Dolls are one of the most favorite toys for girls of all ages. They come in different shapes and forms often very different country by country. However, one of them is known and sold all around the world: Barbie dolls. To own one of these “American” dolls is dream of many girls for over fifty years. A toy in childhood can become hobby or even obsession in adult life. For all Barbie lovers from age 1 to 100 is prepared a permanent exhibition more than 1 200 Barbie dolls and over 3 000 accessories in the Dolls Land Gallery in Prague. Barbie dolls are interesting phenomena and can be seen in many different connotations. That is why I decided to visit this exhibition and analyze several aspects that are connected to this extraordinary toy.
1950s – Barbie was born
The first Barbie doll was introduced in 1959 by her inventor Ruth Handler. Barbie looked different than other dolls at that time. It was not a baby or a little girl. It was grown-up woman. She wore black and white swimsuit and was either blonde or brunet. The doll became popular very quickly. About 350,000 of the dolls were sold in the first year.
It was no coincidence that this kind of doll was created and had such a big success at the end of 1950s and 1960s. If we look at the U.S. society at that time, we could see some interesting parallels. The social role of women has changed after World War II. They were not needed in industry anymore and they needed to give up their jobs so that men that came back from the war had place to work. The ideal woman at that time was “feminine woman”. That meant that woman should not fight for their political rights, they should not try to get good education and to be successful. Their life mission should be to take care of their husbands and children. The dream for young women (and even girls from the age of twelve or thirteen) was to find a husband. And they would sacrifice their education because they were afraid that it would be disadvantage in the “husband market”. The women even starve themselves to look as models in magazines so men would like them better. Women lost their individuality and independence. They were afraid to do anything different than the others; they tried to fit in, to fulfill their role as good wives and mothers. To keep family together and happy was their only goal. However, this was not the reality of the whole society. This is the white, middle-class and suburban woman stereotype.
We can see the “feminine woman” ideal also in other popular culture forms: in Disney animated movies. We can see the idealized female characters, which fulfill this stereotype: good caregivers and household managers, beautiful and even sexy (but not obviously sexy). They were often rescued from dangerous situation by their prince charming and settle to family life. On the other hand these heroines demonstrate that there is more to them than this good housewife stereotype. They are brave, assertive and individualist.
I would say that Barbie...