As my children have grown up and passed the doll phase I didn’t pick up on this exciting new development in plastic-fantastic world but now I have, I can’t contain my……… indifference.
I played with barbies when I was a kid. In spite of me growing up to be quite un-girly in many ways (hate shopping, clothing, make-up – even though I make it (and I love making it), cooking and babies). Barbie, ken and their little kid Pippa allowed me to play out my grown up fantasies and desires of having a big house, flash car, cute dogs and a very good career. Yes, in my world Barbie was a working girl earning the big bucks and travelling around the world with her little family. I didn’t give two shits about her body shape, I used my imagination and projecting any body-image issues I had or was going to develop , onto my doll was not part of my plan.
And that’s why this development has me in a state of indifference.
To my way of thinking, offering up Barbies with different body shapes makes Barbie about the body shape. What’s going to happen to the kids that have only one leg? Battle Scars? Body Rolls? Hairy Moles? Whatever… No doll company is ever going to be able to cover every possible variation of the human condition.
Now of course I think that some ‘reality check’ button is a good thing. Being able to buy dolls of all skin colours is good. Why? Because we are born black, white, yellow, brown, beige, pink or whatever colour we classify ourselves as and whatever we do in life our skin colour stays with us as a part of us. It is a variation that tells a story about our roots and origin and that is powerful. I believe that hair colour and type is equally important – we are not all peroxide blonde with a gentle wave.
What we are not born with though are long legs, short lets, big boobs, small boobs, wide hips or narrow hips. Well, yes, of course we are born with that genetic code but we haven’t expressed it yet, that’s a puberty thing. A coming-of-age thing, a sexual thing.
The ideal relationship for a child to have with their dolls body is one of indifference past their preference for the obvious non-changing relatable signs (hair type, skin colour, eye colour). We must remember that it is children that are playing with dolls, not adults. We also must remember that a child brings their doll to life through their imagination and for that reason a blank canvas can be much better than a fixed narrative.
So yeh, I’m not a fan of these dolls because I’d rather kids use their own imagination to bring a blank-canvas doll to life rather than have a personality bought for them.
I think when this type of doll was first imagined and brought to life the dolls tended to have a standard ‘average’ figure. Maybe we go back to average as after all, you have to start somewhere and alien isn’t a good look.