Most of us growing up played with Barbie Dolls. If we are being completely honest, even the boys did. Barbies were an integral part of our childhood, never mind the naysayers. But they weren’t just pretty little playthings – if you ask us they were much more. Understandebly often looked at as making a woman’s ideal appear normative, Barbie evolved with the time. Today we see Barbie Dolls are purveyors of the modern woman; one who has a diverse cohort of pals, has a booming career, is sensitive, and always wants to wear her personality on her sleeve. This is our love letter to Barbie.
Barbara Millecent Roberts, the blonde statuesque well dressed blue eyed doll, came into the world in 1959. She became a cultural icon, with appearances in museums and having artist Andy Warhol even having commissioned a Warhol Barbie. But as what happens with scrutiny and the world, Barbie became controversial. The toy was being looked at as propagating a typical kind of face and body and race. But Barbie is nothing, if not empathetic to the time around her. Mattel inc, made sure of that at least, and in came Barbies who looked more like us. Well, at least back then they tried to. Indian Barbies took the market by a storm; they weren’t just one kind of Indian Barbie even. They were of each region – from a Marwari bride to an Odissi dancer, Barbie dolls weren’t exclusively normative anymore. A legacy that today made possible for a Barbie in a Hijab to exist without any apprehension.
That is the thing about Barbie, from indulging us with a talking model to getting us super invested in her relationship with Ken, Barbie doll always kept us guessing. So when it brought forth both a homemaker baker Barbie and an astronaut Barbie it made sense, because Barbie was not going to typecast herself into something as simple and myopic as having a vain frivolous gig. How could she when millions of girls around the world looked up to her? However, her stereotypically thin body was still upsetting the same girls who realised they could professionally aspire to be like their role-model but could they look like her?
Apparently, yes, because Barbie was now normal sized and not just sample sized. Aside from the gala time we all had playing ghar-ghar with the doll, or marvelling over her convertible car and her two-storeyed Victorian house, we also grew up wishing more, and that was delivered. We could be our most girly selves with the doll but also the most aware and evolved selves. Today, Barbie is a cult in itself. The doll has taken inspiration from women of power and emulated herself accordingly, the doll has become a scientist, a doctor, an engineer, a chef, a glamorous model. She thoroughly loves her younger sisters Skipper and Kelly; her best friend Teresa has her heart; her boyfriend Ken is perfection. Barbie lives the ideal life, but she works hard for it, and she lets all those girls and boys, alike, who adore her to live their best life too.
Barbie dolls are here to stay, but without an arrogance of being exclusive in an ivory tower. They change with the times, and they respect the individuality of a woman and of a girl – sometimes their passions intersect with their careers other times they don’t, but for every young child playing with the doll when they see a Barbie box with accoutrements that go from props like a guitar to a yellow Engineer hat, and an extra change of a fashionable outfit, you know you can be an Engineer who works hard and plays harder, with a passion to be a musician. No longer a stereotype, Barbie dolls are the new-age women with sensibility and knowledge on their minds!
We mean, just last year through a collaboration between Mattel, National Geographic and University of Utah scientist Nalini Nadkarni, the popular toy manufacturer has for the first time idolized an Indian origin scientist for its new range. This new range of Barbie dolls promotes diversity with focus around professions currently underrepresented by women such as exploration, science, conservation and research. And most of all, there is also a doll made in the likeness of Nadkarni herself complete with boots, binoculars and a rope, inspiring millions of other brown girls like herself to dare to dream.