In her essay, “Barbie: Queen of Dolls and Consumerism,” Amy Lin of UCLA ponders the social engineering mechanisms behind one of the most famous children’s toys – the Barbie Doll. In giving a historical review, the author argues that the emergence of Barbie was a logical succession following the dominance of the images of a mother and a housewife during the Baby Boomers’ epoch (Maasik and Solomon 72).
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The doll gave rise to a new female archetype – a hedonistic shopaholic with a dream life. While that was an alternative to the patriarchal ideal, Barbie could barely be considered a catalyst for a positive change. It taught girls that living happily and carefree meant consuming. After all, Barbie doll has always boasted numerous belongings, lush attire, and even real estate. One can readily imagine a little girl asking her parents to buy more clothes, bags, pets, furniture, cars, and houses for her doll to make her life “complete.” Throughout the last few decades, the Mattel company did everything possible to stimulate these consumerist tendencies.
It launched dolls after beloved cartoons and movies, gave the Barbie different jobs, and made up captivating stories. In recent years, the manufacturer has been catering to the tastes of the public that wanted more diversity. It led to the creation of Barbies of different races, cultures, and ethnicities. However, as Lin points out, this tendency cannot be seen as progressive since it serves the same purpose that the Mattel company has always sought to reach – more profit (Maasik and Solomon 73). Thus, it is essential for the new generation to be critical about the Barbie phenomenon and reassess its attachment to the childhood toy and the impact that it had on their values.
Maasik, Sonia, and Jack Solomon. Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. 9th ed., Macmillan, 2011.