Barbie and the Obsession to Look Like a Doll

BarbieThe Barbie doll was officially placed on the market in 1959 by Ruth Handler of Mattel. She named the doll after her daughter, Barbara. In 1961, Ken was invented and was named after her son, Ken. The Barbie doll was developed based on the Bild Lilli doll which Handler saw in Germany, even though the Lilli doll was not directed towards children, but to adult men. She would carry tag lines such as whether she had clothes on or not she could be discreet. The obsession of looking like a Barbie doll is just not realistic as a woman would have to have the curves of an anorexic teen to mirror the doll. Barbie’s measurements would be 38-18-34 if she was real. Many have the obsession to look like a doll and to become the ultimate Barbie, but it is probably not possible without cosmetic alteration.

In 2006, a study was done in the U.K. on children aged five to eight by three psychology professors, and the results were somewhat astounding. The children were exposed to a doll called Emmeline who is a size 16, a Barbie doll, or no doll at all (for a baseline). 162 children then did assessments of body image. The professors noticed that those exposed to the Barbie doll had a lower self-esteem and a larger desire to be thin versus the girls who were not exposed to Barbie. This indicated that when they become older they could possibly develop an obsession to look like an Barbie doll.  Although the oldest girls in the group did not seem to experience a huge negative impact, the study proved that exposure to the Barbie doll made these girls have an unrealistic idea of what a thin body is, which could later lead to eating disorders and weight cycling.

In 2010, reality star Heidi Montag underwent 10 plastic surgery procedures at the tender age of 23. In several interviews she has claimed that she just wants to be like Barbie, but the obsession to look and act like a Barbie doll may not be the only one to blame. Today’s media often shows surgically altered girls while making the audience think  they naturally look that way, which could also have an effect on the mentality of a young woman or child. The rate of eating disorders has been climbing since the 1950s. This not only coincides with Barbie’s release, but also TV, which was becoming popular at the time.

Now with the live action Barbie movie in the works, there may be many more women who will become obsessed with looking like a Barbie doll. According to Kim Culmone, vice president of design at Mattel, the Barbie doll was never designed to be realistic. It was designed so that the clothing and accessories could be put on and taken off easily. Of course, Mattel claims the way girls view the body has nothing to do with the Barbie doll. Some experts believe it is the mother’s fault that daughters have the view they do, but there is a small percentage that disagrees with that theory. A more popularized belief is that it is a mixture of both, as when a mother tells her child she is beautiful but then turns around and calls herself fat. This is a very heated debate and does not look to be coming to an end any time in the near future.

Opinion by Heather Tillman


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