A pretty blonde California girl sitting in her bedroom talking to her camera doesn’t exactly sound like a new and interesting concept for a vlog, but there is something a little different about it when that girl is Barbara Roberts… also known as Barbie. Yes, that Barbie. She has a video blog now, and I think that it’s totally worth watching.
Considering that Mattel was initially reluctant to allow Barbie to appear in Toy Story because they didn’t want her to be given a set personality (they wanted each child who played with the doll to be able to imagine what Barbie is like for themselves), the Barbie we meet in the vlogs is brimming with life and personality. She likes English and Chemistry, she’s learning Mandarin and how to code in C++, and she played Mustardseed in a production of a A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Barbie talks about life in Malibu with her sisters (Skipper, Stacie and Chelsea), how much she admires Mae Jemison, playing Portal (she even cosplayed as GLaDOS) and her firmly held belief that ‘a positive attitude changes everything’.
“These are the sort of necessary, nuanced and relatable messages we rarely see in media that is predominantly pitched at children and preteens.”
In her most recent video she addresses people saying upsetting things and passing it off as a joke: “They get away with being mean or maybe not taking responsibility for their actions, because somehow by making it a joke it makes it less hurtful”.
Barbie even admits that it’s been on her mind because she did it to Skipper, and she felt “like [she] took her power and her voice away”. But what is most admirable and reassuring about this vlog is the way that she concludes it by resolving to better herself and call out other people when they make hurtful jokes. These are the sort of necessary, nuanced and relatable messages we rarely see in media that is predominantly pitched at children and preteens.
To date, the Barbie doll line has included over 150 different careers ranging from architect, to computer engineer, to news anchor. Mattel says that aim of the careers line is to encourage children to believe that they can be anything. Despite this, Barbie is frequently (understandably) criticised for exemplifying beauty standards that are near impossible for real people to ever achieve, and people rightfully worry about the impact this might have on the body image and self esteem of the children who play with these dolls.
“Barbie is not just a cultural icon, she is a toy and all children deserve to see themselves and their aspirations represented in their toys.”
However, it does appear that Mattel are paying attention to these criticisms. More recently, the doll line has expanded their range of body types, skin tones and hair textures. We even get to see one of the curvy dolls in the vlog in the form of Barbie’s new friend, Harper — I can only hope that as Barbie continues to vlog we meet more of her friends. Barbie is not just a cultural icon, she is a toy and all children deserve to see themselves and their aspirations represented in their toys and hopefully this new more diverse toy line will do at least a little to help.
Barbie’s vlog is not only genuinely compelling viewing but it also says that Barbara Roberts is a normal teenage girl, one who likes both STEM and the arts, and values compassion, empathy and kindness. This is such a brilliant and admirable personality for the doll who was never meant to have one at all.
Image via Barbie on YouTube