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There is no doubt that Barbie has been the undisputed protagonist of the childhood of millions of girls all over the world. She changed thousands of looks and jobs, she was a doctor, a stewardess, a singer and even an astronaut and for each of her professions her style, her hair and her clothes told a different story. Born as a symbol of vindication of theempowerment female Barbie turns sixty-four this year, during which we have seen her transform and adapt to the times to become a one-of-a-kind icon and a rare example of longevity in the children’s toy sector.
Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as Barbie, was born in the Fifties, in Wisconsin, United States, from the brilliant intuition of Ruth Handler, who seeing her daughter playing instead of with the classic dolls with silhouettes of women cut out of magazines who played different roles each time in imaginary scenarios she wonders about the desire of young girls of the new generations to play not only the role of housewife but to dream and identify with the role of “modern woman” who devotes herself to her career and not just to household chores.
The turning point in the story of Barbie took place in 1956 in Switzerland when Ruth saw the doll on display in the window of a toy shop action figures Lilli, inspired by the comic character of the German author Reinhard Beuthien. Lilli reflects very much the idea of a doll that Ruth has in mind and she therefore decides to buy different models to study them once she returns to the United States. Ruth, wife of the founder of the Mattel toy company, on his return from his trip to Europe, he entrusts him with the task of reworking and putting into production a new version of the Lilli doll. On March 9, 1959, the first Barbie model was produced, a beautiful blonde woman who wears a striped bathing suit and is coiffed and made up in the style in vogue at the time. The reference used for the make-up is the well-known shot by Erwin Blumenfeld for the cover of Vogue of January 1, 1950. It is advertised during the Mickey Mouse Club which gives great visibility to the product.
This leads to the production of new models and new looks for her to wear, all inspired by the wardrobes of the stars. The evolution of Barbie lives through the passing of fashions, technological evolution and the emancipation of women, in fact the doll does not only change her style, hairstyles and make-up but the jobs she carries out change, her car, his home and above all his desires. The idea that revolves around Barbie’s function, according to the creator, is to give every girl the opportunity to project her aspirations for the future through a doll that can represent her. Barbie’s message is revolutionary for the times because she pushes girls to not only see adult life with the only perspective of becoming mothers but opens them to the possibility of having a career.
The doll’s success is fueled by the Mattel production company which, in parallel with its production, creates a real bibliography of the character of Barbara, enriching her story with a family, her famous boyfriend Ken, a group of friends and other characters who accompany you on your adventures. In addition to her social life, Barbie begins to devote herself to her career, jumping from the modeling profession to that of a teacher, nurse and so on. She anticipates Neil Armstrong and in 1965 she appears in a space suit ready to travel to the Moon. She goes through the disco-music phase going from rock star to female manager who encourages gender equality in the world of work. In 1989 she became a UNICEF ambassador marking another important stage in the formation of future women and she continued her career up to running for president of the United States of America. During her growth journey, Barbie experiments with the new generations every kind of profession, from the world of art to sports.
The consequences of this enormous success are not always positive and the criticisms and controversies are not long in coming and repeatedly bringing the doll to the center of media attention. The list of controversies is long: her materialistic nature which according to many encouraged a frivolous lifestyle and the accusation that Barbie creates and promotes an unrealistic aesthetic prototype of woman – as well as one-sided, not reflecting women’s ethnic diversity. To remedy these shortcomings, Mattel begins production of the Project Dawn which offers the doll with different skin tones, hairstyles and somatic features and subsequently the line is introduced on the market Fashionistas which includes three new silhouettes – a line with different models of dolls with disabilities has also recently been released. These body positive collections aim to be positive reference points for the new generation.
Barbie regardless of the many controversies that have made her protagonist over the years has been a faithful friend to every little girl. Barbie is still considered a true icon today and has been the protagonist of many artistic projects that celebrate pop art. From Andy Warhol in his famous “Portrait of Billy Boy as Barbie” to Moschino’s Spring Summer 2015 collection, thanks to her popularity she has even become a Halloween costume that singers like Beyoncé and it girls like Kylie Jenner have decided to impersonate. A few decades earlier, in 1976, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the Independence of the United States, it obtained the title of symbolic object of those years, being inserted together with others in the “Time Capsule” kept with the aim of making its history known to future generations. The dynamic blonde has also been able to capture the attention of Hollywood producers who have recently started filming the live action film in which she will be played by Margot Robbie in a feature film that traces her story.