'Sports Illustrated' Puts Barbie on the Swimsuit Issue Cover -- Huh?

Adriana Velez Rant

barbie sports illustratedI'm trying to be open-minded and find the upside to this story. But so far, all I've come up with is WTF? Guess what, kiddies: This year's Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue cover girl is Barbie. You know, Barbie the doll? Because that makes all kinds of sense! Oh, and by the way, the theme of the issue is #Unapologetic, hashtag and all. I'll pause while you roll your eyes.

Anyway, there Barbie is on the cover, posing in a black-and-white one-piece, with a caption reading, "The doll that started it all." Started what, exactly? I'll let them explain why they're doing this to us.

As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in the issue gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic.

This was Mattel's statement. Poor Barbie, right? Under so much scrutiny and criticism for a non-sentient being. But now she's taking her power back, because plastic torpedo boobs, W00t! Amirite grrrrls? #unapologetic #aboutBarbiebodycliches

I kind of get what they're doing there, I guess? I'm pretty sure guys are going to quickly flip past the photos of Barbie and go straight for Kate Upton. But that aside, I just have to ask -- what's a girl going to think about seeing her doll on the cover of a men's magazine?

Every parent with a Barbie-obsessed kid has to navigate the tricky territory of fantasy, body politics, and glamour with these dolls. And this publicity stunt doesn't really make our jobs any easier -- just more complicated. Consider this in the context of how Barbie is being rebranded.

There was the Barbie Dream House listing in Trulia (very funny, actually) and the Barbie Mad Men series. They seem to be trying to appeal more to adults. As SVP of marketing Lisa McKnight put it, "We're always challenging ourselves to think differently about Barbie and how we can continue to keep her relevant."

Except this is a child's toy we're talking about. When I was a little girl playing with Barbie dolls, it was all about fantasy. I just wanted to make my dolls fabulous gowns and imagine them going to glamorous places and having adventures with Ken. I think I may have been annoyed at the idea of "sharing" Barbie with the grown-up world.

Or maybe not? I'd be curious to hear what girls think about Barbie inhabiting the world of grown-ups. I think Barbie selling her house on Trulia is fun. Barbie dressed up as characters in a show you're too young to watch ... hm, maybe. But Barbie showing up in a magazine Daddy takes to the bathroom for his special alone time? Ehh, that's a little weird.

I think if Barbie wants to make itself more relevant but still keep girls engaged in a positive way, they can do better than this.

What do you think about Barbie showing up in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?

 

Image via Sports Illustrated

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