The most loved and popular doll of our times, Barbie, turns sixty this year and is showing no signs of retiring or slowing down. While many of us may disapprove of how Barbie has always represented plastic perfect beauty, there is no denying that most girls of a certain age group would choose to own a Barbie over any other doll. So what is it that makes her so special? How has she managed to maintain the same popularity for six decades? Despite facing numerous controversies and several backlashes, this Mattel doll continues to lead in its category because its makers have always course-corrected their way, taking criticism as input to make Barbie a global, inclusive and modern brand.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The most popular and loved doll of our times Barbie turns sixty this year.
  • Mattel still sells 58 million Barbie dolls a year in more than 150 countries.
  • This Mattel doll continues to lead in its category because its makers have always course-corrected.
  • Mattel launched Barbie dolls depicting varying ethnicities, body shapes, skin tones, etc. The doll isn’t about embracing a materialistic and opulent lifestyle anymore.

According to Euronews, Mattel Inc. still sells 58 million Barbie dolls a year in more than 150 countries.

In all, more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold since she made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. These figures are mighty impressive in times when toys become outdated merely in one holiday season. No other doll has possibly come to being as popular and timeless as Barbie. In fact, I was thinking about my Barbie when I saw my daughter playing with hers’ just yesterday. While I had one, she already has four, and is showing no signs of getting bored. If she had her way we would be soon living in a Barbie museum full of heaps of pint-sized clothes, a dream-house, a spaceship and other Barbie paraphernalia.

This makes one realise that Barbie isn’t just a doll, it’s a brand. And a very well-managed one. Mattel has encountered a lot of controversies with Barbie. The doll has been accused of upholding an unrealistic body image. Barbie became a beauty standard not just among dolls but among girls and women. Be it her waist size, her blemish and wrinkle free skin or her luscious hair, no other doll has caught the imagination of the beauty industry like Barbie. The makers even faced a lot of backlash for lack of diversity and glorifying materialism.

It stimulates girls to think about what they would like to do when they grow up, apart from living in a dream house, with a big closet flooding with clothes.

However, Mattel addressed all user concerns and widened its range of dolls. It launched Barbie dolls of varying ethnicity, body shapes, skin tone etc. Also, the doll isn’t just about embracing a materialistic and opulent lifestyle anymore. Barbie till date has had 130 plus careers. She is an astronaut, race car driver, a sign language teacher, surgeon, army medic, United States President and rapper among many other things. Just last year Mattel launched Robotics Engineer Barbie as part of their drive to advocate diversity at the workplace. So while Barbie may have been about playing dressing-up and having pool parties for many, it has managed to project itself as a working woman for young girls with changing times. It stimulates girls to think about what they would like to do when they grow up, apart from living in a dream house, with a big closet flooding with clothes.

Apart from keeping pace with time, the manufacturers have ensured that Brand Barbie isn’t limited to just dolls. We have playhouses, books, cartoons based on her to fuel her popularity. However, as a mother, I do hope that Barbie tones down its idea of femininity. Not many of us endorse the overall notions of feminine beauty that your average Barbie comes coated in. Besides both the manufacturers and parents shouldn’t label it a girls’ doll. While culture and parenting do play a crucial part in projecting such ideas, manufacturers of this doll can certainly come up with an idea to remove the gender tag from the most loved doll around the world.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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