Ken Carson, who has been Barbie’s companion for the last several decades, has remained similar-looking for most of his lifespan. While Barbie has come under fire for her unrealistic body image she presents to young girls who play with her, Ken hasn’t quite received the same backlash. Ken, however, like Barbie, presents an archetypal and unrealistic image of the male physique, including chiseled abs and a simple bump where his genitals should be.
After Mattel rolled out a new line of Barbie dolls that was more diverse than they ever have previously created, customers asked where similar Ken dolls were, and Mattel heard their cry. They’ve now released several new Ken dolls with two new body types: slim (as in sans the chiseled abs) and broad (with a slightly doughier middle than the original gym rat Ken. He also has six new hairstyles, including the hipster man bun, and seven different skin tones to ensure that children of all races feel they are being represented while they act out their storylines for Barbie and Ken.
Robert Best, a senior director of Barbie Design, has also revealed that the company plans to add facial hair to their Ken dolls in the near future to add even more diversity to the dolls.
Ken is now also wearing more on-trend pieces, such as plaid shirts, skinny ties, and Buddy Holly-type eyeglasses.
“We are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation,” said Lisa McKnight, who oversees the entire Barbie line.
According to Mattel, the makeover is partially motivated by customers asking for more realistic Ken dolls in addition to more realistic Barbies, but also because the sales for Barbie dolls are starting to fall. It has been reported that they have seen a 13 percent decline in sales from this time last year and assume that children are more interested in their mobile phones and iPads than continuing the time-honored tradition of acting out stories with their dolls.
They hope that Ken’s new makeover will spur an interest in the dolls for this generation of youngsters who seem to be quickly abandoning the dolls.
Some of the new Kens will hit shelves this summer while others will make their way for purchase in time for the holiday season.
[Featured Image by Barbie/Mattel]