The original barbie doll was not meant for kids at all. Barbie was modeled after a German Doll called Bild Lilli, that was made as an adult keepsake after Lilli was a comic character in a popular comic. Lilli was most known for being sexually uninhibited, and her image reflected that. She was dressed and shaped to be sexually objectified with red lips, blue eye shadow, platinum blonde hair, and feet shaped like painted black stilettos, as well as large breasts. She was sold for bachelor parties or suggestive gifts at gas stations.

Not only adults wanted this toy, but kids as well. When Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel toys, was on vacation with her daughter Barbara it caught 15 year old Barbaras eye, her mother noticed and they brought three home where her mother would adapt an American version of the doll.

The American version would be more conservative with less makeup, and also have real toes, but the large breasts would remain for the reason quoted by Mrs. Handler: “Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future,” she said in a 1977 interview, as quoted in the obituary. “If she was going to do role playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest. So I gave it beautiful breasts.” (TIME)

Barbie being discovered 1952 was made 1959 an official American toy favorite


Barbie sold very well bit evoked much controversy. She battled 1950's ideals by taking on a variety of different jobs in her designer outfits from airline attendant to presidential candidate. Others however believed that the doll encouraged children to be materialistic because of all her lavish things like the dream house and car. It was also thought that she promoted a negative body image for young girls because if Barbie were to be a real woman her proportions would look ridiculous.

Class Distinction

Barbie was a nation wide brand, she was a children's toy meant to embody an average American image, meaning she would have to be affordable for all classes of people. She was a common brand, that needed recognition, sales, and publicity so it would only make sense for her to be affordably priced.

Racial Differences

From Barbies invention to the mid 80's she was mainly made white, however sales started on a decline in the 80's with the best seller being the Malibu Barbie. This sparked a "freshening" or reinvention of the Barbie which introduced multi-racial and ethnic Barbies that were not any different from the normal ones but could do the same things as them. The black Christie doll sold the best. In addition an Italian, Oriental, and Hispanic Barbies were made.

Shaping the Nations Identity

Barbie shaped the nations identity by empowering young girls and women to believe they can do anything they can imagine, even jobs that were dubbed as mens.

Gender Norms and Politics

Barbie changed the female gender norms that women should be stay at home house wives that please their husbands, but to others she solidified a new gender norm that women should be materialistic and only care about having a boyfriend and going to the beach and not important issues like poverty.

After hearing these comments Ken Handler worked with Mattel to support important issues of the time

Barbie raised awareness of poverty with Barbie summit where 39 children discussed issues like poverty, world peace, and environrmental issues

Backlash from Feminists

-A girl doesn't need to be blonde and beautiful to get a boyfriend

-Barbie promotes a negative body image, proportions unattainable

-shouldn't be materialistic

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Works Cited

"Barbie in the Nineties." Barbie in the Nineties. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.

"The Barbie Doll's Not-for-Kids Origins." Time. Time. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.

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