In her five-and-a-half decades as the representation of a once idealized vision of beauty as personified in plastic—and also as a favorite plaything to bazillions of children—Barbie has taken a rather slow path toward the light of self-discovery. For much of her history, she was one thing to all people: Blonde, impossibly svelte, and math averse.
But Barbie’s recent social awakening—last year Barbie’s maker Mattel introduced nearly two dozen "Fashionista" dolls with different skin colors, facial structures, hairstyles, hair colors, and eye colors—continues. Today, the company announced new variations of Barbies that come in tall, petite, and curvy versions, which is frankly very big news—TIME magazine cover big—for anyone who has ever studied the psychological impact of toys. Finally!
Of course, in a world of social media shaming and intense political correctness scrutiny, it seems well due, if not overdue, for Barbie to embrace her inner American Girl. But it makes sense as well from a commercial perspective for Barbie to face the modern world, where positive role models come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Go to barbie.com today, and you will be rewarded with uplifting, positive messaging. You can be a dreamer. You can be an astronaut. You can be anything. What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything? It is, in fact, a response to every criticism ever levied in a college thesis against poor Barbie’s blonde head.
Why is it important to note? For children, and adults, too, to see some version of themselves in a toy is in a way a reflection of broader awakening to a world where beauty is diverse. You see it on runways. You see it starting to happen in fashion magazines and in advertisements. And if Barbie can be curvy or petite or tall, too, then that’s something worth talking about.