Barbie Turns 56

Barbie Turned 56: Hello Barbie Creeps People Out, While Normal Barbie Promotes Positive Body Image

Barbie celebrated her 56th anniversary earlier this week. The iconic doll’s birthday took place on Monday, March 9. Barbie has taken on many jobs in her lifespan, from astronaut to teacher. That hasn’t stopped the doll from creating headlines all week long. She obviously remains a huge part of pop culture, as two versions of the doll has been sparking controversy this past week. Hello Barbie has been creeping out people, especially parents, while Normal Barbie is spreading a body positive image.

Normal Barbie, also known as the Lammily doll, was created to become the anti-Barbie. This doll reportedly has average body proportions. She also comes with body marks and flaws like scars, marks, and natural makeup, says the Huffington Post. The Normal Barbie doll has made her share of controversy over the past few weeks.

The video of Normal Barbie finds the doll on a Miami Beach where other dolls look just like her. This message proves that anyone can wear a bikini.

During an interview with BuzzFeed, the doll’s creator, Nickolay Lamm, explained how the video brings up conversations about body image.

“The message of the video is to do you, to be yourself. I feel that in the doll world, the standards are funny. So, if we can laugh at the standards in the doll world, maybe it will be easier to laugh at them in the real world.”

Lamm said that Normal Barbie is not an anti-Barbie. He just wants young girls to know that it’s okay to not look like a supermodel.

“At the same time, I didn’t want the video to be an anti-other dolls. I want it to show that it’s okay to be skinny. It’s okay to not be skinny. We’re all in this together.”

Some parents and Barbie fans wonder why there would be a need for a Normal Barbie. After all, Barbie is a toy, a figment of children’s imaginations. Meanwhile, Hello Barbie has been causing its share of controversy all week.

Hello Barbie
Photo by MARK LENNIHAN / AP

Hello Barbie listens to a child’s conversation and converses with her just like a real person would. The doll was unveiled in February and already has privacy advocates trying to stop the sales of it. The Barbie doll records the child’s voice using an embedded microphone that’s activated by a button on the doll.

Mattel said at a recent event that the doll would stay up to date with the latest slang and teen trends over a Wi-Fi connection. It would keep the doll “in the know” and part of the conversation. The company said there was a need for this type of doll since “girls want to talk to Barbie.” The last time there was a talking Barbie was in 1992, when the Teen Talk Barbie doll received its share of controversy for saying “Math class is tough.”

Hello Barbie reportedly collects personal information about the child, including its hobbies and pets’ names. As previously mentioned, privacy advocates are trying to a put a stop to the doll. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood advocacy group created a petition to take down Hello Barbie. They fear that the doll could spread sensitive information, such as social security numbers and email passwords.

“Imagine your children playing with a Wi-Fi-connected doll that records their conversations and then transmits them to a corporation which analyses every word to learn all of [the child’s] likes and dislikes. That’s exactly what Mattel’s eavesdropping Hello Barbie will do if it is released this [northern] fall.

Kids using Hello Barbie won’t only be talking to a doll, they’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It’s creepy and creates a host of dangers for children and families.”

Mattel has responded to the controversy in a written statement to the Washington Post. The toy manufacturer said that there’s nothing for parents to be worried about.

“Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards.”

The doll’s voice recording was created by San Francisco startup company ToyTalk. The company said that the recorded conversations may be shared with parents and third party companies, which has caused concern with both parents and privacy groups.

“We may use, transcribe and store such Recordings to provide and maintain the Service, to develop, test or improve speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, and for other research and development or internal purposes.

We may share Recordings with Service Providers who assist us in providing the Service, developing, testing and improving speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, or otherwise conducting research and development.

We may also share feature extracted data and transcripts that are created from such Recordings, but from which any personal information has been removed, with Service Providers or other third parties for their use in developing, testing and improving speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms and for research and development or other purposes.”

ToyTalk then backtracked its controversial comments about Hello Barbie. A spokesperson for the company said that “the data is never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff.”

Barbie has had its share of controversy over the years. It’s been praised for encouraging young girls to follow their dreams. The doll has also been slammed for portraying an unrealistic body image. Ruth Handler, the founder of the doll, said that despite her looks, Barbie portrays a very positive image for all young girls.

“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

It’s no wonder why she’s been a cultural icon for 56 years.

What are your thoughts on the Hello Barbie and Normal Barbie dolls?

Comments