29 Jan 2016

Barbie’s long-awaited make over

Finally toy manufacturers appear to be waking up to the idea that make-believe has got to be a little more believable. Mattel has belatedly tumbled to the potential link between falling sales and its implausibly stick-thin Barbie dolls.

For years, the toy giant had refused to recognise that children, like adults, come in all shapes and sizes. In the real world, a woman as skinny as Barbie probably wouldn’t have enough body fat to menstruate, nor enough space in her teeny tiny frame to accommodate more than half a liver. Now, the thigh-gap has gone, replaced with some far more realistic curves.

And Lego is getting in touch with reality too. After pressure from the #ToyLikeMe campaign by journalist Rebecca Atkinson – herself partially deaf and partially sighted – the world’s biggest toy brand has introduced a figure who uses a wheelchair.

There will no doubt be those who say this smacks of tokenism. But right from the start, the way children play influences how they see the world.

"When I was a child I grew up with hearing aids and I never saw any representation of myself in children's industries:…

Posted by Channel 4 News on Thursday, 28 January 2016

I remember once giving my eldest daughter two different dressing-up outfits for her birthday – a princess dress and a Batman trouser suit. For her party, she got to choose which to wear. And although it was a sweltering hot June day she went for the padded Batman number – while all her friends turned up in full princess regalia.

She never had time for the dainty Barbies, but perhaps the chunkier prototype would have appealed more to her sense – and mine – that girls shouldn’t be fragile little things who couldn’t break into a run without losing a heel or chipping a nail.

But while I hate to look a gift Barbie in the mouth, I think Mattel has got a way to go. Barbie still looks rather, well, Barbie, with lashings of make-up and glossy billowing hair. As for a doll who uses a wheelchair? Chance would be a fine thing.

Actually Barbie once had a disabled friend – “Share a Smile Becky”. But her wheelchair couldn’t actually fit through the door of the Dream House.

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