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Controvery Over Barbie Essay

2929 words - 12 pages

American culture has been impacted by an icon that has survived through four decades of political, social and cultural changes. Despite her age, she still wears short skirts, has a tiny waist, enormous breasts, and a flawless airbrushed smile. She is the classic white, blond standard-bearer of fake beauty that was born to Ruth and Elliot Handler and her name is Barbie Millicent Roberts. Barbie is one of the most influential icons in society and has left numerous children, particularly girls, with a false idea of how they should appear to society and enforces gender roles and negative stereotypes.Barbie was created by Ruth Handler with the original thought of creating a doll for her child, Barbara, which could replace paper dolls. Ruth dreamt of a doll with an adult-shaped body because only then could her daughter indulge in her imagination and act out a life as an adult. Ms. Handler actually stole the design of the doll from a pornographic cartoon woman who was seen in a German comic strip and sold as a sort of "three-dimensional pinup" (Lord 8). The original model was created by Max Weissbrodt and her name was "Bild Lilli" (Lord 26). She was intended to be bought by older men and not young girls. Of course, Ruth wanted to change the "Lilli" image, consequently moving away from the pornographic model towards one that could relate better to the youth of America.The idea of an adult doll was not accepted well by Mattel initially because it was not seen as a cost effective expenditure. Therefore, the idea was taken to Japan where Kokusai Boekim, KBK, (a Japanese toy maker) made Ruth's dream a reality. Numerous changes occurred to the original Lilli model, making the doll appear more American and wholesome. As a result, the model that became Barbie was simply a Lilli doll whose nipples were filed off, heels were arched, and had a slightly different mouth (Lord 30). Once Barbie became a reality, it became necessary that someone would have to create her apparel. For this, Ruth Handler and her husband Elliot turned towards the American fashion designer, Charlotte Johnson, who also put her own touches to the adult doll. Barbie was at last presented to the public in 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City by Ruth and Elliot Handler. Initially, the doll did not take off, but within one year few toy stores could keep her in stock. (Lord 30-43)Barbie has molded to the times in order to keep up in the toy business. Barbie has also become universally recognized partly because of her association with recognizable brands, such as McDonald's, Baywatch, Jeep, and Lee jeans (Riddick). Through her attachment to culturally specific ideas and pictures, Barbie becomes part of them. People will familiarize themselves with both images together, as one increases in popularity the other follows.Barbie is now a 1.9 billion-dollar-per-year industry and is marketed in more than 140 countries worldwide (Adios Barbie.com). Barbie is one of the best-selling toys in the...

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