes and a career as a makeup artist. Some think realistic is Jersey Shore. It’s all relative, and all true. Apart from Jersey Shore.
So, Tattoo Barbie. My only real gripe with this new addition to the family is the dog. Stupid idea, stupid name. It’s the only thing that makes the whole shebang seem like Mattel are deliberately trying to piss people off. Regardless, much of the articles I’ve read make little mention of the dog/cactus thing, and focus mainly on the fact that SHOCK!!! Barbie has tattoos!
But none of her incarnations has caused so much fuss as her latest: a rock chick with dyed pink hair, a chest and neck covered in tattoos and a small dog in a cactus suit called Bastardino.
My god, the world is going STRAIGHT to hell. I mean, if this unrealistically proportioned doll now has artwork ON HER NECK it means we are encouraging the young ‘uns to go out and get riddled with STDs! Seriously, that was a thing. Sack the notion of how tiny her waist is for now, even though we’ve been bitching about it for 50 years – she has PINK hair! The horror!
This is a fucking joke. Quick, what’s the most popular TV show right now? If you said Glee, you’re saying all sorts of things about your credibility as a grown up, and I love you for it. Season 3 opener, Quinn went bad. Pink hair and a tattoo. It was played for laughs, and pretty much everyone got it. It wasn’t a social commentary or a valid lifestyle choice for the former cheerleader and she very quickly reverted back to her own look. That was it. It wasn’t telling young kids to get a tattoo of Ryan Seacrest anymore than saying smoking is cool (which, by the way was commented on very little!). So why, when you look at them together, a plastic toy and a real person (albeit, playing a character) – does the plastic toy get the dubious honour of leading tomorrow’s adults? Why should Barbie have to answer for the influence it may or may not have on young children?
Some have said it appeals to children’s natural desire to appear more grown up. Again, OMG U GUISE! Like a kiddie kitchen, a baby (that poops like real!) and all the other toys that affect a grown up (read, homemaker) lifestyle doesn’t appeal to kids either. But that’s ok, isn’t it? Playing house? Wearing an apron. Seriously, wanting to have pink hair is waaay more dangerous than thinking you know how to use an iron so try it with the real one. Just me?
This doll is more covered up than I’ve ever seen Barbie. So what if the style isn’t my personal taste, I still think she looks cute and would have less of a problem seeing my 9 year old niece try to replicate the look than Barbie’s other outfits. In fact said 9 year old niece, my Cookie, has insisted on her own choices of clothes since she could walk and enjoys a greater sense of self than I did at that age due to the careful encouragement and nurturing of her mother. Her style? Leggings, a tutu and a t-shirt feature frequently, a get up not entirely different to the one Inkd!Barbie sports. And Cookie ROCKS the shit out of it. Age appropriate and fun.
I have 3 tattoos. All of them have meanings special to me. I will be getting more. I’m 27. Many of my peers have beautiful ink across their bodies. Many of them even have children. The shocking thing is, they raise them well! Who’d have thunk it? And here’s me thing having symbols and lettering scrawled onto your body killed off the good parent gene. The fact of the matter is, having a tattoo is not the taboo it once was. When we get old and our tattoos wrinkle, it won’t look stupid because the majority of the population, for good or bad, has at least one. Even that shining figure of elegance and sophistication, Dita Von Teese, has a tattoo (10 internet points if you know what it is!). Maybe using a burlesque performer isn’t the best example, but I like to refer to her as often as possible! Today’s kids will grow and not think anything of the fact some people have decorated their bodies, and that’s a good thing. There’s so much you can judge a person on, the colour or colours of someone else’s skin shouldn’t be one of them.
In essence, I say the same thing I say every time adults get their panties in a twist over something like this. Why don’t YOU look at it from another angle? Why doesn’t someone else have to change to fit in with your views? Is there the slightest chance you might actually be wrong? Is this an opportunity to learn and expand your world view?
If a 5 year old can look at a doll and see a doll, so should we. If that 5 year old starts asking questions about why Barbie looks the way she does then you can talk to them about it. Start a dialogue. Or, simply don’t buy them. You have control over the content of your children’s life. Take responsibility for it.
I’ll end this by reminding you Mattel intended this to be an “Adult Collector’s Item”. If you choose to let your child play with it anyway, more power to you. Because incase I haven’t mentioned it enough – IT IS NOT REAL. IT IS A DOLL.
Next up, why parents are angry that the dinosaur toys they gave their children are too realistic after a small boy was eaten by one.