Barbie has plastic surgery

The other day my daughter and I were looking at the newspaper when she remarked on an advertisement for Barbie, the quintessential girl’s doll. “Look at Barbie’s legs; they are sooooo thin.”

1970 Barbies

barbie 1970Of course, like any good father I have bought my share of Barbies over the years. Perhaps I had not paid the same amount of attention to them as my daughter, but I had seen enough of their arms, legs and heads strewn around the room to internalize an idea of what Barbie looks like. My daughter was right—this Barbie was not the same.

New Barbie dolls

The legs of the new Barbie are closer to matchsticks than the previous attempts at representing the human form. There are minimal curves in the doll’s outline and, in the name of a more “multi-jointed” doll, form has been subjugated to function, itself a maxim of plastic surgery. But then again, this is a doll.
In 2009, Christian Louboutin, a French designer, was brought on to design the new Barbie. His main concern was that the original Barbie had ankles that were too fat, and he set about thinning them and moved on up the legs! That is how we ended up with an iconic figure to which many pre-teen girls aspire and model themselves on. The controversy continues, and all sorts are up in arms. Mattel, the maker of the doll, has issued the usual “Barbie is not made to human proportions.” One study I saw on the internet actually measured the height-to-waist ratio of Barbie (the waist of Barbie has for years been considered too small for her physique) to prove that the doll was in good normal proportions. I tell you now: the legs are too skinny.

2010 Barbie

barbiePsychology and Barbie

Why all this fuss about a doll? Because research shows that we are subconsciously affected by the body forms we are presented with as being “normal.” We then internalize these forms and proceed to judge ourselves and others based on these “norms.”
We are getting fatter and larger on a global basis—not necessarily a good thing. When presented with images and toys of people at the extremes of thinness, we place unachievable goals in our heads as to what we should physically aspire to. That creates a psychological tension that is unhealthy. All of this from looking at Barbie! Who would have thought?!