Before this digital age of iPads, tablets and other handheld electronic devices, there were Easy Bake Ovens, Polly Pockets and the classic Barbie Doll.
Barbie, a Mattel product, has dominated the toy scene for over 50 years. During this long stride of success, Barbie has impacted girls worldwide; even inspiring the 1997 song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. Each Barbie doll release is unique and sought after by collectors around the world. But with much success comes great responsibility. Throughout the years, Mattel has unarguably released Barbie dolls which were not received well among consumers. With that being said, it may come as little surprise to learn that the sale of Barbie has declined in recent years. The age demographic of Barbie (which was three to nine years old) is now three to six. Kids are putting down the toys and are picking up the more favored electronic devices instead. However, after reading about which dolls made this list, it is probably best that little kids do not pick these Barbies up anyway.
10. Oreo Barbie
In 1997, Mattel partnered with Nabisco Oreo Cookies and introduced the Oreo Fun Barbie. To reach out to a more broad racial market, Mattel decided to release a White doll and a Black one. But to Mattel’s dismay, catering to a more diverse market in this go-round would come back to bite them in the butt. The Black version stirred much controversy among critics, claiming that the term ‘Oreo’ was a derogatory term to describe a Black girl; meaning that she is Black on the outside, but White on the inside–just like the cookie. The doll did not sell well at all and was recalled, but was well sought after by collectors.
9. Midge Hadley
Although pregnancy is a beautiful thing a woman may experience in her lifetime, something about playing with a pregnant doll as a young girl just seems kind of weird. What better way to embrace youth and pregnancy than by introducing Midge Hadley (aka Pregnant Barbie). Hadley was first introduced as Barbie’s best friend in 1963. The doll had red hair, freckles and blue eyes. Hadley also had a bun in the oven with long-time boyfriend Alan Sherwood. The couple had three children named Ryan, Nikki and Cassandra and were known as The Happy Family line. Sadly, this happy family did not receive happy reviews. Parents believed that this Barbie was too controversial because of her age. After much backlash, Mattel decided to make the Barbie doll more children-friendly by reintroducing her again in 2013; this time without children and no relation to Alan Sherwood.
8. Teen Talk Barbie
As if Barbie didn’t already reinforce the controversial skinny, blonde hair and blue-eyed standard of beauty among young girls, Mattel decided to up the ante by downplaying Barbie’s intelligence by releasing Teen Talk Barbie, in 1992. With its release, each doll was designed to say four out of 270 unique phrases such as: “I love shopping!” and “Wanna have a pizza party?”. The American Association of University Women caught wind of this doll because of a peculiar phrase: “Math class is tough”. The American Association of University Women believed that this phrase mimicked the fact that schools shortchange girls across the world. Mattel did not issue a recall on the doll but did offer to swap out the doll for one that did not say that particular phrase.
7. Tattoo Barbie
Traditionally, tattoos have always told a story. They can describe a wild, crazy night or they can be more personal by commemorating a loved one. Apparently, Barbie had a story to tell with her lower back tattoo when she was introduced in 2009, as Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie. Perhaps Mattel forgot that their target audience consisted of girls under the age of being able to get a tattoo. Although they were just temporary tattoos which kids could apply on themselves, Ed Mayo, chief executive of Consumer Focus, believed that this doll inspired children to get actual tattoos. Luckily for Barbie, there are ways to reverse those embarrassing tattoos now.
6. Growing Up Skipper Barbie
As we all know, little girls eventually grow into young women. Mattel took this into account when they released their Growing Up Skipper Barbie version, in 1975. The doll was featured as Barbie’s little sister. What stirred a majority of the controversy among parents was the fact that pubescent Skipper’s breasts grew when her arm was rotated to represent her growing from a young girl to a teenager. Mattel pulled this doll from the shelves and reintroduced her again in 1979, with a new image which featured smaller, permanent breasts.
5. Sleepytime Gal Barbie
When you think of slumber parties, you may think of gossip, movies, pampering and all of the junk food. However, that was not exactly the case when Mattel released their 1965 Slumber Party Barbie. The doll came with a pink satin pajama set, pink curlers and a scale set to only 110 lbs. Critics complained that the scale was too unrealistic given Barbie’s translated real-life height. But what was the icing on this cake was a book which was also included with the doll—a book titled: How To Lose Weight, with one simple direction: Don’t Eat! Don’t eat? Wow, some slumber party!
4. Share A Smile Becky
You can’t win for losing and that is exactly what happened when Mattel released its first handicapped doll, Becky who was in a wheelchair. Although it was a step in the right direction as far as consumer inclusiveness goes, many were upset at the fact that Becky’s hair was too long and would get caught in the wheels of her wheelchair. Mattel tweaked the doll a little bit and made her wheelchair smaller and hair shorter. However, some were still not satisfied. A 17-year-old high school student with cerebral palsy complained that Becky’s wheelchair did not fit in Barbie’s Dream House elevator. You can’t please everybody and that is probably why Mattel decided to just completely discontinue the doll instead of remodeling Barbie’s house, cars and other accessories to accommodate one doll.
3. Black Canary Barbie
There are two sides to every person and Barbie let us know that her girl-next-door persona was too good to be true in 2008, as Black Canary Barbie. The doll was featured wearing fish net stockings, a leather jacket and darker makeup than she normally wore. Moms dubbed this doll as the S&M Barbie and felt Black Canary Barbie was much too inappropriate for children. Some parents believed that the doll encouraged young girls to grow up too quickly. The doll did not sell well, given the criticism and sexual image (as you might have assumed).
2. Barbie Video Girl
As any business knows, you have to get with the times of the new digital age. Mattel certainly got the memo with their 2010 Barbie, Video Girl Doll. However they also received plenty of backlash from the FBI. The doll came with a video camera in her chest which allowed the recording of videos up to 30 minutes long and could be uploaded to a computer with a USB cord. Although no definitive evidence was found, the FBI believed that the doll could be used to produce child p***ography. Despite the stigma associated with the doll, it sold quite well in stores.
1. Sports Illustrated Barbie
If there is one thing you can’t deny about Barbie, it is that she has worn many hats throughout her over five decade long career. She has been an astronaut, a scientist and even president! Her success does not stop there, however. In 2014, Barbie made her appearance on the swimsuit edition of Sport’s Illustrated. The front page describes Barbie as the doll that started it all. Some critics argued that she was undeserving of the cover due to the fact that she is not a real person. Others argued that this solidified the unrealistic standards that media imposes among young girls. For Barbie, a doll that is played with by millions of young girls worldwide, to be associated with models who are photo-shopped to depict ‘perfection’ was not the best idea. In the midst of the controversy, Barbie responded with the hashtag “unapologetic”.
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