I love it when classy news sites weigh in on collectible controversies! Recently, there was an uproar over Mattel’s Barbie Dolls of the World collection, specifically Mexico Barbie. Despite being released back in 2012 and dressed for a fabulous fiesta, “America’s world news site” gave the doll their prized Outrage of the Day headline. The crime? Mexico Barbie is “sold with a pet Chihuahua, a passport and a sticker sheet to record her travels.” ¡Ay, caramba!
But not so fast. Initially, I, too was ready to join the lynch mob and make some fun Photoshopped graphics involving Border Patrol Ken. But then I saw Mattel’s response to a snarky tweet about Mexico Barbie and tacos:
“Mexico Barbie is 1 of 100 Barbie Dolls of the World. Current dolls wear a country-inspired outfit & have a passport & animal.”
And it’s true: the current Barbie Dolls of the World do have animals and passports. Here’s Chinese Barbie with her passport and panda, and there’s Australian (throw a shrimp on the) Barbie with her passport and koala. Stereotypes? Yes. Racism? I don’t think so.
For Mattel, the choice to include Mexico Barbie in this collection was basically a lose-lose proposition. Give the doll a passport, and sit back and wait for the Internet to respond with allegations of racism. Or, deny the doll her papers, thus making her the ONLY doll in the collection without a passport, and sit back and wait for the Internet to respond with allegations of racism.
Mattel chose the first option, and when the rants came in, they were prepared. Here’s their “Rumor Response” statement:
We consulted with the Mexican Embassy on the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, especially with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua. Our goal with the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, as well as the entire Dolls of the World Collection, is to celebrate cultural differences and tradition, introducing girls to the world through play.
The only thing better than NPR reporting on Mexico Barbie is a member of Mattel Corporation consulting with the Mexican Embassy “with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua.”
Mattel’s “misdoings” in re: Barbie are the legendary stuff of blog fodder. Click through for a few fun ones!
- There was that whole Teen Talk Barbie “Math class is tough!” incident in the early 90s.
- In 1997, Mattel partnered with Nabisco to release Oreo Fun Barbie. The African-American version was quickly recalled.
- Later that year, Mattel introduced their first differently-abled doll, Share a Smile Becky. Becky came in a wheelchair, which was cool news, until a teenager with cerebral palsy pointed out that the doll didn’t fit into the Barbie’s Dream House.
- In 2003, Saudi Arabia outlawed sales of Barbie dolls entirely! Their really fun-sounding Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice referred to the “Jewish Barbie dolls” (???) as a dangerous “symbol of decadence to the perverted West.”
- Seven years later in 2010, another fun group of folks, The FBI, issued a warning by private memo that a pinhole camera embedded in the chest of Barbie Video Girl could be used to produce child pornography.
- Of course, who could forget 2011’s release of that tatted-up tramp known as tokidoki Barbie! Certainly not me.