I. Am. Terrified!

“My eyes! It buuuuurns!”

Such were the screams that could be heard ringing around the staff room as I idly flipped through Grazia magazine on my lunch hour and chanced upon this advert. With this double page spread of grinning Barbies, all dead behind the eyes, I had been plunged unwittingly into the valley of the dolls. But why did it freak me out so much?

Okay, so it’s no big secret that feminists aren’t massive Barbie fans. The impossible physique, the stifling gender stereotyping, the emphasis on playing dress-up, the dubious tokenism and ham-fisted racial diversity, the crappy career choices… we were never going to champion Barbie as an empowering female role model. And yet that’s not exactly why this advert ruined my lunch hour.

The advert, by the way, is letting us know the exciting news (yes, I did play with Barbie when I was little, so I can see the appeal!) that a new limited edition Little Black Dress Barbie can now be bought from online fashion haven ASOS. Presumably, after seeing the sell-out collaborations between Mattel and Japanese fashion house Comme des Garcons, and especially between Mattel and shoe designer Louboutin (which led to the man himself deeming Barbie to possess ‘fat ankles’), ASOS must have been keen to grab a piece of the lucrative plastic pie.

And that’s what gets to me, I think. This combination of idealised plastic doll and fashion. Or, more importantly, this idealised doll mixed up with fashion imagery. It’s what made the advert so down-right frightening; the medium of the fashion advert, yet done with dolls. In a time when everything is photoshopped to such disastrous levels, there really isn’t that much difference between a Ralph Lauren advert using a real model and an ASOS ad using Barbies. When fashion just has to be seen on ‘perfect’ women, we are becoming used to seeing a Barbie-like cookie cutter version of what women look like in our magazines.

So, this is why I screamed. Because, for a second there, I thought the Barbies were real women.

By: Sarah Barnes, 03.03.2010 | Comments (3)
Tagged: , , , , , ,
  • Dearbhaile
    March 3rd, 2010
    9:08 pm

    They’re faces look like they been crossed with the bratts dolls, and that is not a good face to be crossed with.

  • Christina
    March 17th, 2010
    3:47 pm

    I, too, am terrified by these dolls. My distress, however, comes mostly from the tag line on display with these dolls in stores. It reads, “It all starts with a little black dress.” Not an uncommon phrase, but one generally used to connote a sexy evening. In and of itself, not harmful. It’s when we remember that these are dolls, toys for small children, that a tag line connoting sex, sexiness, a life time of dressing up to please someone else becomes a problem. Are we really going to continue marketing sexiness to five year olds? What do we expect of those children by the time they are fifteen. Toys should promote imagination, creativity, a child’s world separate from an adult’s. They should not promote an unrealistic and sexy standard.

  • Beauty v Truth - Busted Halo
    July 27th, 2010
    7:07 am

    [...] to the blog Sociological Images, for highlighting the find from Sarah Barnes at Uplift, an online [...]

Leave a comment