Mattel announced today that Barbie, the pint-sized paragon of feminine pulchritude will soon be available in three new body types: tall, petite and curvy. The bid for Barbie inclusiveness had barely finished crossing the lips of the morning news anchor when my better half asked aloud: "But what if you're tall and curvy?" underscoring the reality that four body types might be, at the very least, four thousand too few.
That's not to take anything away from Mattel's efforts at diversifying the look of its flagship doll; in addition to the four physiques (the original Barbie body plus the three new ones), the 2016 Fashionistas collection, due to hit store shelves in the spring, includes 24 hair styles, 22 eye colors, 14 different "face sculpts" and seven skin tones. (Mattel expanded the skin tone offerings in 2015 – the same year the tippy-toed beauty was finally offered with flat feet.) It's just that, in an era of near ubiquitous body-scanning software and close-to-affordable 3D printers, why not give kids – and their parents – the option of creating a Barbie, a Ken, a Skipper or a Midge that truly resembles the family, friends and loved ones around them?
Sure, there are companies that already offer lookalike dolls (including the Mattel-owned American Girl brand, which offers customizable features through its "Truly Me" program), just as there are many a mini-humanoid toy out there with an array of skin tones, hair types, eye colors and body shapes. But Barbie represents something bigger than that. Considered the world's most popular doll (and number two on Time magazine's 2014 list of "the 13 most influential toys of all time") the doll whose full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts is a marquee property that occupies a rare place in the pantheon of popular culture and whose blond hair, blue eyes and improbably pneumatic silhouette has literally and figuratively shaped generations of women.
Barbie has run for president of the United States no fewer than five times to date (her first bid for the White House was in 1991, this summer will mark her sixth run – with all-Barbie presidential/vice-presidential ticket). If the Barbie-as-presidential-candidate doll hammers home the message that any young girl can grow up to lead the most powerful nation on earth, isn't it high time that every single different type of young girl – including the tall and curvy ones – know that she is reflected in the face and body of the world's most powerful doll?
I think we all know the answer to that one.
The more-realistic-than-before Barbies, part of the 2016 Fashionistas collection retail for $9.99. Although they aren't scheduled to hit retail until spring, they are currently available for pre-order online at Barbie.com with delivery starting early next month.