Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vote for Barbie's Next Career

Mattel's doing a thing where you can vote for Barbie's next career. You can choose from Environmentalist, Surgeon, Architect, News Anchor, Computer Engineer, or Southeast Asian Dictator. I'm kidding about that last one.

Much has been said about Barbie's inhuman physical proportions, and their (probably) negative impact on the self-images and expectations of children. Although Mattel has tried in the past to change the focus from Barbie's wardrobe to less shallow aspects of Barbie's wardrobe, and focus more on confounding gender stereotypes (going so far as to make her a doctor instead of a nurse!!) it seems that whenever they try to do something positive with the Barbie brand, they kind of step in it.

Does it make sense for Mattel to keep trying this approach, even though most basic flaws in the Barbie product make these attempts seem disingenuous to many? Every time they make a politically correct move like this, it's like they're standing up and yelling, "We're SORRY!"

Or should they give up altogether, embracing what they are (or is that space already taken)?

In the '90s, there was the Happy to be Me Doll, but it still had to hew close enough to the Barbie shape in order to be taken seriously, and quickly disappeared. Also, I'm guessing she couldn't fit into Barbie's clothes, so I bet that was kind of a bummer for people trying to switch. Mattel did widen Barbie's waist (warning: NSFW) in 2000. Are they standing on firmer ground now?

Or do I have it all wrong? Has Mattel successfully expanded the scope of this toy, which was intended to be idealized from the start, to include idealized disabilities, causes, and careers? I mean, the career you can vote on is "news anchor", and not, for example, "journalist".

Interested in what all of you think, especially the ladies. (And the parents of future ladies.)

Also, don't forget to vote! (Thanks to @20tauri for the link.)