The denigrated and beloved Barbie doll turns 60. Despite fierce competition in the toy industry, 58 million Barbies are still sold every year.
60 years have passed since the doll for the first time found its way to the shelves during a toy fair in New York. Two years later, her on and off friend, Ken, was created. The two are named after the children of Barbie creator, Ruth Handler, Barbara and Kenneth.
Sales are still going well, despite competition from computer games and other electronic toys. The doll is sold in over 150 countries.
Nathan Baynard, who is responsible for marketing the doll at Mattel, says it was Handler’s own children who inspired the invention. The daughter, Barbara, had mostly baby dolls to play with.
More roles to play with
“The only role she could play was caregiver, mother” says Baynard. Handler’s son had far more role models, astronaut, cowboy, pilot.
Thus, the idea for the product was created, and Barbie gradually became as famous as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
Since its inception, Barbie has tested almost 200 different professions.
In 1968, the first dark-skinned doll came from Barbie producer Mattel, in the form of the doll, Christie, a friend of Barbie.
The first dark-skinned Barbie doll, however, was not marketed until 1980.
During the 1992 presidential election, Mattel made the first Barbie doll that was president. In 2016, a vice president was also made for the first time.
Mattel made a presidential Barbie to accompany all US presidential elections after 1992, with the exception of the 1996 election, when Bill Clinton was re-elected.
Criticism and social engagement
Over the years there has been much criticism of the Barbie doll’s appearance.
Many believe it is a poor and unrealistic model for little girls, with its very thin waist and long legs.
In 2016, Mattel introduced three new body types for Barbie: short, long and formative, or “curvy”, as it is called by the manufacturer. Barbie ended up on the cover of Time magazine.
In 2014 came the doll, Ella. She is a friend of Barbie has cancer and who doesn’t have hair. She was given out for free to children who undergo cancer treatment and have lost their hair.
First Barbie with hijab
The Barbie doll got a hijab for the first time in 2017 with a doll from the Sheroes series, based on female heroes, was created to honour the American fighter, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won the bronze during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Muhammad described the doll as a childhood dream that came true.
Several other celebrities have received their puppets, including Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Monroe, and Cher. Mattel has also made doll copies of famous men, including James Dean and Frank Sinatra.
Among the doll copies that have been met with criticism, is the copy of the artist Frida Kahlo, which Mattel released in 2018.
The actor, Salma Hayek, who played Kahlo in the award-winning film “Frida”, was among those who went out hard against the doll.
Hayek questioned that Kahlo, who “never tried to look like someone else” and rather celebrated that she was “unique,” could be made into a Barbie.
The doll was also criticised for not having Kahlo’s characteristic eyebrows.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today