Barbara Millicent Roberts (1959- ), better known as Barbie, is a doll that girls in the West love to play with. They like combing her hair and dressing her up. For the past 40 years, nine American girls in ten have had at least one Barbie doll.
Over a billion Barbies have been made, none of them in America. Three Barbies are sold every second.
Barbie has never taken root in the Muslim world where her counterpart is Fulla, a proper Muslim woman.
When Barbie came out, she was new in two ways:
- She was the first doll advertised to girls (not their parents) through television.
- She was a woman, not a baby or a girl like the dolls of the time. Not just that, she had an unmistakable female figure.
Barbie was the brainchild of Ruth Handler, wife of the “el” (Elliot) of Mattel, the American toy company.
She got the idea for Barbie while in Germany. There she saw the Lilli doll. Lilli’s look goes back to a pin-up picture from the Second World War, so she had an incredible female figure. She was a lady of the night. The dolls were given to men as presents, but Handler found that girls liked dressing them up and playing with them.
Handler brought some Lilli dolls back to America and found that American girls liked them too. With some help from Jack Ryan, an aircraft designer who was once married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lilli was made into Barbie. It made Mattel’s fortune.
Later in the 1990s Handler said that she wanted Barbie to teach girls that they could be anything they wanted to be when they grew up. Women who grew up with Barbie say she did have that effect on them. But in her early days Barbie was more a party girl than anything.
But some say Barbie is a bad influence:
- Barbie teaches that money and having things is the road to happiness.
- Barbie holds up an idea of beauty that is hard to reach. Some fear that this leads some girls into eating disorders, others to go under the knife to change their looks and yet others to hate their face and even the colour of their skin.
- Barbie, say some Muslims, influences girls to follow the loose morals of the West.
Barbie has white skin, blue eyes, yellow hair, legs that are too long for her body and a large chest. She was impossibly thin till Mattel made her a little wider in 1997.
To get an idea of how old a Barbie is, see where it was made:
- Japan: 1959-1972
- Mexico: 1968-1970, 1989-1990
- Hong Kong: 1970-1987
- Taiwan: 1970-1987
- South Korea: 1973-1978
- Philippines: 1978-1988
- China: 1986-present
- Malaysia: 1986-present
- Indonesia: 1992-present
Barbie dolls are sold in America for nearly 30 times what they cost to make in China.
Any Barbie made in Japan that is in good condition is valuable as a Vintage Barbie.
Barbie’s eyes did not look forward till 1971.
– Abagond, 2007, 2016.
Images: Mostly from 56 Years of Barbie’s Evolution.