“Normal” Barbie has Arrived

Side by side comparison of current and prototype Barbie

Since the issue of toys came up with this previous post, I thought I would share a recent development to America’s favorite doll. The artist Nickolay Lamm has created a Barbie that he believes more correctly resembles the true measurements of women in our society today. Lamm states his intentions in this article, but here a few excerpts:

“I created normal Barbie because I wanted to show that average is beautiful,’’ Lamm wrote in an email to TODAY.com. “If average-looking Barbie looks this good and if there’s even a chance of Barbie negatively influencing young girls, why not make one?”

He writes in his post on MyDeals.com that “some people say that we shouldn’t pay attention to the body proportions of Barbie because she is just a toy.” However, he then cites research suggesting Barbie may lead to heightened body dissatisfaction among young girls, unhealthy eating behaviors, and a desire to eat less in order to achieve a slim body.

Lamm expresses the significance a single toy can have on the self esteems of our children and thus wished to create a Barbie that would better represent the actual female body. The issue here lies in the fact that despite his intentions this new Barbie is still created through a male’s perspective, so how much credit do I really give it? I do not believe I should discredit his “Normal” Barbie creation completely, but what is to stop this new Barbie for being another ideal body type sought after by thousands of young girls through less than healthy means?

Then again, does the creator being man or woman really change anything about the proposed social implications this Barbie is supposed to reproduce? If we are able to sell this off as a type of body type instead of an ideal body type then many of my personal worries of idealism would be resolved. Of course, in order to even get to that point, “Normal” Barbie would have to be mass produced by original Barbie manufacturer, Mattel. So far, Mattel has not made a public statement on the matter, but here’s hoping “Normal” Barbie hits the shelves right in time for the holiday season. Unfortunately, something tells me Riley still won’t be too pleased.

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3 thoughts on ““Normal” Barbie has Arrived

  1. I think we can all agree that the new Barbie is definitely more realistic than the original Barbie and even more “Normal” in the sense that her figure seems plausible. I can still remember how traumatized I was to learn about Barbie’s proportions in middle school health class–that if she were “real” she wouldn’t have the strength to carry the weight of her own head and that she would be forced to move on all fours. I also wondered how I had gone so long without ever considering that…

    I found an article that describes Barbie’s unrealistic proportions here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2308658/How-Barbies-body-size-look-real-life-Walking-fours-missing-half-liver-inches-intestine.html#ixzz2iPFgtwzW

    Although this new Barbie is a step in the right direction, I think it’s dangerous to refer to a single body type as “Normal.” You’re right in saying, it’s less problematic if this Barbie can be put forward as one type and not an ideal type, but is that even possible if this is the only form presented, especially if mass-produced so that there are tens of thousands of one type? Would it be crazy for there to be multiple “Normal” Barbies so that normal actually meant “Variety,” that we are all not the same, nor are we intended to be the same? I don’t think it would be crazy. Perhaps, it would be an opportunity for Mattel to make even more money, since Barbies would require more than one size of clothing. Just a thought, Mattel.

  2. Although I think that it’s great that this has been produced, like hb, I also take issue with the use of the word ‘normal’ as a qualifier here. The body represented by that particular Barbie is a body that many women do share, but it isn’t ‘normal’ for every woman. It’s a bit like Real Women Have Curves all over again; the use of any sort of qualifier always acts to exclude, thus reifying ideological constraint of what is considered beautiful, rather than including. I also wonder why, if the makers were striving to make a more inclusive and realistic Barbie, why they didn’t think to change Barbie’s hair color, facial features, or skin tone? You might argue that these factors are what makes Barbie Barbie, but they also present a standard of beauty that it as troubling as Barbie’s proportions are.

  3. Though the new Barbie doesn’t eradicate all that was wrong with the previous Barbie, its creation definitely reflects great progress. However, even if Mattel starts mass producing the new Barbie, they need to remember that their work isn’t done yet. Barbie still only represents one body shape. The next step Mattel needs to take is making Barbies of various body shapes (and hair color, facial features, etc., as others have rightly pointed out). Only then will young girls and boys learn that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

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