What happens when a girl imagines the possibility of doing whatever she wants? Following any career she wishes to, without thinking about its male-dominated paradigm?
Barbie’s new ad showcases this and much more. Barbie’s ads have always come under fire, because early on, Barbie was promoted as a teaching aid to help young girls grow up and get their man, by marketers who were worried that parents wouldn’t warm up to a sexualised toy. Barbie’s clean image, fair, slim body and trendy clothes have had generations of young girls aspiring to be like her. On the other hand, supporters of Barbie believe that playing with the doll makes a girl imagine numerous possibilities – you can make Barbies do anything, be anything. As Moira Redmond puts it, “Barbie lets girls live out their fantasies in a safe context: she’s a great psychological tool.”
This new Barbie ad has tapped into this side of the debate, by showcasing five young girls, who are role-playing as a professor, football coach, veterinarian, museum guide and a MnC professional. The ad has tried to steer away from the traditional role-playing games little girls indulge in- which is using their barbies for hosting tea parties (many of us actually did do that). While I appreciate Mattel’s attempt at maintaining a racial balance by having one mixed race girl out of the five that are featured, and a black Barbie beside a white one, the ad still ends with the same image of Barbie, a beautiful, socially mediated good-looking woman (and by good looking, I mean perfect facial features, not skin colour), whom girls are intended to ‘aspire’ to be like. Barbie was, is and will always remain the ambit of the ‘beautiful societally ordained good-looking female’, and we may change the way girls play with Barbie, but we can’t change all that the Barbie doll stands for until and unless we revise the way she looks in the first place.