By SAVANNAH KLUESNER
You can tell a lot about a culture based on the toys it markets toward children. When I was little, interactive baby dolls were all the rage. The goal was to be as realistic as possible; there were dolls that wet their diapers, dolls that gurgled and cried and dolls that moved their heads and spoke. The Barbies, too, were interactive.
They sang and talked, they were made of rubber so that they could bend like a gymnast, and they even had their own pets that could use the bathroom like real animals. Although these dolls seemed to be highly realistic, there was one thing missing: diversity. Besides the occasional Barbie with a darker skin tone, every doll was the same.
They were all perfectly proportioned with the same miniature height measurements and waistlines. The Ken dolls were always buff and beautiful; no Ken ever had facial hair or even a different facial structure. Uniformity was sold to children in every box.
Today, as the world opens its eyes to the beauty of diversity, Barbie and Ken are reflecting these societal changes, one plastic package at a time. Today’s Barbies come in all shapes, sizes and skin tones; the Barbie Fashionista line is especially in tune to this, making cute and lovable clothing for dolls that are petite, curvy and tall, among other characteristics.
The dolls themselves are more and more diverse; beside a tall, beautiful African-American doll stands a short, curvy redhead, while a gorgeous Asian doll waves to aisle-goers. And the makeover is not just for the ladies; Ken dolls have been given a makeover as well. From dad-bods to man-buns, Ken dolls also sport a variety of features and characteristics, a far cry from last decade’s dolls.
These changes, however, extend far beyond physicality.
While Barbie has been pushing their famous “I can be anything” line for a long time by giving their dolls a variety of jobs and careers, they have gone even farther today, including even the most obscure and wonderful occupations in their latest line.
This Christmas, while shopping for toys for my nieces and nephews, I found a beekeeper doll, complete with her own hives, bottles of honey and tiny bees that clipped into the beehives. Another toy for sale was a male barista dressed in an apron with a description of what a barista does on the back of the box.
Gone are the days of beach Barbies and dream playhouses only; now Barbies and Kens have jobs to do and complex lives to live. Finally, “I can be anything” extends beyond the world of science and politics, proving that baristas, too, are an important part of society and can also make a difference in the world.
While Mattel still has a lot to do when it comes to inclusion and representation, I think that this
Photo Courtesy of Amazon