Over the last 10 years alone, a massive change has overtaken the way kids today play. For many of today’s millenials, computer game play came into its own when they were older children, and was heavily restricted by shared household PCs. Even among this tech-driven group, traditional toys and game play were a significant part of their childhood. Today’s landscape changes that. From the moment a child is born they are inundated by exposure to multiple devices, all within one household. Each person might have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, an e-reader, and even (yes, still) a PC. So how can old-school toys like Barbie dolls expect to compete?
Well according to some stock-watchers and pundits, she hasn’t. Each quarter for about the past year, old Babsy’s sales have declined (but still easily comprise a billion-dollar business, not bad for a 50 year-old toy). But Mattel has made definite strides recently to bring the doll into the 20th century. This includes social media campaigns to reunite Barbie and Ken, the “sale” of Barbie’s Malibu dream house in collaboration with TV show Million Dollar Listing, a web video series, and dolls with a technology or online play-along element.
But in bigger, more visible news, Barbie was chosen to be featured in an article in Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Swimsuit Issue. The news immediately blew up the Internet, with comment sections bursting with widely varied opinions. Mattel even turned the shoot into a sort of campaign, with the Twitter hashtag “#unapologetic.” Many mom bloggers and feminists were disgusted, in disbelief over the overt use of Barbie to objectify women, and the idealization of an unrealistic body image.
But on the heels of this controversial collaboration, Mattel released Entrepreneur Barbie, who seems to promote strong women and breaking boundaries. In fact, though Barbie was introduced as a teen fashion model, in the 50 years since she has held over 150 careers including doctor, astronaut, and president—the latter two before any woman ever held those titles (still waiting on president). I don’t know if the two opposing viewpoints were timed concurrently intentionally, but either way, they spark discussion around women in the workplace and society, which continues to be a very modern topic.
Barbie’s never been so controversial, and in recent years, so relevant.
Emily Citro is the Marketing Assistant at Long Island Advantage Payroll Services. She majored in Creative Writing at Adelphi University and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time.
- On February 27, 2014