Barbie's Bald Friend: Does Mattel Finally Get it Right?
When Barbie (aka: Barbie Doll, of the famous Doll clan) is mentioned, many negative terms are immediately associated with her “brand.” Things such as unrealistic proportions, unattainable images, and the promotion of shallow beauty and a materialistic society are just a few. But even with all that backlash, Barbie dolls still sell like mad.
Well, folks, there’s a new girl in town. And for once, Mattel may have finally gotten it “right” when it comes to true beauty and accurate representation.
Mattel’s Controversial Past
Since Barbie was founded by Mattel in 1959, several controversial dolls have been released. One example is Midge, who is a visibly pregnant doll that’s part of the “Happy Family” collection. Her re-release in the early 2000s was met with intense scrutiny by parents who claimed it was inspiring teenage pregnancies. This ultimately led to Wal-Mart ripping it from their shelves in response.
Other criticisms have attacked the trashy Black Canary Barbie, and Totally Tattoo Barbie, which came with stick-on tattoos (including a “tramp stamp” to place on her lower back).
One might have thought that Share a Smile Becky, who came with a pretty pink wheelchair might have carried a positive message by reaching out to a disabled audience. Too bad for Becky that her wheelchair didn’t fit in the elevator of the Barbie Dream House.
Taking a Step in the Right Direction
Fortunately, Mattel has not given up on sending positive messages via its very powerful spokesperson. The company recently announced the development of a special doll: a bald friend of Barbie meant to support young girls who have lost their hair due to illnesses such as leukemia or other cancers.
So how did the concept of a bald Barbie character come to be? Two women from New Jersey actually came up with the idea, and subsequently launched a Facebook page called “Beautiful and Bald Barbie.” Its sole purpose was to encourage Mattel to create a new Barbie doll that would inspire children who were dealing with hair loss due to illness. The idea quickly went viral, and the Facebook page drew so much support that it eventually reached Mattel. Representatives of the company met with the creators of the bald Barbie campaign, Jane Bingham and Rebecca Sypin.
That meeting must have gone well, because in early March, the toy manufacturer announced that it would begin production of the bald doll with a planned release date sometime in 2013. Along with the doll, several accessories will be included, such as wigs, hats, scarves, and other garments.
While Mattel expects the doll to be ready in 2013, you probably won’t be able to get one for yourself. The toys will be exclusively given to the Children’s Hospital Association, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Bingham and Sypin have both expressed minor disappointment at the decision to keep the bald dolls from store shelves, and have called it a “partial victory.”
Other companies such as MGA Entertainment, who created Moxie Girlz and Bratz, have taken this idea and carried it the rest of the way by announcing a planned launch of their own bald dolls, called “True Hope” dolls. These dolls will actually be sold in stores, with $1 from every sale donated to the City of Hope organization.
A Role Model in the Making?
Until now there has been no real role model that small girls can look up to when it comes to cancer and other serious illnesses. Hopefully Barbie’s bald friend will reinforce that you don’t need hair to be beautiful or be worth something, and that there is nothing wrong with hair loss.
So . . . has Mattel made the right move? Or will they suffer backlash for this decision as well? One might argue that creating an inspirational bald Barbie doll may be just the thing to give sick children that extra boost of motivation and the will to live. Others, like Andrew Becker, a director of media relations for the American Cancer Society, don’t necessarily agree. In a recent blog post, Becker called the demand for the Bald Barbie an “over-reach” and intimated that the doll may do “more harm than good for kids and parents.”
Regardless, it seems to be a movement pushing towards acceptance – the kind of acceptance that our country has too many times lacked in the past, and is still in desperate need of today.