“Math Class is tough!”
Barbie is undoubtably the world’s most recognizable doll. She’s been around for over 55 years and has done more than any of us could have in her lifetime. She’s scuba dived, travelled the world, been a pop star, a policewomen and managed to score a 10/10 boyfriend, Ken.
While she has been a treasured companion to hundreds of thousands of young girls (and some boys) around the globe, Barbie popularity has come with a cost and at times some serious controversy. So, with Barbie’s latest campaign ‘You Can Be Anything’ just launched, we could see no better time to look back at some of the more unique Barbies Mattel would probably prefer you didn’t remember…
1. Slumber Party Barbie
Looking back, it’s mind-boggling to consider how Mattel let this 1965 Barbie come about. This not-so-age-appropriate doll came equipped with a little book, titled How To Lose Weight, (because, let’s face it, that’s what every 10 year-old talks about with her gal pals at a sleepover) which, when opened up contains the gem piece of advice, ‘Don’t eat’ and a set of scales, permanently set at a ghostly 110lbs.
2. Share A Smile Becky
In an effort to become more diverse and inclusive, Mattel introduced us to Becky, who came with a pink wheelchair. A nice gesture, until 17 year-old, Kiersti Johnson found out the wheelchair didn’t fit in the elevator of Barbie’s dream house. Whoops.
3. Totally Stylin’ Tattoo Barbie
In 1992, Mattel had a minor slip-up when they created a Barbie that came with stick on tattoos. Parents were concerned when Barbie came out with this less conservative look as they believed it would inspire their children to one day have tattoos of their own.
4. Black Canary Barbie
Not too sure what Mattel were going with here when they designed this Barbie. Whether you think she is meant to be edgy or sexy, none can deny she just looks eerily similar to a dominatrix. Perhaps not the most appropriate toy for a 10 year-old girl…
5. Oreo Fun Barbie
What was meant to be a sweet collaboration between Oreo Cookies and Mattel’s most popular doll ended up being a Barbie that was surrounded with mountains of controversy. It seemed nobody at either brand realized that ‘Oreo’ is a derogatory term used to describe an African American person who ‘acts white’. #facepalm
6. Teen Talk Barbie
The Teen Talk dolls were a 1992 creation that saw Barbie equipped with a bunch of phrases including; “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “I love shopping!”, “Do you have a crush on anyone?” and, the most controversial of all, “Math Class is tough!” Understandably outraged parents saw these phrases as grooming young girls to me materialistic and avoid their studies.
7. Growing Up Skipper
Barbie’s younger sister, Skipper caused some serious waves when this version of her was released. Young girls could watch Skipper ‘grow up’ in front of their eyes, with the twist of her arm, Skipper’s legs and waist grew along with her breasts. Mmm… no comment.
8. Sports Illustrated Barbie
Barbie was chosen to be on the cover of Sport Illustrated to celebrate the magazine’s 50 year anniversary. Posing unapologetically, she caused a stir when people claimed it was promoting a negative image for their daughters to aspire to. What’s so wrong with little girls trying to emulate their dolls stripping down and posing provocatively for a bunch of men? Oh, right.
9. I Can Be… A Computer Engineer Barbie
What seemed to be a great initiative at the time was once again foiled by Barbie’s makers, Mattel, who seemed to forget to think through the entire package. Computer Engineer Barbie came with a storybook which pictured her managing to infect computers with viruses and being unable to code, ultimately having to get help from her two male friends. The sexist book was eventually pulled after public outcry.
10. Pregnant Midge
Barbie’s best friend ‘Midge’ was created to teach little girls about where babies came from. The doll was pushed to the back of shelves after parents started asking questions about where Midge’s partner was and why getting pregnant needed to be promoted to a pre-pubescent audience. No surprises here that Midge’s doctor was also a man. Another total #facepalm moment.
11. Barbie Forever
Barbie Forever, alongside her dog Tanner are a cute pair, until you realize Barbie’s role is to feed Tanner and clean up his poo. Although she even comes with her own poop scoop, parents where not happy when their small children started putting the small parts in their mouth and chocking on Tanner’s poo.
12. You Can Be Anything Barbie
Perhaps in a bid to sweep some of its less-than-spectacular launches over the years, Barbie’s latest campaign is all about female empowerment, depicting little girls taking on the world as veterinarians, university professors, tour guides, sports coaches and business women. The campaign was created to capture girls imagining what they may one day become when playing with their Barbie (conveniently not mentioning weight loss, dominatrix duties or poop scooping).
While we love this idea, we still can’t get pass the fact that if Barbie where alive she’d be showcasing a very different idea. As widely talked about, Barbie’s disproportionate body size would see her crawling around since she has an extremely irregular bust to waist ratio and her limbs are unnaturally thin. Not to mention the fact that she would have to wear a neck brace as her neck is quite literally too long and thin to support her head. Ah well, it could always be worse. At least she doesn’t say “Math class is tough!” anymore.
Comment: What do you think? Has Barbie copped an unfairly bad rep, or is there hope for her yet?
Images courtesy of museumofplay.org, parenting.com, chron.com, flickr.com, flickriver.com, almostzara.com, hercampus.com, amazon.com, candacetodd.blogspot.com, www.polyvore.com, blog.sfgate.com, mashable.com, etonline.com, youtube.com
Isabelle is a writer who has a hundred-and-one side-splittingly funny stories about growing up at an all-girls boarding school, with a chocolate habit that requires constant monitoring. Follow Isabelle on Twitter.