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On National Barbie Day, has Mattel changed the doll enough?

In this Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, photo, an arrangement of Fashionista Barbies, by Mattel, is shown at Toy Fair in New York. The company is introducing curvy, petite and tall Barbies this year. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In this Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, photo, an arrangement of Fashionista Barbies, by Mattel, is shown at Toy Fair in New York. The company is introducing curvy, petite and tall Barbies this year. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Mark Lennihan, AP

On March 9, 1959, Barbie made her debut at the New York City American Toy Fair.

Since then, it's been hard to be the most popular girl on the toy shelves.

Barbie creator Mattel has struggled to keep its iconic blonde-haired, blue-eyed doll with unrealistic body proportions relevant since she first took American girlhood by storm in the 1960s and with good reason.

There was the unfortunate mishap with Teen Talk Barbie in 1992, which Mattel pulled from shelves when parents complained about Barbie's quip, "Math class is tough," a faux pas revisited in some ways last year in a children's book in which Barbie gets her male classmates to do her computer programming homework for her. These two are perhaps the most enduring among a plethora of other controversies in the brand's history.

As if these weren't reason enough for parents to shake their heads at Barbie, it took 57 years for the top-selling doll to more closely resemble the millions of American girls who grew up playing with her. Mattel rolled out a line of dolls with differing skin colors, body types and hair styles this year to address concerns that the company has failed to reflect the diversity of its prospective consumer (aka little girls). Mattel urged girls to "be whatever they want" — a somewhat belated answer to a 2014 study that found that girls who play with Barbies have limited views of their own potential.

Whether or not consumers think the criticism of Barbie or Mattel's subsequent efforts at a course correction are warranted, it's easy to forget the ambition that gave birth to Barbie and her cadre of perfect friends in the first place. Barbie, for all her apparent flaws, was created by Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler, who wanted to give her daughter toys with bigger ambitions than baby dolls.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson