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Barbie Doll's History

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Barbie Doll History

Barbie was born by Ruth Handler who noticed her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls and imagining them in grown-up roles. Realizing that dolls on the market at the time were all baby dolls, Ruth saw a need for a doll that would inspire little girls to think about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Thus the idea for Barbie doll, the teenage fashion model, was born. Ruth named the doll Barbie, after her daughter--and the rest is history.

Development
Biography
Controversies
Parodies and lawsuits
Collecting

 

 

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbie"

Development

Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara at play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. At the time, most children's toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, she suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel's directors.

During a trip to Germany in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler discovered a German doll called the Bild Lilli doll in a shop window. The adult-figured Lilli doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel.

The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for the newspaper Die Bild-Zeitung. Lilli was a working girl who knew what she wanted and was not above using men to get it. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955, and although it was initially sold to adults, it became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately. On her return to the United States, Handler reworked the design of the doll (with help from engineer Jack Ryan) and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler's daughter Barbara.

The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. This date is also used as Barbie's official birthday. Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964 and production of Lilli was stopped. The first Barbie doll wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and signature topknot ponytail, and was available as either a blonde or brunette.

The doll was marketed as a "Teen-age Fashion Model", with her clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. Barbie's appearance has been changed many times, most notably in 1971 when the doll's eyes were adjusted to look forwards rather than sideways. Barbie was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based extensively on television advertising, which has been copied since by many other toys.

Today the Barbie doll is a $1.9 billion a year industry, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second. Barbie products include not only the range of dolls with their clothes and accessories, but also a huge range of Barbie branded goods such as books, fashion items and video games.

Barbie has appeared in a series of animated films and makes a brief guest appearance in the 1999 film Toy Story 2. Almost uniquely for a toy fashion doll, Barbie has become a cultural icon and has been given honors that are rare in the toy world. In 1974 a section of Times Square in New York City was renamed Barbie Boulevard for a week, while in 1985 the artist Andy Warhol created a painting of Barbie.

Biography

Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, and over the years she has been given many companions, the best known being her beau Ken (Ken Carson), who made his debut in 1961. Like Barbie, Ken shares his name with one of Ruth Handler's children. Barbie and Ken have a famous on-off relationship and they announced a split in 2004 which seems to have been only temporary.

Other longstanding friends in Barbie's ethnically diverse social circle include Hispanic Teresa, African American Christie and Steven (Christie's boyfriend), and Kayla. For a full list of Barbie's companions, see the List of Barbie's friends and family.

According to the Random House novels of the 1960s, her parents' names are George and Margaret Roberts of Willows, Wisconsin. Barbie has been said to attend Willows High School in Willows, Wisconsin and Manhattan International High School in New York City (based on the real-life Stuyvesant High School). Barbie has thirty-eight recorded pets, including cats and dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub, and a zebra. She has owned pink convertibles, trailers, jeeps and more. She also holds a pilot's license, and operates commercial airliners when not serving as a flight attendant.

Controversies

Barbie's popularity ensures that her effect on the play of Western children attracts a high degree of scrutiny. The criticisms leveled at her are often based on the assumption that children consider Barbie a role model and will attempt to emulate her.


In September 2003 the Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia outlawed the sale of Barbie dolls, saying that she did not conform to the ideals of Islam. The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stated "Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful." In Middle Eastern countries there is an alternative doll called Fulla who is similar to Barbie but is designed to be more acceptable to an Islamic market. Fulla is not made by the Mattel Corporation. In Iran, Sara and Dara dolls are available as an alternative to Barbie.


The word Barbie has come to be used as a derogatory slang term for a girl or woman who is considered stupid, most famously in the song Barbie Girl. In 1992 Mattel released Teen Talk Barbie, which spoke a number of phrases including "Will we ever have enough clothes?", "I love shopping!", and "Wanna have a pizza party?" Each doll was programmed to say four out of 270 possible phrases, so that no two dolls were likely to be the same. One of these 270 phrases was "Math class is tough!" Although only about 1.5% of all the dolls sold said the phrase, it caused a public outcry.


Barbie's waist widens.One of the most common criticisms of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image for a woman, leading to a risk that women who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic. Critics have argued that for a woman to have Barbie's body, she would need to be 7 feet 2 inches tall, weigh 115-130 pounds, have 30 to 36 inch hips, an 18 to 23 inch waist and a 38 to 48 inch bust. Additionally, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate. In 1997 Barbie was redesigned and given a wider waist, with Mattel saying that this would make the doll better suited to contemporary fashion designs.


"Colored Francie" made her debut in 1967, and she is sometimes described as the first African American Barbie doll. However, she was produced using the existing molds for the Caucasian Francie doll and lacked correct ethnic features other than a dark skin. The first African American doll in the Barbie range is usually regarded as Christie, who made her debut in 1968.


Black Barbie and Hispanic Barbie were launched in 1980. In 1997 Mattel joined forces with Nabisco to launch a cross-promotion of Barbie with Oreo cookies. Oreo Fun Barbie was marketed as someone with whom little girls could play after class and share "America's favorite cookie." As had become the custom, Mattel manufactured both a white and a black version. Critics argued that in the African American community Oreo is a derogatory term for a person like the chocolate sandwich cookie itself, meaning that the person is black on the outside and white on the inside. The doll was unsuccessful and Mattel recalled the unsold stock, making it sought after by collectors.


In May 1997 Mattel introduced Share a Smile Becky, a doll in a pink wheelchair. Kjersti Johnson, a 17-year-old high school student in Tacoma, Washington with cerebral palsy, pointed out that the doll would not fit into the elevator of Barbie's $100 Dream House. Mattel announced that it would redesign the house in the future to accommodate the doll.


In March 2000 stories appeared in the media claiming that the hard vinyl used in vintage Barbie dolls could leak toxic chemicals, causing danger to children playing with them. The claim was rejected as false by technical experts. A modern Barbie doll has a body made from ABS plastic, while the head is made from soft PVC.


In December 2005 Dr. Agnes Nairn at the University of Bath in England published research suggesting that girls often go through a stage where they hate their Barbie dolls and subject them to a range of punishments, including decapitation and placing the doll in a microwave oven. Dr. Nairn said: "It's as though disavowing Barbie is a rite of passage and a rejection of their past."

Parodies and lawsuits

Barbie has often been referenced in popular culture and is frequently the target of parody. Some of these occasions include:


In 1997 The Danish pop-dance group Aqua released a song called Barbie Girl. It contained lyrics such as "You can brush my hair/Undress me everywhere" and used graphics similar to the pink Barbie logo. Mattel argued that this constituted a trademark infringement and filed a defamation lawsuit against MCA Records on September 11, 1997. In July 2002, Judge Alex Kozinski ruled that the song was protected as a parody under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.


A commercial by automobile company Nissan featuring dolls similar to Barbie and Ken was the subject of another lawsuit in 1997. In the commercial, a female doll is lured into a car by a doll similar to GI Joe, accompanied by Van Halen's version of the song You Really Got Me. Mattel lost the copyright infringement lawsuit.


Saturday Night Live aired a parody of Barbie commercials featuring the fictional "Gangsta Bitch Barbie" doll and a "Tupac Ken" doll.


The Tonight Show with Jay Leno displayed a fictional "Barbie Crystal Meth Lab" which mocked how Barbie usually has a career that is "in keeping with the times or in this case, in keeping with society's current problems."


Malibu Stacy is a parody of Barbie in the cartoon series The Simpsons. In the 1994 episode 'Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy' Lisa is disgusted by the "sexist drivel spouted by Malibu Stacy", leading her to market an alternative "Lisa Lionheart".


In 2002 a judge refused an injunction against Susanne Pitt, who had produced a doll called Dungeon Barbie in bondage clothing, stating "To the court's knowledge, there is no Mattel line of S&M Barbie."


In 1999 Mattel sued the artist Tom Forsythe over a series of pictures called "Food Chain Barbie", which included a picture of a Barbie doll in a blender. Mattel lost the lawsuit and was ordered to pay $1.8 million in costs to Mr. Forsythe.

Collecting

Mattel estimates that there are well over 100,000 avid Barbie collectors. Ninety percent are women, at an average age of 40, purchasing more than 20 Barbie dolls each year. Forty-five percent of them spend upwards of $1000 a year. Vintage Barbie dolls from the early years are the most valuable at auction, and while the original Barbie sold for $3.00 in 1959, a mint boxed Barbie from 1959 sold for $3552.50 on eBay in October 2004.

On September 26, 2006, a Barbie doll set a world record at auction of 9,000 pounds sterling (US $17,000) at Christie's in London. The doll was a Barbie in Midnight Red from 1965 and was part of a private collection of 4,000 Barbie dolls being sold by two Dutch women, Ietje Raebel and her daughter Marina.

In recent years Mattel has sold a wide range of Barbie dolls aimed specifically at collectors, including porcelain versions and depictions of Barbie as a range of characters from television series such as The Munsters and Star Trek.

There are also collector's edition dolls depicting Barbie dolls with a range of different ethnic identities. In 2004 Mattel introduced the Color Tier system for its collector's edition Barbie dolls, ranging through pink, silver, gold and platinum depending on how many of the dolls are produced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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