Can Barbie Get Real?
For many years I wrote and spoke about body image and I had a few Barbie Dolls that traveled with me. During my speeches, I would hold them up and say, “I believe these dolls set a standard for perfection that is unattainable for any human and gives your young daughters the wrong idea about beauty.” I stated, “Barbie is mass produced and is stamped by Mattel, but you are fashioned by God, a designer original. I strongly discouraged the ladies from buying Barbies for their children.
Tonya Speaking on Body Image in 2005
Interviewers referred to me as “anti-Barbie.”
Fast forward a decade, Barbie and I went on to other careers. Her more than me. Recently, while cleaning out the attic, we came across a box of my speaking props. My granddaughters who, not surprisingly, had never been encouraged to play with Barbie, looked at me with saucer sized eyes and asked, “Grandma, why do YOU have Barbies?” and “Can we play with them?”
In the box, along with the traditional Barbies, was a “grandma” Barbie doll complete with crow’s feet, reading glasses, a larger waist and sensible shoes.
Barbie is getting a second chance at my house and Getting Real!
As my granddaughters played, I listened in on their game of make-believe and laughed as Grandma Barbie, sounding just like me, asked, “Who’s hungry?” “Who wants candy?” and “Do you want a dollar?” I told the girls. “I’ve seen in the news that Mattel has made Barbies that look more like real people, so…”
“Let’s try and find a doll to represent each person in our family.”
Our Barbie search turned into a plastic version of Finding Your Roots. Our vintage Grandpa doll was an eBay purchase and came from Los Angeles just like their real-ife Grandpa. After a fresh haircut, he was good to go.
Our Search continued… “Made-To-Move Barbie for your mother?” I asked the girls while shopping online.
“This can be Aunt Lindsay!” they said holding up a beautiful doll from the thrift store.“Where else can you purchase a relative for just $3.99?” I asked them. Her husband is the Happy Family Alan Barbie Doll.
“Grandma, this looks just like Uncle Jeremy.”
He came from the Swap Meet.
“Man-bun Barbie doesn’t look enough like Uncle Zac.” They lamented.
“We can use paint to add a beard,” I told them.
“Perhaps a thin sharpie will work for adding tattoos. I’m not sure how to add a nose ring, though.”
Fortunately for us, Zachary came for a visit
and helped us tattoo the man-bun Barbie.
Our search for Long Lost Family continued as we found aunts on Amazon, Uncles at garage sales, cousins on eBay, and clothes for our naked relations on Etsy. I was extremely happy to find choices of Barbies with various skin-tones, hair colors, and body types.
Mattel’s new Barbies are a better reflection of what my grandchildren see when they are in a crowd. Not a perfect reflection of everyday people, but so much more realistic than the original teenage fashion model Barbie. Sometimes in life, there are second chances and Barbie is getting one at my house. Apparently, friends CAN be bought and we are working on that.
We started an Instagram account, Grandma Gets Real, so we can share our recreated family scenes using our new Barbies.