Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Black Barbie Dolls – Fab or Flop?

Mattel has launched a new line of black Barbie dolls with fuller lips, wider noses and more pronounced cheek bones. This is an improvement over the older versions of black Barbie's: Christie, who debuted in the 1960’s, was essentially just a white doll painted dark.

The dolls come in varying skin tones – light brown, chocolate and caramel – and two of them have curlier hair to reflect natural black hair.

Designer Stacey McBride-Irby, who is black and has a six-year-old daughter, said she wanted to create a line of dolls that young black girls can relate to. “I want them to see themselves within these dolls, and let them know that black is beautiful,” she said.

Some folks have welcomed the dolls and are glad to see they are reflecting the unique physical features of black women. Also, the addition of varying shades of skin tone has been applauded by some, as there are many variations of skin colour within the black community.

Others, however, are saying the dolls’ hair is too straight and does not address the hair issues that many black girls struggle with. Concerns still remain about the dolls’ slim bodies, which have long come under fire for promoting an unrealistic body image.

As a child I loved Barbie and I personally think these new dolls are pretty cool. I really like that each doll comes with accessories that reflect their interests - math and music, drill team and science, art and journalism. However, I agree that they could have represented natural black hair more effectively. What do you think about the dolls – are they fab or a flop?

1 comment:

  1. I also agree that there are possible advantages and disadvantages with this approach. While it's true that little girls tend to love Barbie dolls and that addressing this with offering more black dolls at the very least may send the message that you don't have to be white to be Barbie, the issue remains that the unrealistic body image that the dolls represent may reinforce stereotypes around the necessity of thinness to be beautiful in Western culture. All in all however, it is clear that little girls will likely play with Barbies either way, so I think the increased diversity is ultimately a good thing - at least they're trying!