Cultural History of Barbie | Arts and Culture

Six Barbie dolls in zebra-striped bathing suits form a synchronized formation in the pool

In 1959, Barbie doll’s first bathing suit was a stylish zebra-striped one-piece.
Photo illustration: David Paris

[RuthHandlerwhoco-foundedMattelwithherhusbandElliottHandlerandHaroldMatsonin1945foundherdaughterBarbaradreamingaboutwhatkindofwomanshewouldbeassheplayedwithpaperdollsShedecidedthatRuthneededasuitabledollonwhichthegirlscouldprojecttheirhighestaspirations(AnalternateversionofthisoriginstorywasinspiredbyanadultnoveltydollRuthsawwhilevacationinginSwitzerland)RuthnamedthedollBarbieafterherdaughterof[1945年に夫のエリオットハンドラー、ハロルドマトソンとともにマテル社を共同設立したルースハンドラーは、娘のバーバラが紙人形で遊びながら、自分がどんな女性になるかを夢見ていることに気づきました。ルースは、女の子たちが自分たちの最高の願望を投影できる適切な人形が必要だと判断しました。(この起源の物語の別のバージョンでは、ルースはスイスで休暇中に見た大人のノベルティ人形からアイデアを得ました。)ルースはその人形を娘の名前にちなんでバービーと名付けました。のfirst model was exhibited at the annual toy fair in New York City in March 1959.

In the first Barbie TV ad that aired that same year, a woman sing From a young girl’s point of view, she promises that one day she will be like a Barbie doll. “Until then, I know what to do. Barbie, beautiful Barbie, make me believe it’s you.”

Despite toy industry naysayers who said no one wanted to play with a doll with breasts, Barbie, with her slim waist and ever-idealized figure, was became a global phenomenon. 300,000 Barbie dolls were sold in the first year. The toy quickly became popular and she needed her own entourage. In 1961, Barbie had a boyfriend, Ken. It was named after the son of the Handler family, oddly enough. In 1963 she gave birth to her best friend Midge and in 1964 her sister Skipper. In 2021, Mattel has shipped over 86 million dolls from the world of Barbie. This equates to about 164 dolls per minute. From the beginning, Barbie has aimed to empower young girls to dream. Puppets are as materialistic as they are idealistic, offering a peculiarly American fantasy at a price.

Barbie quickly became the center of cultural and political conversations, often scandalizing critics across the political spectrum. Barbie doll has adopted a progressive attitude. In the same year as the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Mattel introduced Christie, a black doll in a mod bathing suit. However, many activists disputed the doll. During a women’s strike for equality in New York City in 1970, some marchers yelled, “I’m not a Barbie doll!”

Black toy barbie blended with female real hair in photo illustration

A digital collage featuring Barbie dolls from plastic bodya 2013 series by photo artist Sheila Puri Bright.

Photo illustration: Sheila Pree Bright

Even though it was precarious, Barbie was pushing towards equality. Although part of the expanded Barbie world, Christie wasn’t a Barbie herself, but in 1980 Mattel introduced the first Black Her Barbie. design By Kitty Black Perkins. Her box read: she is pretty! She’s dynamite! By 1985, Barbie had entered the male-dominated corporate world, and she wore a pink power suit that took her from the boardroom to a night on the town. Then in 1992, ironically, the same year that Teen Talk Barbie mechanically remarked, “Math class is hard!” In 2010, Barbie took aim at the executive branch as “Barbie for the President.” Red, blue and silver gowns. (She has run in every presidential election since.) According to Mattel, the Barbie doll has more than 250 careers in her career, and her amazing career is now on the run for the upcoming presidential campaign. is advertised in barbie movie.

“My philosophy with Barbie was that through a doll, a girl could be anything she wanted to be,” Ruth wrote in her 1994 autobiography. “Barbie has always represented the fact that women have choices.”

Families like the Handler family had unique ways of navigating identity choices. Handlers was Jewish, at a time when many American Jews were struggling with ambivalence about their assimilation into the United States, while still seeking a fine balance between staying true to their roots and a sense of security as Americans. , developed this doll. In fact, in a short documentary from 2005, tribetakes Barbie and Ruth Handler as examples of the contradictions American Jews continue to overcome, saying, “Ruth brought this Aryan ideal of beauty,” says the narrator, “and achieved the American Dream.”

Of course, even as Mattel released more diverse models that represented civil rights and feminism, original beauty ideals still dominated. “Everybody knows that the real Barbie doll is white with blond hair,” said Elizabeth Chin, an anthropologist and professor at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. , and the traditional blonde Barbie doll continues to compete with more diverse Barbie dolls. That includes the plumper model that Mattel introduced in his 2016 as an expression of body positivity.

But once out of the box, Barbie dolls can be anything — and while many of today’s Barbie dolls still project unattainable notions of beauty, scholars and therapists say children often use Barbie dolls in surprising ways that don’t necessarily fit the packaging. Chin noted videos he saw on YouTube showing Barbie tricking Ken with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and wearing a wedding dress made out of toilet paper. According to Chin, children “often deviate from the script in very interesting ways and can be very provocative or very thoughtful.”

And even though she’s a throwback to femininity, Barbie has always hinted at the future, too. After all, the American woman didn’t get to space until Sally Ride did in 1983, but she didn’t make it to space until 1965 when the Barbie astronaut made her first appearance. Ultimately, Astronaut Barbie became an astronaut icon. But first she showed us what it was.

He started out as Barbie’s sidekick.Over time he became a man himself
By Chris Klimek

Various Ken toy dolls in different costumes

Provided by: Mattel

It was in 1961 when Barbie co-starred with him that he had a fateful encounter. TV commercial. Since then, Ken (whose full name is Ken Carson) has served as her longtime on-and-off lover, astronaut, multi-sport Olympian, soda jerk, dog trainer, dentist and rap rock star. Of course, Ken has to be a Renaissance man to keep up with Barbie dolls. These are just a few of his many lifetimes.


Introduced as Barbie’s boyfriend at that year’s toy fair, the 12-inch tall doll (half an inch taller than Barbie) had a molded plastic coif and was ready for underwater adventures. : Ken ’61 has sandals, a yellow beach towel, and stylish red swim trunks.

super star ken
In the midst of the disco fever, this dance floor dynamo was touted as “easier to pose than ever”. She was wearing a bright blue jumpsuit with bell bottoms. Some versions came with a human-scale “sparkling superstar ring” that kids could accessorize like Ken.

Sunsational Malibu Ken

There were three ethnicities in this model. It’s the Caucasian version with blonde hair and blue eyes. A black version of a tall afro. And the Hispanic version came out shortly after. The Black Sensational Ken in particular is a rarity and a favorite among Barbie collectors.

earrings magic ken

Mattel created Ken’s new look based on a survey of young girls who said they wanted Ken to look cooler. This result, incidentally, was considered the first gay Ken. Controversy soon ensued, however, and despite its popularity, Mattel discontinued the doll.

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