The Barbie Phenomenon of the 1960s
Tall, skinny, blond, and beautiful Barbie has been a doll, influencing and changing the lives of many young girls for years - The Barbie Phenomenon of the 1960s introduction. Even though she is considered a role model to many, some feminist do not see Barbie as a positive figure to growing girls. Over the past decades Barbie has created an empire of herself, friends, and accessories. Barbie has not only changed the doll world but, toy world also. Being one of the world’s most popular dolls, Barbie created in 1959, has a strong history, has influenced girls in respectable and negative ways, and along with her many accessories and companion dolls has brought a whole new meaning to a doll. Kids had to have the Barbie doll…. it just took off and went wild” (Stone 32).
This was very commonly heard throughout American homes in the 1960s, when Barbie first became a hit. Barbie hit the market in 1959 under the creator Ruth Handler, and the toy company Mattel. When Ruth went to create the doll she did not intend on it being a worldwide success. Ruth got the idea from “Lilli dolls” which where German dolls you could dress up (BB). Handler liked the idea of having a three dimensional Barbie that a child could dress up in high fashion clothing.
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Handler then got together with her husband, Elliot Handler, and family friend Harold Mattson to create the toy company Mattel (Stone 15-17). Mattel was named after the creators of Barbie. In the 1950’s Mattel hired workers to create the ultimate doll. It usually took about fifteen workers to create a single Barbie and in 1959 Barbie hit the market selling for just three dollars (Bellis). From the start when Barbie first hit the market she was very untypical. Not only because she was a new type of three dimensional doll the world had never seen, but her overall dress and figure made her stand out to certain audiences, in good and bad ways.
To many she was considered a great role model for young girls. Barbie was sought out to be independent and career oriented; what many young woman where starting to strive for in the 1960s. ”Barbie has always represented the fact that a woman has choices (Stone 7). ” She gave off many traits showing girl power, telling young girls that they can succeed, and that it was not just a men’s world out there anymore. Many different people were against Barbie, but one group in particular where mothers and feminist. Some mothers and feminist thought Barbie created a bad image for young woman.
They believed Barbie had several bad factors such as her body shape. There have been several experiments on what a real life Barbie would look like. Students at Penn State University found that Barbie’s unrealistic body as a human would stand 6ft tall with a 39 inch bust, 18 inch waist, 33 inch hips, and size three feet (Slayen). Barbie would have a weight of 110 lbs. and not be able to menstruate. Mothers and feminist worried that some children would look up these impossible standards and develop eating disorders, which some Barbie lovers did.
Over the years Barbie has become more thick, but still not realistic. Mothers and feminist also did not like Barbie’s sex appeal and graphic body parts on the dolls when it came to both male and female Barbie’s. Many thought that Barbie was to perfect, she had no blemishes, perfect make up, and big boobs (Wolf). The doll’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts; she was considered a wealthy young woman who lived in Willows, Wi. (Bellis). Barbie and her creators where all about fashion and material needs. Mattel hired fashion designers to design clothes for her, which were fashionable for the time period.
Barbie was not only famous for her in style clothing, but her luxury cars and dream doll houses that every young girl dreamed of having. “Be who you want to be” (Stone, 41) was a major slogan Mattel used to sell Barbie. Young girls could get their Barbie to be almost any job they wanted with over 125 occupations to choose from Barbie, could be anything from a doctor to a race car driver. Barbie’s didn’t only have many different occupations but also came from dozens of countries and cultures around the world (Stone 37-45). In 1961 Ken appeared as Barbie’s boyfriend; Ken and Barbie where both named after Ruth’s two children.
Barbie also has lots of extended friends and family, that is still growing today. In the late 1960’s Barbie started to come with different features; such as eye color and hair color. In 1969 Barbie could be purchased as Hispanic or African American (Bellis). Overall Barbie has created an empire over the past decades with her unique dolls, friends, and accessories. Since 1959, Barbie has a strong history that most toys don’t have and that will kept growing for decades and generations to come. Barbie has set positive and negative influences on young girls with her unrealistic body and independent lifestyle.