BARBIE has had a makeover with the new range of the popular doll featuring alternative models to the classic skinny blonde figurine. Curvy mannequins with darker hair and of different races are now available as the manufacturers try to expand their demographic beyond white schoolgirls.
There are larger white models featuring dolls of a more average stature, while there are also asian and black barbies as part of the new strategy by Mattel which has churned out the dolls for decades.
“I think today, frankly more so than any other time, Barbie is truly representing what girls see,” said Richard Dickson, the executive in charge of Barbie’s reinvention.
It’s not the first time Mattel has released ethnic minority barbies, with an African American manikin making its debut in the 1960’s but does represent the first concerted effort to make the entire Barbie range more accessible and representative of the American population.
The big question is whether the recastings will have any significant impact on Barbie’s dwindling sales. The manufacturers are confident that it will as they are capitalising on a wider cultural shift that has seen toys change considerably in recent years.
Retailers in the States are now marketing toys as for ‘kids’ rather than as for either boys or girls as combating gender stereotypes becomes something of a priority. Mattel itself released an advertisement last year featuring a boy playing with the iconic doll, hopefully paid handsomely for his trouble. Meanwhile figures themselves are becoming bigger as some parents launch a crusade against skinny models and the psychological impact they have on young girls.