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Happy Birthday Barbie

March 4, 2009

 

A pop culture icon turns 50 this week…although you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. I have to admit, I was never a Barbie girl. My poor father built me a fabulous Barbie house…with an elevator, a recording studio and a roof top pool. And that Barbie house served as an excellent book shelf in my childhood years, with the poor dolls suffocating in shoe boxes underneath my bed.

 

Now, as an insight specialist, I find her quite fascinating. From doll to pop culture icon, taking a look at Barbie’s long list of careers over the years provides such a unique window into the world of women – or at least what Mattel perceived to be the world of women at those times.

 

And so in honor of her birthday, I am sharing some fun Barbie facts.

  • Despite the fact that she’s 50 years old, Barbie just got her first bellybutton in 2000.
  • Slumber Party Barbie of 1965 came with your very own “How to Lose Weight” book. One of the tips included was “don’t eat.”
  • Barbie’s first career was as a teen model. She has had over 108 careers in her life.
  • Barbie’s newest career is a Fashion Magazine Intern. Could this be a reflection of the massive popularity of MTV’s The Hills and The City?
  • Most recently, the Barbie icon is being used in an advertising campaign by Active Life Movement to fight teen obesity.
  • Barbie is on twitter.
  • Barbie has gone head-to-head with Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson- Hollywood’s hottest starlets- in People magazine’s “Who Wore It Best?” section.
  • The first Barbie was $3. In mint condition, the same one is worth $27,450 today.
  • Barbie and her friends come in seven different skin tones and seven different hair colors.
  • The best selling Barbie doll ever was Totally Hair Barbie, with hair from the top of her head to her toes.
  • The military series of Barbie dolls, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps went through approvals by the Pentagon to ensure the most realistic costumes.
  • Barbie Goes to College was introduced in 1964.

 

My question is – is life reflecting art? Or art reflecting life? Is Barbie on the pulse of popular culture – or so powerful now that she can direct popular culture?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heidi permalink
    March 5, 2009 12:49 pm

    The 1994 “math class is tough” debacle would suggest that Mattel is not exactly with the marketing times.

    My favorite two tidbits about Barbie are that she was created by a woman, and that if she were life-size, her proportions would make it impossible for her to walk upright.

    There’s an impassioned discussion about the latter here: http://msgboard.snopes.com/message/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/47/t/000457/p/1.html

    And some fun facts about Barbie’s anatomical limitations here:
    http://www.vanderbilt.edu/wellnesscenter/barbie.html

  2. MelissaHamilton permalink
    March 5, 2009 3:30 pm

    I think Barbie is a reflection now-a-days . . . where in times past she may have been a bit more of the driving influence.

    Unfortunately I think today’s influencer is Bratz.

  3. March 6, 2009 8:32 pm

    I think the chronicles of Barbie – her life and society’s reaction to her – is a reflection more than a driving influence. In my opinion, it’s a reflection of how Moms see the future for their daughters. As possibilities expanded for women, dreams for their daughters followed. And toys had to keep up. The backlash on some Mattel Barbie efforts that Heidi refers to matters because Moms who buy Barbies want their daughters to be confident about Math and go on to exciting careers. Barbie became ethnically diverse because Moms from different cultures wanted their daughters to feel beautiful. I had Barbies going up. I cut off all of their hair and tortured them and made them do inappropriate things with Ken. Eventually, my mother bought me that chemistry set I asked for.

  4. March 20, 2009 9:54 am

    Happy 50th Birthday Barbie! (but who’s counting?)

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