“Where the hell is Barbie?” was all I kept thinking as I walked down the toy aisle at Wal-Mart the other day. Bikes, board games and stuffed animals, but Barbie was nowhere to be found. A dark cloud then settled over what should’ve been the happiest aisle of any store.
OK, I know that was a bit dramatic, but you’ve got to understand that as a little girl, I reveled in taking trips down nearly every toy aisle I could find, searching for the newest and coolest Barbie dolls and accessories: Ken (yes, I thought of Ken as an accessory), extra ensembles, cars, airplanes, tour buses, dream houses -- nothing was too good for my Barbies. And when I say Barbies, I’m talking about Teresa, Christie, Skipper, Stacie and the rest of the gang.
Growing up, I owned just about every Barbie imaginable: Bead Blast Barbie, Workin’ Out Barbie, Twirling Ballerina Barbie -- you name her, I probably had her. And being that I am the kind of 90s girl that I am, Britney Spears, Mary-Kate and Ashley, Cher and Dionne from Clueless and all five Spice Girls were also part of my never-ending doll collection.
I was obsessed with Barbie as a little girl, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for most little girls these days. Barbie is slowly but surely disappearing from store shelves everywhere. I find it incredibly depressing that children, particularly young girls, are in such a hurry to grow up, but of course we live in a society in which they are constantly bombarded with over-sexualized images in the media.
The result? Instead of the perks of being a child, they start becoming mini-adults, so it really shouldn’t surprise us that young girls today have zero interest in Barbie, because she’s a doll and dolls are so immature. It’s a shame, though, because there’s so much to learn from Barbie. I learned a lot about the importance of self-confidence from Barbie, particularly my Beyond Pink Barbie, because she came with a cassette tape that included a song called, “Think Pink.”
My favorite part was always the bridge: “Climb every hill there is to climb/Reach for the high note every time/You know you got the power, girl/You got enough fire to light up the world/Jump a little higher like I know you can/Paint the town pink/Come on, join the band.”
As simple as those lyrics are, the song had (and still has) a powerful message for young girls. It definitely left a lasting impression on me. I was only seven years old, but it made me feel like I could aspire to be anything I wanted to be, and that I was just as capable of doing anything the boys did if not better. And even though Barbie is constantly criticized for promoting superficiality and an unrealistic body image for women, let us not forget about all the positive things she represents: girl power, ambition, independence and creative thinking.
I’ve also heard many grown women say the whole body-image issue never crossed their minds as children. All they cared about was Barbie’s outfits, her hair and how to style it. I, for one, never felt inferior to her. Rather, I admired how she was able to hold down a variety of careers, including president of the United States. And I was fascinated by how she managed to look fabulous at all times.
If people want to point fingers, perhaps they should stick with the photo-shopped models and celebrities who appear on television sets, magazines and billboards around the world. Because, for goodness sake, stop blaming your body issues on a toy!
The only issue I had with Barbie back in the day was the lack of variety in skin tones and hair textures for some of the ethnic dolls. But in all fairness, Mattel has come a long way since their one-size-fits-all approach.
It’s funny how a piece of plastic can seem so life-like to a child. When I didn’t have many friends, Barbie was there. When I needed a creative outlet, Barbie was there. Before I was old enough to understand the concept of the term “role model,” Barbie was my role model. Obviously, now that I’m older, that’s changed with my mom being the person I admire the most, but Barbie will always hold a special place in my heart.
Someday, I’ll have children of my own and if I should have a daughter, I hope that Barbie will be a part of her life growing up. I know how magical Barbie can be, and it saddens me that today’s young girls are no longer experiencing that magic like I once did. Many would argue that we’re simply living in a different time. And maybe they’re right. But as far as I’m concerned, young girls these days need Barbie more now than ever, especially when we live in a society where sex tapes equal instant fame and fortune.
Whether Barbie will ever get her groove back is uncertain, but I’m hoping someone will throw her a lifeline because she still has much to offer. Could anyone really imagine life without Barbie? I know I couldn’t, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m rooting for her as I always have and always will.