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When I was 10, I got the idea that driving a car would be the most wonderful experience in the whole world. I convinced my dad to take me out driving and show me how everything worked. He even took me to an empty parking lot and let me shift the car into gears. I only actually moved about 10 feet, but I was on top of the world.

That Christmas Santa brought me a Barbie RV. I remember touching it, studying it, noticing every detail. And then running to my bedroom and pulling out any one of the six or seven dolls I had collected and zooming her all over the house.

The funny thing is, I never noticed that the RV was pink. I certainly did not care that Barbie had long, straight blond hair, a tiny waste and an ample bosom. For goodness sake, I was 10 - four feet tall, weighed about 70 pounds, and when I put her in that convertible, that doll was me. Just like she was me when I pretended she was a doctor. Or when she cooked in her tiny dishes with the grass seed I had collected and
pretended to be beans and soup. When I took a shoebox and stood it vertically, she was me, making a business call in a telephone booth. And she was even me when I put her in a ball gown and pretended she was going to work for the day.  And Mattel captured who I was at 10 so well in this video.

Last year Mattel broke new ground when they featured a very cool little guy in their commercial. It is true. Boys play with dolls, and they did an excellent job acknowledging this. If you collect Barbie’s, you will also know that that they have had hundreds of limited collection dolls that were very realistic, diverse, representative of the world. They cannot win for trying, I suppose.

Mattel is both receiving commendation and a kick in the shin for their new line of dolls that look more like the rest of us. But shame on the adults who are “protesting” that they aren’t ethnic enough or athletic enough or that they are pandering to the public. My how we have become a nation of condemnation. It feels that there is so much anger by individuals and individual groups that we are loosing our sense of what is best for the larger community. And Barbie has become a very odd symbol for this manifestation. Can we acknowledge that Neil Armstrong nailed it, when he said, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?” Life is a series of small successes. That Mattel took their decades of mass Barbie production into these new lines is both admirable and ingenious. Maybe it feels like a small step to those who want to see themselves totally in their collection. But for me, it feels like a giant leap.

As a marketer, I am seeing their profits soaring. I have a child who has a massive collection of Monster High dolls. Each one is different. Each brings a flaw into play as a strength.

Many are differently sized. And, I am spending a fortunate because the outfits are very individualistic to both the personality of the doll and its size. Mattel will greatly profit now that one outfit won’t fit all of our dolls. Each will need an individual, complete set of clothes that uniquely fits their body type. Seriously – how smart are they? I predict adults will start complaining that the $10 outfit they bought only fits one of the dolls and now they need to spend $30 at a pop to give everyone a new outfit. But, hey! Isn’t Mattel responding to what decades of adults have demanded?

My own personal experience as a child and as a mom taught me that young minds can burst with imagination when Barbie role plays. Sometimes she was living a dream for all of us – the gorgeous clothes and always fashionable spirit with friends who didn’t wound her. Sometimes we needed her to help us figure out life’s greatest challenges. I remember a childhood friend who played with me and in her dollhouse, there was never a Ken. Her parents had divorced that year.

I am never sure if children really have been traumatized by the way that toy companies shape the dolls’ figures. I wonder if that trauma hits us when we are older. Nonetheless, body image challenges are very real. And not just for girls. I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen one lamenting editorial on how there are no differently shaped male Ken dolls introduced in this launch. Hmm. Rather than start a campaign demanding differently shaped male dolls, I will watch Mattel with great interest as they take this first step and turn it into a giant leap.











If I were a Barbie, this would be me. 

A blog chronicling the up's and down's, trials and tribulations, fear and happiness of moving your life from the expected 9-to-5 job to a life of consulting. While it is a big and often scary decision, it is a time of discovery, rejuvenation and introspection that will help you remember who you are and who you were supposed to be. It's a wonderful journey.

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