Don’t hate her because she’s beautiful. Don’t even hate her because her level of beauty isn’t attainable by the female form. A new ad campaign calls Barbie unapologetic for her unique look.
If you’re expecting an apology from a Barbie doll over her impossible curves, don’t hold your breath. (If you’re expecting an actual apology from a piece of plastic, that might indicate bigger problems, anyway.)
But don’t expect one from the owner of the Barbie franchise, Mattel, either. They’re all proud of their boxom blond, despite a lot of negative feedback that has grown over the years.
The iconic toy earned a place in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, opening the door to all sorts of jokes about cover models and “plastic.” The move likewise opened the door to further criticism from people who’ve come to believe the beauty fantasy may do much more harm than good.
Barbie’s official Twitter account — yes, you read that correctly — posted a billboard shot of her for the “Unapologetic” ad campaign on Monday:
— Barbie (@Barbie) February 10, 2014
CNN posted a link to a mommy blog that complained about the use of a toy to promote “sexualized images” intended for adults.
Mattel argues that Barbie has always been a “lightning rod for controversy and opinions” and gives the doll an opportunity, alongside other “legends” to celebrate their accomplishments.
I’m not sure about the “lightning rod for controversy” part. Other than those who either suffer from rabid collectivitis where the doll is concerned or those who worry that it sends the wrong message to young girls, I don’t hear any conversations centered on or revolving around Barbie.
Then again, I’m not exactly her target audience.
CNN’s story also pointed to remarks from a Utah woman who tweeted her take on the issue. I disagree with one point that wound up divided over two tweets, here and here. (Darn that pesky 140-character limit!)
“…The ‘skinny’ models tell society that a woman must be skinny to be accepted as beautiful, a far more negative example than Barbie.”
I disagree primarily on the grounds that it isn’t so much the models saying to society that women must be skinny to be successful, but rather the other way around: it is society — like it or not — that made the skinny models successful.
We’ve placed those size zeroes or whatever they are successful through our purchases of products those images promote. And apparently, we haven’t purchased as much of the products with larger, more realistic-looking people on them, or else that’s what we’d see a lot more of.
Advertising — and all forms of media, really — are very democratic in their response to the audience. What works is what the audience gets more of. What doesn’t is what the audience sees less of. It’s not the job of advertisers to tell us what we should believe when it comes to this sort of issue: it’s their job to sell a product.
All the advertiser has to do is figure out what more of their customers want to see to stay successful.
And when society — that’s us — tells advertisers that we don’t want products with that look, the look will change.
As for Mattel, I don’t blame them for creating a “false” self-image for girls. When I was little, I played with Star Wars action figures, and I never blamed Kenner for making me believe that I was an abject failure if I couldn’t build my own working light sabre or have the athletic prowess to swing across a bridge way in the middle of a Death Star with a damsel clinging at my side.
That blogger from Utah followed up those other tweets with one I agree with completely:
“Parents need to remember THEY should to be the positive role in their child’s life- not toys or Hollywood or athletes.”
It’s probably no consolation to young women — it isn’t to older men, either — but the classic response from well-meaning friends does make sense: Anyone who’s not willing to get to know who you are solely because of your looks isn’t worth knowing.”
Rejection is the best way to make any of realize how valid an argument that is.
Incidentally, I’m sure Mattel would appreciate my adding that Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel, Inc.