Barbie has long been a point of contention for feminists. Be it her biologically impossible body measurements, her narrow ideas of beauty or the limited career choices the doll’s creators have made for her, Barbie has never really managed to empower.
A shame, given the influence toys can have over the minds and attitudes of young girls.
But with the launch of a new advert from Mattel, that might be about to change. Barbie finally looks like she might be on track with the feminist message.
The advert sees little girls assuming the position of professional women – one is a university professor, one a vet, while another coaches a male American football squad – with the strapline: ‘Imagine the possibilities’.
The TV advert begins with the question: “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?” It then cuts straight to what Mattel is calling ‘hidden camera footage’ of confident young girls taking on the roles of science lecturer, vet, business woman, sports coach and museum tour guide.
It’s not until the end, that we learn the girls are simply playing with Barbies, and their 'professions' are them letting their imaginations wander.
The ad is intended to be a reworking of the Barbie message, aiming to take a more empowering approach to helping girls dream big.
Talking to Adweek, Evelyn Mazzocco, global senior vice-president and general manager of Barbie, says the advert is part of an “ongoing brand evolution that is designed to encourage parents to reappraise the role Barbie can play in [a] child's life.”
“We want to remind the world what Barbie stands for,” she explains. “Founded by a female entrepreneur and mother in 1959, the Barbie brand has always represented the fact that women have choices.”
“This ongoing initiative is designed to remind today's parents that through the power of imagination, Barbie allows girls to explore their limitless potential.”
After being criticised last year for presenting the Entrepreneur Barbie in the same tired model of a busty blonde with a tiny waist and blue eyes, Mattel has also been working on dolls with more diverse appearances.
Earlier this year, the Fashionista range saw Barbie remodelled in the form of 23 dolls each with different skin tones, hair colours, eye colours, heights and body shapes.
For the first time ever, she was also given moveable ankles that allow her to wear flat shoes and boots rather than heels, a breakthrough celebrated by British fashion designer Sophia Webster with a dedicated collection of Barbie flats.