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Barbie Dolls: Positive and negative impacts on children Essay

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Updated: Jan 13th, 2020


This paper describes the impacts that Barbie doll has on the children. Since its inception, Barbie doll has been the centre of criticism from different quarters. Reviews suggest that Barbie doll has both positive and negative impacts on children, especially young girls. While there are only a few positive impacts, the negative ones are numerous.

Children are just like clay and can be molded the way we want. It’s human tendency to learn what they see. Since Barbie doll is so popular, children will also learn and get inspired. The paper will first give a brief detail about Barbie’s history, appearance, the motive behind its creation, and some facts about Barbie.

Brief history of barbie

At the age of 53+ years, Barbie is one of the oldest toys in the United States. It was created by Ruth Handler in the year 1959. Ruth was greatly inspired by ‘Lilli’, a German doll; pictures of Lilli and Barbie can be found at ‘Appendix 1’ and ‘Appendix 2’ respectively. He named the doll after his daughter Barbara Handler. Barbie was launched by Mattel Toy Company in the same year as the doll’s invention. If we study the early history of Barbie, we will have a glimpse or idea about the social life, style, and culture of the 1950s.

Appearance of barbie

Barbie has penetrative eyes and long and dark eyelashes. She puts on heavy makeup, wears high heels and tight clothing. She has a sexual charm that any girl/woman would envy. Her body measurements are very unrealistic and in view of the fact that Barbie’s feet are pointed at the end, it will not be possible for her to stand straight.

Motive behind the creation of barbie

Ruth’s main intention behind creating Barbie was to craft a character that his daughter could look up to as a model of inspiration. As a business model, Barbie was intended to be an upbeat model for the juvenile girls. But unfortunately, due to various allegations and finger pointing, this particular intention was defeated.

Barbie symbolizes the transformation happening in the world. Barbie dolls were supposed to spread the idea that women were not behind men in any matter (gender equality) (Weissman 9). It gives the juvenile girls a foretaste of their prospective selves. It also makes them to believe that they have the capabilities and competence of doing anything.

But this belief often backfires and the girls usually go into depression; since they have been let down. This happens because Barbie carries the message of being successful (always) and never failing. This creates confusion in the minds of children as they grow up.

Some facts about barbie

  • Different nations (almost 150 of them) all over the world have their own personification of Barbie.
  • Every single second witnesses the sale of at least two Barbie dolls around the globe.
  • The first Barbie doll was sold for US$3 and the initial number of dolls sold was 350,000.
  • The current figures show that the annual revenue from Barbie doll sales is not less than US$1.5 billion.
  • The range of professions that Barbie dolls portray is multifaceted. Barbie dolls are doctors (Appendix 3), nurses (Appendix 4), baby sitters (Appendix 5), lifeguards (Appendix 6), paratroopers (Appendix 7), etc.; there are more than 80 professions portrayed by Barbie dolls worldwide.
  • Renowned designers such as Versace, Gucci, and Givenchy have designed outfits for Barbie.

Barbie’s advertisements

Since Barbie is a business oriented idea (doll), the owners have every right to market the same. Since its inception, there have been several advertisement campaigns (pictures, audios, videos, and text). It is ironical to note that the promoters, in the run for money, forgot to look at the message that these advertisements would spread in the society. Even though there are certain positive influences that Barbie has on the juvenile girls, the negative influences are far more severe.

Examples of barbie advertisements and their impact on girls

One of the advertisements at ‘Appendix 8’ shows six Barbie dolls. It is worth making note that all of them are skimpily dressed. One may wonder that if Barbie dolls are meant to be role models for young girls, what the children will learn. Being shameless and obscene is the answer.

At a very young, school going girls want to be like a Barbie doll because “dolls like Barbie – because of their iconic status – are likely to act as salient role models, at least for young girls” (Dittmer, Halliwell and Ive 284). They want to personify the looks and charm of a Barbie doll. They want to dress up like Barbie dolls, wearing short and skimpy clothes. They want to paint their nails just as Barbie dolls do and want to look hot and sexy.

Moreover, Barbie dolls are now-a-days being dressed with outfits designed by renowned designers and this has added great cost to the doll. Most of the Barbie dolls and their accessories are now so costly that only the children of opulent parents can afford to buy them. This again creates a feeling of inferiority among the children whose parents are not well off; again a cause of depression.

They want to keep on experimenting with their hair by applying different hair colors (just as different models of Barbie do) and treatments. They want to have the same style of living as Barbie does. They want their rooms to be big and expensive just like Barbie does. For ordinary and middle class parents this would not be possible.

But since the young girl will be hallucinated and fantasized by Barbie’s charm and because her wishes will not be fulfilled, she will go into depression or go on a wrong track to fulfill her desires and wishes. Parents are usually unable to make their children understand that such fantasies are not meant for them and that they should live in the real world.

The advertisement at Appendix 9 shows Barbie with her boyfriend Ken. The targeted readers or audience are young girls. They are supposed to express their views whether Barbie should forgive Ken and take him back as her boyfriend or not. There is a love meter also according to which the readers have to rate their views. What does this mean? Such advertisements inculcate the culture of boy friend and girl friend in the tender minds of young children.

They also want to experience the thrill of having a girl friend or a boy friend. And the experience being new for them, and probably very charming, they forget everything and always keep on thinking (whether at home or at school) about the other one (boy friend or girl friend). This has a great negative impact on their studies. Parents work hard to impart the best education to their children but when children toddle on this way, the emotions and sentiments of parents are crushed.

The impact and influence of Barbie dolls is to such an extent that young girls suddenly want to look big, hot and sexy. There have been instances where young girls have gone to the extent of having breast implant just to have their figure similar to that of Barbie. Girls have started living in a false world. They undergo expensive and dangerous surgeries just to have a Barbie like figure in order to attract the opposite sex. Ironically, this is not restricted to young girls alone. Even grown up women want to personify Barbie’s figure.

Images at Appendix 10 and Appendix 11 show a pregnant Barbie. In the advertisement at Appendix 10 there is a message on the left that means Barbie is very impatient to have a baby.

The heading is even more objectionable. It reads “Teen Pregnancy Barbie”. Where have all our morals and ethics vanished? Why do we accept all such irresponsible actions of people who are simply busy in minting money? They are not at all bothered about the impact of their actions. It’s our duty and that of our society to object to such vulgar advertisements.

What will our children learn after reading or looking at such advertisements? Even though pregnancy is an important stage of a woman’s life, is it that necessary for young children to know about pregnancy? On the contrary, such advertisements will have a negative impact on our children.

Since they are already fascinated by the character of Barbie, they will want to copy this feature of Barbie as well. And if such a drastic thing happens, the results can be extremely dangerous. So the promoters of Barbie should think ethically and stop promoting such weird things.

Not long ago, a bitter truth came to light. One of the famous departmental stores in the United States was selling black Barbie at lesser price than the fair skin Barbie. This is clear color discrimination or we can say price discrimination on the basis of ethnicity. This is against the human moral values.

Picture of a rack stacked with Barbie dolls at a departmental store clearly show that the price tag on black Barbie is $3, whereas the price tag on the fair skin Barbie is $5.93. Mary Rogers claims that “Barbie has little credibility as a black woman, an Asian woman, a Native (or indigenous) woman, or a Hispanic woman” (47).

Ducille describes her experiences with black doll and white doll. According to her she had always played with white dolls and the day she received a black doll, she was enthralled. Ducille was also a black and receiving a black doll was really amusing for her. So in my opinion, what Ducille is trying to convey is that children also prefer dolls according to their colour (Ducille 541).

This price discrimination on the basis of skin color or ethnicity is totally absurd and has great impact on the children. The black children will surely start having an inferiority complex, and the white children will start having a superiority complex. In today’s world, where our great leaders and scholars talk of equality, such incidents defeat the total cause of humanity.

Basically, the fault lies within our own society. We promote the idea of any particular character in such a way that children ought to be influenced. Like the concept of the ‘American Girl’ created by the ‘Pleasant Company’. In order to promote history, even schools promote books based on such characters and they even maintain a stock of such books (Hade 565).

The Pleasant Company distributed books and dolls in schools for the company’s promotion. In fact books are a great source of inspiration human beings, especially children. Children grasp quickly whatever they see or read. Talking about the books on ‘American Girl’, the young girls are already in the grip of dolls and on top of that comes Barbie doll.

It is but obvious that the girls will be attracted towards it since they have already been infatuated with dolls. “More than simple instruments of pleasure and amusement, toys and games play crucial roles in helping children determine what is valuable in and around them” (Ducille 530).

It would have been proper if Barbie would have spread the same message as was envisaged by the Pleasant Company. But on the contrary, the promoters of Barbie wanted to cash in the popularity of dolls among American girls.

Until now, only the negative impacts have been discussed. Let us now discuss the positive impacts. The picture at Appendix 13 shows Barbie as the Presidential candidate. This of course will have a very positive impact on the young girls. This Barbie will allow the girls to discuss with their parents the responsibilities of American citizens and how can each citizen contribute towards the progress of the country (Black Water Honey par. 5).

As responsible citizens of our respective countries, it is our moral as well as social duty to stop such advertisements and ensure a safe and sensible future for our children.

Works Cited

Black Water Honey. “Barbie for President 2012”. 2012. Web.

Dittmar, Helga, Emma Halliwell and Suzanne Ive. “Does Barbie make girls want to be thin? The effect of experimental exposure to images of dolls on the body image of 5 to 8 year old girls.” Developmental Psychology 42.2 (2006): 283-292. Print.

Ducille. “From Multicultural Barbie.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text and Reader, United States: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2008. Print.

Hade. “Lies My Children’s Books Taught Me.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text and Reader, United States: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2008. Print.

Rogers, Mary. Barbie Culture, London: Sage Publications Ltd., 1998. Print.

Weissman, Kristin. Barbie: The Icon, The Image, The Ideal, United States: Universal Publishers, 1999. Print.

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