Did you know Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts & she will turn 65 years old, next year? We go back in history to tell you how Barbie came about and what the doll signified…
Back in the day, the first ever Barbie was sold for $3 which then converted into a multi billion dollar pink empire.
For a doll soon to be 65 years old, Barbie hasn’t really aged, has she? Oh of course, silly us, plastic is literally wrinkle proof (no shade). Since past June, the doll has been brought back to life through its live action and is now once again dominating the top trends and is set to annihilate cinemas this Friday. Millennials, Gen Z, boomers, you name it are all calling 2023, the Barbie era! In her long 65 years of career, this doll has been a fashion model, nurse, ballerina, Army medic, astronaut, palaeontologist, dentist, florist, yoga teacher and President of the United States, whew!
Barbie Has An Official Birthday!
If you didn’t know, just like us, Barbie has an actual birthday too – March 9th, 1959 which was the first time Ruth Handler debuted the American doll at the American International Toy Fair! Mattel, the Toy’s maker company was started by Ruth Handler in 1945, her husband Elliot and Matt Matson.
What Inspired Ruth Handler To Create Barbie
Ruth, through personal experiences identified a gap in the market, where she saw her daughter only had the option to play with either a baby doll or one offering to imagine themselves in a care giver’s role. Way ahead of her time, Ruth’s philosophy behind the doll was that a little girl could be anything she wanted to be and that she shall have choices. Over the brand’s 60 odd years, Barbie has empowered girls to imagine themselves in aspirational roles from princess to president.
The design for Barbie came to Ruth while on a family trip to Lucerne, Switzerland when she and her daughter spotted a doll in a toy store. The inspiration came from a doll Bild Lili, a German comic strip character initially marketed towards adults.
Mattel soon bought the rights to Lilli and made their own version: Barbie. Ruth’s goal was a tiny mannequin doll whose clothes could be changed in a jiffy and that paved the way for girls to imagine to be anything they wanted to be.
Based On Her Daughter & Son
Barbie AKA Barbara was based on Ruth Handler’s daughter Barbara Handler who inspired her to create the doll. Later in 1961, Barbie’s boyfriend Ken Carson was introduced, which the creator based on her son Ken Handler, allegedly owing to the over mounting requests in the form of letters for the fashionista doll to have a boyfriend. Ken not only served as Barbie’s arm candy but throughout her career as a movie star, astronaut, and presidential candidate (in movies and cartoons), Ken has been Barbie’s number-one fan and supporter.
Was The Doll Way Ahead Of Her Time?
While many consider Barbie’s relationship with feminism to be debatable, we propose she was in a sense ahead of her time. She lived alone, had her own house and pursued careers rare for women in that time. Barbie was an astronaut in 1968 just a year before the 1st man ever landed on the moon and 5 years after the first woman went to space.
Ruth Handler was the president of the company and as per Robin Gerber, author of Barbie and Ruth: “The Story Of The World’s Most Famous Doll and The Woman Who Created Her” shares Ruth was significantly the embodiment for all what the doll stood for – she believed women could be anything they want, she led charge of the business side of the rising empire in a time where barely any women held executive positions.
2014 Barbie Is Dead?
Then came the doll’s decline, as Barbie continued to lose relevance, its worst possible time was in 2014 when Barbie reached its lowest sales volume in 25 years, subsequently a famous CNN headline read “Is Barbie Dead?”
Amongst various other factors, a substantial one was that the doll depicted beauty standards that weren’t diverse and stopped resonating with consumers as the global landscape changed. The world began questioning and in turn rejecting the thin, white, blue-eyed doll as the ideal beauty standard. It was time Barbie needed a major makeover and Mattel began shaking things up! Barbie’s makeover began with changes in her skin tone, measurements and ethnicities. Barbie’s body was re imagined for the 21st century with 3 versions, a tall, a petite and a curvy version, the doll now signifies different ethnicities and there is even a Hijabi Barbie.
2023 Sees Barbie Making A Comeback?
And now she is getting her new life in “Barbie” the movie, distributed by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. The movie, out next Friday stars Margot Robbie, showcasing Barbie to question her own reality and dip her perfectly pristine toes into human reality.
2023 has seen Barbie reigniting as a cultural pop icon, the live action remake has created global buzz around the doll. It has translated into nostalgia kicking in around the iconic doll over the years, looking up to the doll as a fashion icon, brands collaborating with the brand for fresh merchandise and people like us jogging down memory lane remembering all the movies and cartoons which made growing up with the doll very, very pink and priceless.
Will the hype deter or remain unhinged? If you love Barbie, the movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, the movie is for you too! The moment is a turning point in pop culture and is set to be memorialised for decades.
How very excited are you for the mega release? It feels like more than just a movie releasing but something much greater! An ode to our childhoods or a peek into the future?