Loved or loathed, her worldwide popularity can hardly be excelled. During the past fifty years, Barbie has evaluated into a world leading toy. However, the controversies about the doll’s physical representation, as well as the portrayal of her lifestyle remain fierce. Her iconic status among children and adults tends to overcome the boundaries between the realistic and the unattainable. However, how much reason is lacking when a doll plays the role of an idol? After all, has the “Dream Doll”’s absurd impact on reality triggered the creation of a less idealised doll, namely Lammily?

The history behind Barbie seems to be suprisingly plain: a mother, Ruth Handler, observes her daughter playing with adult paper dolls. In 1959, the first Barbie, named after her daughter Barbara was introduced at the New York’s annual toy fair. Today, it remains hard to believe, that this 3$ doll evaluated over the years into a business worth several millions. This serves as another example of how the dream factory of Hollywood has made proof of another overnight success: discovering a market niche, namely dolls in the shape of adult women, enabled Ruth Handler, as a co-founder of Mattel Toys, a sensational breakthrough.

The feminist debates around Barbie increasingly obscure the doll’s intention of stimulating children’s imaginative and creative minds of building their own adult life in a world where nothing remains no longer impossible. However, hitting the glass ceiling remains an alien concept in Barbie’s world. On the contrary, her diversity of jobs does not display any restrictions in terms of careers to girls, but rather triggers a world where the unreachable is put into reality, solely depending on their parents budget for toys. “We girls can do anything, right Barbie?”, does this slogan of an advertisement from the 80’s not outline a fundamental feminist position?

Besides the feminism, another significant point of hypocrisy behind this slogan might be overlooked. In fact, it puts children in direct confrontation with the cruel reality of money: sure, they can put their Barbie in every possible life situation, exercising a variety of jobs, if they do possess the according items. Consequently, their seemingly endless possibilities already depend on their social background and on how much money is available for toys. Their awareness that money gives a girl the means of “doing anything” might be triggered in an age where the financial pressure should surely not become a decisive concern.

Moreover, considering the main counter-argument of feminist voices may be grounded upon Barbie’s body measurements. Brought to life, Barbie would suffer under great health issues: which might please the eye in miniature, would solely cause a horrifying picture in reality. Nevertheless, the idealisation of the hourglass figure in society has catalysed some extremist consequences, with Barbie serving as a role model. One questionable example offers the Ukraine model Valeria Lukyanova, who has dedicated her life to representing the human Barbie. Yet she does not represent the exception: several women go under the knife to decrease the gap between the natural and the idealised. In that regard, does Barbie push the boundaries by embodying something better, something against human nature, something which literally requires to break our bones to attain it in real life?

As a response to the unrealistic body image the classic Barbie displays to children, Nickolay Lamm has brought “Lammily” to the market. According to Lamm, his creation’s shape incorporates the standard human body proportions of a nineteenth-year old woman. With his new toy, he puts not only an end to unhealthy body proportions, but also to the pink and glitter. “Lammily has style”, with an emphasis on simplicity and minimalism. The new doll does not promote the “I want to be Barbie- the Bitch has everything” image, yet through her healthy and down-to-earth life style she somewhat brings the uplifting concept of the pink planet back to Earth.
At the end of the day, the remaining question about the redesigned doll implies its chances of competition with the traditional Barbie. Is it really achievable to reform the beauty conceptions so deeply rooted within our society? And if the choice depends on children themselves, who would opt for the glamour world of Barbie and who would rather go for the healthy life style of Lammily? If we think back to our playground days, did the utopian or the modest build a foundation for our imagination?

After all, if prosperous or not, Nickolay Lamm’s initiative to promote and esteem the ordinary woman represents a reasonable movement into a favourable direction, underlining that imagination must not necessarily be built upon a monotone pink world overfilled with bony legs.

BY: Laury Schaack

Sources:
Andrea Arnold, Wasp (5:53min)
Barbie Doll commercial “We Girls Can Do Anything” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXVFrHwXHwA)
https://www.lammily.com/average-is-beautiful
http://www.women-inventors.com/Ruth-Handler.asp