TURNING BACK THE CLOCK
BY SABRINA LEE
Box office records have been obliterated with the new Barbie movie raking in over 1 billion dollars, and with that has come a new interest and surge in the doll itself.
Young viewers are being introduced to the brand, and us old folks are reminiscing and digging through our storage units to find our old dolls. It is estimated that leading up to and after the movie’s release there has been a 25% increase in the Barbie brand’s value.
Barbie was founded by Ruth Handler in 1959 after seeing her daughter project her dreams and aspirations onto fashion with her paper dolls. At the time, baby dolls were the only similar product on the market. On a trip to Europe in 1956, Ruth and her daughter spotted a doll in a window shop named Bild Lilli. Bild Lilli was based on a German comic strip of a secretary that pursued rich men in provocative poses and clothes. The attraction for Ruth was that she was an adult looking doll with real curves and long legs, perfect for a fashion doll. Ruth tweaked the doll to have less sexual appeal after doing test groups with little girls and their mothers. She was able to sell the idea to her coworkers at Mattel, a company which she co-created in 1945. Production was done in Japan, due to the cheaper costs, and in 1959, Barbie made her debut as the premier fashion doll for little girls.
I played with Barbies as a child in the 80’s and 90’s and even collected them in the early 2000’s. I probably have over 300 Barbies in storage, melted by the intense heat trapped within the unit. But I can remember anytime we went to the mall, I begged to go into FAO Schwartz and look at the collector dolls in the big glass cases with their dresses puffed out. The Barbie dolls of my youth are not the Barbie dolls of today.
The company has transformed the doll to represent girls/ women of all ethnic backgrounds, shapes, and sizes. But at its core, the purpose of the Barbie Doll has stayed the same. It is meant to empower little girls to encourage, dream, and to teach them that they can be anything they want to be.