In 1994's The Simpsons episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy," Lisa challenges the makers of the fictional Malibu Stacy to come up with a more interesting doll. By the end of the episode, Lisa creates Lisa Lionheart, a positive role model for girls. It was supposed to contrast the real Teen Talk Barbie, which was grabbing headlines at the time for saying things like "Will we ever have enough clothes?"
Barbie has had over 100 careers, and often they reflect what's happening in the world. In 2000, Mattel unveiled one of its election-year President Barbies (Hillary look-alike, right?), and there have been six military Barbies, including two for Desert Storm. Four Astronaut Barbies have been released, in 1965, 1985, 1994, and 2013.
After artist Nickolay Lamm showed us what a normal-sized Barbie would look like, we might actually see his imagined doll on shelves. Lamm has utilized the power of online crowd funding to turn his average-sized doll into a reality. He's already far exceeded his monetary goals, so it looks like we may get a body-positive Barbie after all!
Barbie may be an icon herself, but she's also lent her mold to other significant women. Whether it's Charlie's Angel Farrah Fawcett or Will and Kate on their wedding day, you know you've made it as a celebrity when you can buy a Barbie-like version of yourself.
Barbie's first foray into increased inclusivity didn't go so well when Colored Francie was released in 1967. Black Barbie came in 1980, but it wasn't until 2009, when the So in Style line came out that the black Barbies had more realistic features, although some critics took issue with the straight hair.
Share a Smile Becky, a doll who came in a wheelchair, was welcomed by disability advocates in 1997. Unfortunately, Barbie's dream house was not handicap accessible, and Becky could not fit through the doors. Mattel promised to redesign the house.
In 2011, college student and eating disorder survivor Galia Slayen built a scary life-size Barbie in time for National Eating Disorder Week. She said that while she doesn't believe Barbie gives people eating disorders, the doll's unrealistic body does play a role in a young girl's development.
Barbie is even more controversial in the Middle East than she is in the US. She's been banned in many countries for not representing Muslim values and replaced with a different doll, Fulla. The popular Fulla comes in a recognizable pink box, but she's wearing a hijab.
In 1997, the group Aqua put a Danish-Norwegian dance-pop twist on Barbie. They were awarded with one-hit-wonder status and a lawsuit by Mattel, alleging the song "Barbie Girl" violated its trademark and turned Barbie into a sex symbol. It was ruled a legal parody, and Mattel lost.
Thanks to the parents behind the Beautiful and Bald Barbie Facebook campaign encouraging Mattel to make a doll for young people who've lost their hair due to illness, the company released a bald friend of Barbie's in 2013. The doll came with wigs, scarves, and hats was only available in hospitals. One mom has a Change.org petition for Mattel to make more, but for parents looking for an alternative, MGA released bald Bratz dolls.
Source: Adventures in Child Life
Bella and Edward tied the knot in 2011's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I, but they were truly immortalized as Barbie dolls. The Edward doll is the vampire's signature shade of white, and Bella Barbie dons a movie-inspired wedding dress replica.
This special-edition Barbie was created by design duo and partners Phillipe and David Blond, known as The Blonds. The Blonds Blond Diamond Barbie is the official name, but she's better known as Drag Queen Barbie.
Although Mattel and The Blonds have denied they intended to make a drag queen Barbie, the name is sticking thanks to her sky-high heels, strong makeup, sparkly dress, and over-the-top fur — not to mention, Phillipe Blond is known to dress in a similar drag look. But it's not clear whether drag queens inspired this Barbie or whether Barbie inspired drag queens. David says of Phillipe, "Usually when he is dressed to go to a fashion show, he looks like Barbie."
This year's Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition celebrated 50 years by featuring Barbie as one of its swimsuit models. Since both brands have dealt with criticism over their body-image depictions, it's no surprise that the collaboration has caused controversy. Two consumer advocacy groups are calling out the Girl Scouts to end their partnership with Barbie.