Black Barbie

image of new black barbie

Mattel's new African-American Barbie

This ought to cause a stir. Mattel has announced it will release “a new line of African-American Barbie dolls, with fuller lips, a wider nose, and curlier hair.”

Although, as a visual rhetorician, mention of Barbie usually gets my back up, I have to say I’m kinda impressed with this turn of events, even if it is far overdue. And, the doll was designed not only by a black woman, but by a mother who presumably has some understanding of Barbie’s effect on children.

One troubling feature of the news release, though, is that the new Barbie is dubbed “African-American” in a CNN iReport. I’m not sure of how others conceptualize the difference between being black, being Black, and being African-American, but I do think there is a difference. As an Irish-American, I’d want an Irish-American Barbie to have something more than red hair to demonstrate her ethnicity.

Any thoughts out there?


By the way, here is the first comment in the CNN iReport. I thought it was pretty interesting, so I’ve copied it here verbatim.

“I notice that the designer has stright hair. I don’t know if that’s her nature style, or if she has it straightened.

Best of both worlds would be for Mattel needs to provide two models – one straight, one kinky. Although they may need to do a market study for which one sells more so they can tailor their production proportionally.

And I’d be tempted to make her butt bigger. But then Barbie really doesn’t have that much connection to reality, does she?”


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