Friday, May 1, 2009

Tattoo Barbie, so classy I want to hurl

Should I be aghast? honestly, I'm laughing to hard right now. Call me cynical but I'm not at all surprised by this one.

Tattoo Barbie, because the redneck strippers from Rock of Love are now our ideal of feminine beauty.From the Mail Online:

The new Barbie dolls are part of Mattel's 'Totally Tattoos' range.

They are available for around £20 in toy shops and online with a description that reads: 'Over 40 easy, no-mess tattoos to design and decorate Barbie doll's fashions.

'Customise the fashions and apply the fun temporary tattoos on you too.'

It adds: 'This type of open-ended, creative play is a healthy form of self expression that Barbie brings to girls.'

While Presidential Candidate Barbie and Hispanic Presidential Candidate Barbie are probably rolling their eyes and slapping their foreheads that their no-good sibling is ruining their good name (I'm looking at you Billy Carter and Roger Clinton) but really? Aside from the controversy, which obviously Mattel must expect, (I'm looking at you Dora) it doesn't add or detract anything from the girl who can be anything.

While as a parent, my daughter isn't getting Tattoo Barbie, nor will she be getting a tattoo with my permission, I don't find the fact that she exists terribly threatening. There is a point where I think that if girls can associate things like tattoos and acting like a pop-tart with being five years old and being a little girl, it might help them to see how childish they can be. Not every little girl who sees this is going to see it that way, not every parent is going to see it the same way, and it could be wishful thinking on my part. At the end of the day though, it comes down to how parents frame any individual piece of the media pie.

Preteen girls in recent studies have described how they comport themselves as being influenced by their family more than most other influences.

Tired of the slinky, Bratz-esque fashions that have been shoved upon them over the past decade or so, tweens are finally moving back toward fashionable but age-appropriate clothing. The reasons: Hannah Montana and parental approval.

While Hannah Montana has its problems, it does provide a more parent-friendly sartorial shift than say... Bratz or Barbie and a sense that that's both attractive and stylish. That's a positive. But again, the studies show that the fact that that conforms to its fans need to not harm their relationships to their parents is a big deal too. That is a great point to examine in franchise development, it allows the fans ownership within their comfort zone, it makes it more pleasant to be a fan of this, and easier for parents to let their daughters get excited about the franchise.

I suspect that this too will pass and in another week or two we'll hear about how Barbie is starring in a whole new set of little-girl friendly movies soon that will wipe away memories of tramp-stamp Barbie. This franchise has been beset by this controversy since its inception, she was modeled after a German Pornographic Doll for goodness sake.

These controversial, dare I say... skanky, dolls represent a facet of the market that Barbie has often taken on... the somewhat-regressive stereotype that many chose to own in order to express themselves. Though it can also be argued that tattoos are mainstream these days, that good girls still get butterflies on their shoulders and aren't considered transgressive. It's not as culturally abnormal as it once was and therefore, perfectly reasonably ground for a doll.

For every Barbie that causes controversy, there are half a dozen others that no one bats an eye at, in part, because they aren't the controversial Barbie. This controversy doesn't seem to deeply affect Barbie's bottom line of sales though, and ends up being free publicity in the long run.

Barbie, again, not my favorite doll and one that I probably will not end up buying for my daughter unbidden, is a highly successful franchise because Barbie is a generalist. She can be anything, and that includes the most highly aspirational ideals and the more trashy ones. She embodies the idea that a girl can be anything, good or bad, as she chooses. She can be who you want her to be and say whatever you want her to and that message has printed cash for Mattel for half a century.

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