Barbie was introduced to North America in March 1959. Barbie dolls have been a beloved childhood companion, for multiple generations of girls.
Barbie and Ken dolls are diverse ages, cultures, and even occupations. Sometimes new Barbie dolls are created to look like pop culture icons and sometimes they are made to resemble those who work certain professions, take doctor or office worker for example.
Mattel Inc. the creators and designers of Barbie dolls, try very hard, to maintain their nostalgic appeal, while catering to the next generation of Barbie doll consumers. Some of their attempts have been successful, and others have been straightforwardly offensive. If you’ve ever heard Aqua’s song Barbie Girl, or grew up playing with Barbies, we guarantee you’ll thoroughly appreciate our list of the 11 most offensive Barbie dolls of all time.
11. Hello Barbie
Mattel created a Barbie doll called Hello Barbie, which records children’s voices, listens to them, and stores the information it has collected. The problem is that Mattel can very easily use what children say on these recordings to figure out what children do, and don’t like. Fortunately Hello Barbie has not yet been released, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t already angered consumers.
10. Black Canary Barbie
We apologize in advance, DC Comics fans. Turns out Mattel created a Barbie, that’s meant to look like DC Comics character Black Canary and some of the things that consumers had to say about her are sadly accurate. One of the comments being that Black Canary Barbie looks less like a ‘superheroine’ and more like a ‘street-walker’. Oh boy, we can just imagine what kind of outfit they will come up with for the next superhero Barbie.
9. Teen Pregnancy Barbie
Midge is the teen edition of Barbie. One day Mattel had this crazy idea to create a Barbie set featuring Midge, called Happy Family. Happy Family features a Midge doll, that has a plastic belly, with a baby inside her. It also features her offspring, and Barbie and Ken dolls, that come with hospital scrubs. In other words: Happy Family is a Barbie set that encourages teen pregnancy, amongst young, impressionable children. Apparently Midge has a wedding ring on her finger though.
8. Growing Up Skipper
In 1975 Mattel created a Barbie doll called Growing Up Skipper, which grew when her waist was rotated. Not only does she grow vertically but the true source of controversy is the fact that her breasts double in size. In 2007 Mattel created a version of Growing Up Skipper, called Growing Up Glam dolls. Just like Skipper, Growing Up Glam dolls grow vertically and their breasts double in size, although there are two key differences: the updated, decade-appropriate wardrobe, and she grows via a switch on her back.
7. Teen Talk Barbie
In the early 1990s Mattel released Teen Talk Barbie, which got taken off shelves, after multiple groups protested, because they claimed the doll was an offensive female stereotype. It said 270 things, and examples include: “math is hard”, and “will we ever have enough clothes?”Not the best role models for little girls, which discourage female ambition and intelligence, it is no wonder these dolls were taken off the shelf pretty quick.
6. Mexican Barbie
This doll is an inevitable contender for this list because Mattel managed to create a doll that portrays Mexican culture in the most stereotypical fashion possible. The first ever-Mexican Barbie had a Chihuahua, and wore a Fiesta dress, and when they were critiqued for portraying offensive stereotypes, it was redesigned. Number two is even worse, and features a Barbie in a sombrero and Mariachi outfit, which takes the stereotype a step further. The Mexican edition is part of Mattel’s Dolls Of The World, which is intended to promote multicultural acceptance and awareness amongst young girls; instead it reinforces popular stereotypes.
5. Slumber Party Barbie
There’s nothing offensive, or controversial about Barbie attending a sleepover. The accessories that came with Mattel’s 1965 edition of the Slumber party Barbie are what make the Slumber Party Barbie doll so controversial and offensive. Slumber Party Barbie comes with a book called How To Lose Weight with the words “don’t eat” written on it, and a pink scale that’s permanently set to 110 lbs. The slumber party Barbie was one of two Barbie sets released, which came with these accessories The Babysitting Barbie came with the exact same accessories, which allowed Mattel to design a Barbie that encouraged eating disorders at sleepovers and babysitting gigs.
Barbie dolls became a lot more inclusive when they introduced Becky, their first ever wheelchair Barbie. Unfortunately Becky doesn’t fit in the Barbie dream house’s elevator, and there’s no ramp to help her get in, and out of the house. Nice try Mattel, but if Becky can’t fit inside the Barbie Dream House’s elevator, and you can’t even design a ramp for her you’re not being inclusive enough.
3. Video Girl Barbie
Video Girl Barbie has a built in video camera in her chest, which made consumers worried about what message this was sending to their kids. What if kids everywhere were given this Barbie and thought they wanted to be just like her? That would be cool if Mattel didn’t give this Barbie with built in video camera, the same name as women who wear nothing but bikinis, while dancing in music videos. Perhaps Mattel should of called her Filmmaker Barbie, or Camerawoman Barbie instead. Barbies have been called negative role models for little girls, and this is a great example of where this assumption comes from.
2. Illegal Immigrant Barbie
Although this Barbie wasn’t designed by Mattel, and is pure satire it’s a perfect candidate for the offensive Barbie dolls list, which deserves an honourable mention. Illegal immigrant Barbie is one of six Barbie parodies by writer Janet Eve Joesseyln.
Joesseyln created these parodies, in order to come up with ideas for Barbies that more accurately reflect life in the 21st century; instead she perpetuated offensive, two-dimensional stereotypes. Illegal Immigrant Barbie is pregnant, and is carrying a shopping cart full of kids that clearly don’t have the same daddy, and booze, while smoking a cigarette. This one is still talked about today.
1. Plus Sized Barbie
Plussizedbarbie.com posted an image of a plus sized Barbie, with good intentions, and a great question about toys aimed at young girls: “should heavier dolls be marketed to children?” The real problem: the image was an exaggerated representation of what the average plus sized woman looks like. It has a triple chin, and instead of celebrating a healthy, plus sized woman’s appearance,many felt that this Barbie reinforced stereotypical perceptions of plus-sized women.