Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Barbie Parties It Up

Courtesy of Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, co-authors of Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers' Schemes:

This just in from the Drug Free Alliance.

"Some parents may not be aware that Mattel is marketing a Barbie 2-in-1 Party Plane & Ship Playset that 'comes with all the amenities.' Along with the reclining seats, fold down table and laptop computer, this toy, marketed for 3- to 8-year olds, comes complete with martini glasses, bar stools and a disco scene portraying scantily clad dancers holding drinks!"

Those of you who've seen our power point presentation know we've been complaining about the Bratz party plane for a couple of years now. It has a "juice bar" and Bratz CEO Isaac Larian has expressed outrage that critics have said that his dolls come with alcoholic drinks. We asked, "Who is he kidding?" But now Barbie doesn't even call their drinks "juice"?

Is Barbie different though from Bratz? When we were girls, our Barbies had black sequined slinky gowns that we think were called her "nightclub" outfit. What we understood at the time, was that when we grew up we would go to nightclubs in beautiful sexy gowns. The point is, we understood Barbie to be older than we were. And although Barbie presented a pretty one-dimensional view of what grown-up women did and what they are valued for, she still seemed to us to be grown up.

The Bratz dolls are teens and even look slightly pre-teen. So when they party and drink and go clubbing, they clearly suggests these activities to younger and younger girls. Barbie has been following suit, creating a My Scene Barbie who is more teen than grown-up. She's no longer the Barbie we knew -- in more ways than one. Instead of being a trend-setter, she's trying to one-up Bratz. In true wannabe fashion, she's pushing not just a party plane but also a ship! Not a juice bar but real drinks! And explicitly to 3 year olds. Who ever would have thought we'd be longing for Barbie to be, well, Barbie.

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