There’s yet to be a “Boxer Barbie” to hit toy store shelves, but when you think about it, nearly every version of Mattel’s most infamous doll has had to withstand at least a few proverbial punches over the years. Despite her enduring popularity, Barbie has been widely criticized for decades now for representing everything from an unrealistic body type to what some say are anti-feminist ideals — even as Mattel made great efforts to show that Barbie is not just about looks. (Or at least, she’s about more than just her looks.)
But it seems that this time, the toy makers behind the world’s most famous fashion doll may have finally gotten it right.
Last week, Mattel unveiled Game Developer Barbie — and parents (and kids) everywhere went wild. She comes armed with a laptop featuring real game code graphics and is described as looking “casually cool in an industry-inspired outfit.” As such, she’s meant to inspire young gamers who finally can play with a doll who shares their same interests, and has made it big. And make no mistake, the implications of that are huge: In the notoriously male-centric tech world, Game Developer Barbie is a major step forward when it comes to showing girls there’s no such thing as a “man’s world,” because yes, women can do anything, too. Er, that is, if they can find the doll, which sold out almost immediately following its release.
The 2016 tech-oriented Barbie comes just a couple of years after Mattel previously tried to hone in on the Silicon Valley wave, but failed pretty miserably. In 2014, the world was introduced to Computer Engineer Barbie, who seemed pretty cool until you read the book that accompanied her release. In it, she laments over struggles to build her own computer program, which aims to make puppies do various tricks. “I’ll need Steve and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game,” Barbie utters in the book, titled Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer. (Insert a photo of everyone cringing here.)
Mattel isn’t the first company trying to appeal to girls interested in more than flowers and butterflies. STEM toys aimed at girls made a big splash during last year’s holidays, according to Fortune magazine, with brands like GoldieBlox and Roominate leading the pack in terms of innovation. Most of the toys do still involve something traditionally “girly,” like jewelry-making and the colors pink or purple, but they’re combined with a building, programming, or simple circuit component that challenges girls to think outside the box.
Game Developer Barbie also isn’t the first doll from Mattel to be known for her brains rather than her beauty. Just take these
Body Positive Barbie
Earlier this year, Time magazine put Barbie on the cover when she was revealed to have undergone a physical transformation. Instead of lily-white skin, a teeny-tiny waist, mile-long legs, and bright blue eyes, she’s now available with body types that are more reflective of many types of women, including curvy, tall, and petite, and she’s also comes in darker skin tones. By giving Barbie some back and a greater degree of diversity, more girls now have an option to own a doll that, instead of only looking like a Sports Illustrated model on a beach in California, might actually look like them.
Girl Scout Barbie
As happens with most Barbie dolls, when Girl Scout Barbie was released in 2014, she created a stir among some for not being a good example of leadership and courage. Except what other doll is held to that kind of standard? And since when are Girl Scouts not hailed as anything but aspiring good citizens? Sure, the doll might have a tough time climbing mountains in her high-heeled hiking boots, but at least she’s outside — and she’s also setting goals, making decisions and managing money. Even the hate-iest of Barbie haters can’t find fault with that, can they?
She’s not just the flight attendant, she’s a pilot! If this isn’t 10 steps forward, what is?
Film Director Barbie
She’s not the blonde-bombshell movie star — she’s the film boss. Yaaaaassssss!
She’s not a beach babe! She a beach badass! (And no, she’s not wearing a skimpy, Pamela Anderson Baywatch-stylesuit, either.)
She’s not a woman who needs a toy dog as an accessory; Vet Barbie cares for farm animals because medicine isn’t just a man’s work.
She’s not Hillary Clinton (yet), but she’s available in African American, Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic versions. And they’re all women. And they’re presidents. Of the United States. God bless America!
Spy Squad Barbie
Move over, Matt Damon. There’s a new special agent in town. The name’s Barbie. Spy Squad Barbie.
Only 21 women lead Fortune 500 companies, although “women” and “business leaders” is as synonymous as we decide they can be. Entrepreneur Barbie isn’t necessarily dressed for a serious board room meeting, but she has the tools to succeed and enables kids to imagine it’s not just men who are industry leaders.
Kids can reach for the stars — literally — and imagine themselves in outer space with Astronaut Barbie. She may not look like most of NASA’s space pioneers, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?More On