26 Unusual Images Over the Life of Barbie, Each of Them Having an Entire Story
Somewhere in the world, one Barbie doll is sold every 3 seconds. During her 58-year-long existence, she has changed many professions and images: from a blonde model to an IT-specialist with a ponytail in a simple T-shirt. It looks like this is the secret of her popularity: Barbie changes with the world, and in this article, you will see her most unusual images.
Barbie changed her dresses and professions every year, and people looked for the hidden meaning in her images, they even made it up themselves, then protested other people’s ideas. This incredible process had been going on for more than 50 years, and the writer Linor Goralik even wrote a book about it.
Bright Side will tell you about its history.
Once, Ruth Handler was watching her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls, changing their clothes, and giving them adult roles. She was tired of playing with baby toys. This is how Ruth had an idea to create an “adult” toy for girls.
1. Barbie — a prototype of a prostitute from a comic book
1959. The prototype for Barbie was the Lilly doll from the Heinz Frank company — a character from a German comics series. In the story, a sexy pin-up blonde makes rich men give her presents and money. The doll was originally meant for children, and it was sold in tobacco shops and shops for adults.
The Mattel company purchased the rights for this doll and the production of Lilly was stopped.
It’s hard to believe but then, in 1959, all distributors refused to sell the doll because they were sure that nobody would buy it. The first Barbie looked like a 30-year-old woman. She wore a lot of makeup and her body shape was unnatural. But the doll was a hit. Parents protested, but girls loved it.
A year later, the company changed the makeup a little, the eyebrows became lighter and more round and the eyeliner disappeared.
2. Barbie supports gender equality
1960. At the beginning of the 60s, the feminist movement was noticed by doll manufacturers. The Barbie doll had a new profession — a fashion designer. And it worked vice versa, too. The easily recognized image of Barbie stimulated the feminist movement in other countries.
Overall, Barbie has had 80 different professions — from jobs in fashion to “men’s” jobs.
3. Doll “like Mom”
1961. Barbie as a cab driver, a fashion designer, a singer, a ballet dancer, a nurse, a teacher, a flight attendant, and a firefighter — girls loved the doll. She dressed like mom, she went to work like mom, had makeup and hair like mom, and she was a perfect role model. Barbie was even labeled as a fashion doll which was obsessed with clothes.
In fact, Ruth Handler wanted to create a doll that children could play with that could be dressed, have its hair done, imitate an adult life situation, and teach girls good taste. By the way, through the years, Barbie has had 19 different hairstyles and more than 75 designers have styled her clothes.
4. Teenage pregnancy or family image?
1963. Barbie had a best friend Midge who was married. Once, the company created a “Happy Family” kit where Midge had a plastic belly with a baby inside that could be put on and off. Also, there was an older child, Barbie, and Ken as a doctor. It might seem that the company showed girls a perfect image of a family. But some people found a way to criticize it anyway: they said that the new image of dolls stimulated teenage pregnancy.
5. Barbie dances the twist and can turn from her waist
1967. Due to many parents’ complaints about how adult Barbie looked, the company released a doll with a child’s face. She had very little makeup, red cheeks, and a round face. The doll existed only for three years, children didn’t accept it because they were used to seeing Barbie as an adult.
Jack Ryan, a specialist on cruise missiles, made up special hinges to make the doll’s arms, waist, elbows, knees, and hands move. At the time, the twist was very popular. Later, Barbie will “be into” different kinds of sport. For example, there was a Barbie-ballet dancer who was specially made to be able to perform certain tricks.
6. A man is an accessory
1968. Ken’s production stopped because he wasn’t really popular. In fact, he was just Barbie’s pet, and critics said that Mattel created the wrong impression of the relationship between genders.
But just one year later, they had to return Ken. As it turned out, he played a much bigger role than just an accompanying doll. Ken protected the sexy and open-minded Barbie from questions of kids and their parents. Basically, he was there to protect her reputation as a woman.
7. First black doll
1969. In those years, the black population was struggling for equal civil rights. This was when Ruth Handler came up with an idea to create a black friend for Barbie — Christie. This way, the company would earn the loyalty of the Afro-American population, and the doll itself made a positive influence on the tolerance of many generations of children.
8. Farewell to Lilly
1972. Before this year, all Barbies looked a little different, like Lilly from the comic books. Now Barbie finally made a change, moved forward, and her appearance was more natural. She didn’t have artificial-looking lips anymore, she had a little smile, her hair was more natural, and she wore almost no makeup.
9. Famous smile and blue eyes
1977. Thanks to the show “The Brady Bunch” which was popular in the 70s, the doll had the famous “California smile,” a happy, open, round face, turned-up nose, blush, and drawn eyelashes. This time was the peak of Barbie’s popularity, and this face became the most recognized Barbie face. It still is, by the way. Overall, Barbie dolls have had 19 different body and face shapes.
10. Racial equality worldwide
1980. The series “Barbie Dolls of the World” is the result of worldwide globalization: a black Barbie, a Spanish-speaking Barbie, an “Eastern” one, an Italian Barbie, a Barbie from Paris, and even a British Queen Barbie. Now even mothers bought the dolls and played with them. In the Barbie collection, there were dolls with 11 skin colors and 9 eye colors.
11. Barbie and charity
1980. The company produced collectible Barbies, money from which went to charity. For example, a doll from the Australian designer Stefano Canturi cost $ 302,500, it had a necklace with a pink diamond and a diamond ring. The money from its sale at Christie’s auction went to the Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.
Another collection Barbie from 2007, wore a red dress, and was released in support of a national movement to combat cardiovascular diseases.
12. Children didn’t like the Barbie that parents demanded
1983. Parents continued to demand a change in appearance, and the company released Barbie in a pseudo-childish image with a more rounded face and a new nose shape. Parents liked the Barbie with the “angel face,” but again, the children didn’t like it, so the production of the doll was stopped.
13. Barbie — “day-night”
1985. Women proved that they had the right to build a career equally with men, and numerous innovations made taking care of children easier. There were new social structures that gave single mothers the opportunity to work full-time. This is how a businesswoman Barbie — “day-night” appeared: in the afternoon — a business suit, in the evening — a dress for a party.
Interestingly, all the achievements and successes were only Barbie’s, and Mattel was also repeatedly criticized for this. But male dolls were just not popular, and parents wouldn’t buy their children a set of dolls like “Barbie and Ken — Lawyers.”
14. The world without adults
1987. Barbie had everything in her world. Except for adults. She was the most beautiful and smart, but there was nobody she could learn from. Even worse, she constantly had more and more sisters but still no parents. In total, Barbie has 70 friends and relatives.
In 1987, Midge had grandmothers and grandfathers. Their place was mostly in the kitchen among the staff in the comic books. Parents sometimes brought their grandchildren to them, and disappeared to have fun with Barbie. This was the image of adults that kids saw. However, the children themselves were happy to play with the dolls with a caring and kind grandmother and grandfather, who they apparently missed so much.
15. Barbie challenging stereotypes
1991. In 1994, women got the rights to be equal in education and career. Mattel reacted to this instantly: and even back in 1991, they released a series of dolls which had traditionally men’s jobs: astronaut, pediatrician, vet, firefighter, and so on. Barbie was also in the Marines and the Air Force.
16. Barbie, scandals, and sex
1992. Ever since she was created, Barbie has been sending mixed signals. On the one hand, she is sexy, free, and feminine. But on the other, the manufacturer always insisted on Barbie’s innocence, and they started a lot of lawsuits against artists and poets who used her as a sexual object.
Indeed, some collectible dolls looked very provocative with lace stockings with garters and sexy underwear. But they had old-fashioned exaggerated faces, not attractive to young customers.
17. An unstoppable blonde
1992. A Barbie that could say 300 phrases appeared. She angered many parents with her phrases: “The math lessons are too complicated.”, “I like shopping!”, “Do we have enough clothes?” The image of Barbie, an unstoppable blonde, propagated a consumer lifestyle and a disregard for intellect to children.
Even Kenneth Handler, the son of the founders of Mattel, said that the doll could have been “worried” about something more than the length of the hair, shopping, and going to the beach.
18. Obsessed with accessories
1997. Sometimes, the obsession with little accessories seemed insane: a comb for dogs, tiny houses with real electricity and running electrical appliances, cosmetics. Barbie had 40 pets. The fictional world was scarily realistic.
On the other hand, accessories were always the main indicator of a quality doll, and it seemed inappropriate to judge Mattel for this.
19. Her friend Becky in a wheelchair
1997. The Mattel company designed a doll in a wheelchair for children with disabilities, to make them feel included. The goal was to get healthy children used to the fact that other people should be treated with respect and understanding.
Despite the success, the production of the doll was stopped. The wheelchair was too big to fit through the door of the dollhouse. Besides, the accessories and clothes that Barbie had didn’t match Becky.
20. Too ideal
1998. Many people think that Midge and Barbie’s friends were created only to make the main character look more beautiful, smart, and talented. The friends are there only to have all the problems of the real world: Becky is in the wheelchair, and Midge has two children and is married — Barbie’s image is just too ideal. A study at Bath University showed that girls have different levels of hate for Barbie: they brake her, tear her hair, and put her in the microwave.
It’s funny, but Barbie’s friends who are not that conventionally beautiful, attract more attention. For example, Barbie — the Olympic champion is less desireable than Becky — the champion at the Olympics for Disabled Persons.
21. Businesswoman teaches girls
1999. On the 40th birthday of Barbie, the company donated $1.5 million for programs that teach girls technology, finance, math and science, and career planning.
22. Barbie with real body measurments
2000. Artist Nickolay Lamm developed a Barbie model that had real female proportions. According to the artist, the new doll was supposed to help girls get rid of their insecurities about their body. And this was supposed to give boys the right impression of female beauty. Only 1 woman in 100,000 is born with “ideal” proportions.
However, not everyone was happy: “If I wanted realism, I would look into the mirror!”, one girl said in an online forum.
23. Divorcing Ken
2004. The world was shocked by the news that Barbie was divorcing Ken on Valentine’s Day! And again Mattel took a lot of criticism — they were accused of propagating poor family values.
But in fact, Barbie just represented all the most important social issues of the time. And divorce is one of the parts of real life. Basically, this doll is the reflection of our civilization, where you can see her reaction to all the problems for the past 57 years.
24. Barbie — an IT-specialist wearing a T-shirt with binary code
2010. Technology is developing very quickly. Electronic Barbie had an built-in digital camera that could shoot 30-minute videos and could be plugged into the computer through a USB-port, and she wore a T-shirt with binary code. This was Barbie’s attempt at destroying the stereotype that women can’t work in IT.
25. Barbie with cellulite and acne
2014. Artist Nickolay Lamm, the one who created a Barbie with natural body proportions, did an experiment. The kit with the doll had stickers with scars, pigment spots, acne, and even cellulite. This doll was supposed to make all girls around the world love their bodies.
If a girl with Barbie’s proportions actually existed, she wouldn’t even be able to hold her head up on her shoulders. Reality is more beautiful. The designer wanted to convince not only girls, but also their parents who often need it even more than their children.
26. Barbie in a hijab
2017. Barbie had been prohibited in the Eastern countries because of the way she looked. In the Arab countries, they have their own doll which is pretty much like Barbie but was less provocative in both her clothes and makeup.
In 2017, the Mattel company released a Barbie in a hijab. The new girl is supposed to teach Muslim girls to love their religion, their culture, and their national clothes. Also, the goal of this doll is to combat the myth about the “oppressed” dolls of the East. Now, Barbie is sold in 150 countries around the world.
And which Barbie doll would you get for your daughter?