15 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Barbie

Laura Lambert | Aug 27, 2019 Home & Garden
15 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Barbie
Image: Twenty20

15 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Barbie
Twenty20

When we were growing up, in the age just before Bratz Dolls and well before Monster High, there was only one doll that really qualified as a "call brand" and the only hot toy of the era we cared about: Barbie. She was glamorous, she was cool, she never met a trend she didn't like, and when we first inherited a small blue plastic suitcase of our babysitter's old Barbies -- complete with some home haircut versions and some amazing 1980s outfits -- we became as obsessed with this fashion icon as any other girl in America. Yes, some of our wealthier classmates had American Girl dolls, but since we -- and most of the people we knew -- didn't have the kind of money for all that (those dolls cost $35 for a single outfit and over $100 for just a doll and the book!), we thought Barbie was just perfect (and she looked way cooler, besides): our parents could afford the occasional new outfit or new doll, and rather than coming with a rich and storied history, we got to invent our own. 

The glory of playing with a Barbie was that she could be -- and change into, literally and figuratively -- anything we wanted. One Barbie, who was a particular favorite of ours growing up, was frequently a rocket scientist, diner waitress, veterinarian (same outfit as the rocket scientist except with a dog), news anchor, and "bride," which for some reason occupied the same place in our kid brain as a job, possibly because the other professions were also tied to specific outfits we thought appropriate for the position. 

Basically, although there were a few hiccups in there, Barbie and all her clothing options helped us imagine different paths for women -- and for ourselves -- which was ultimately pretty great. Yes, there's a ton of reasonable criticism about how she may affect growing girls' understandings of their bodies, but that doesn't mean she hasn't done some real good, too. For instance, she's now a huge supporter of LGBTQ rights! Here are a few things people tend to get wrong about her. (And check out these cool celebrities who get to have their own Barbies made after them, too -- some are so lifelike!)

  • That, Like Madonna or Cher, She’s a One-Word Wonder

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    That, like Madonna or Cher, she’s a one-word wonder
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    Barbie is just a nickname -- her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. (The doll was named after the Mattel founders' daughter.) Barbie has lots of friends and family with names ranging from Ken (Kenneth Sean Carson is apparently his full name) to little-sister Skipper to parents George and Margaret. 


  • That She's From Malibu

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    That She's From Malibu
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    That blond, blond hair may scream Southern California, but this doll is actually from Willows, Wisconsin, where she attend Willows High School and was a "teenage fashion model." (Note: Not a real place.)

  • That She’s Not Smart

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    That She’s Not Smart
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    Again, don't fall prey to the dumb blonde stereotype -- Barbie's got brains. Anyone who has seen Toy Story III knows what we mean. Besides, her resume includes having a pilot's license, becoming an astronaut, being a medical doctor, and being a paleontologist, so ... she's smarter than her critics, that's for sure. 

  • That She Doesn't Have a Job

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    That She Doesn't Have A Job
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    Au contraire. Barbie has had more than 180 inspirational careers in her lifetime. Her work is as varied as the kids who play with her, and include everything from being a pizza chef (pretty much every kid's dream) to a computer engineer. 

  • That She's Expensive

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    That She's Expensive
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    Actually, she was a lot more expensive when she debuted in 1959. Adjusting for inflation, her original $3 price tag would be more than $23 in today's dollars. Meanwhile, you can get a standalone Barbie for under $10 in most places.

  • That She's an Only Child

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    That She's An Only Child
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    Actually, she's one of a large brood. Her siblings include Skipper, Tutti, Todd, Stacie, Kelly/Shelly, Chelsea, and Krissy. Skipper, her flat-footed little sister, was the only one we knew about growing up, but she also has several cousins with various names. 

  • That She Was a Beautiful Bride

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    That She Was A Beautiful Bride
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    Somehow, Barbie has never been married. But that fact didn't dissuade this photographer from giving Barbie and Ken the ultimate modern wedding (and Mattel from selling Barbies wearing wedding dresses). 

  • That She & Ken Are No Longer a Pair

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    That She And Ken Are No Longer A Pair
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    Though the iconic duo broke up in 2004 -- after 43 years together -- they got back together in 2011. Sometimes love is just meant to be (although we'll admit we definitely had the two break up and get back together a whole lot more frequently than that when we were kids). 

  • That She's Not a Feminist

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    That She's Not A Feminist
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    There's plenty to critique in Barbie's long history. But if self-determination is one of the core tenets of feminism, then Barbie has always held a certain promise.

    In the words of Ruth Handler, the woman who invented her: "My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices."

  • That She's Not Political

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    That She's Not Political
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    In 2017, Barbie was all for marriage equality. While at first blush, it may seem silly for a doll to have a stance on a major political issue of the day, the truth is, kids who are LGBTQ may feel more understood knowing their role model believes in them. 

  • That She's Not Presidential

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    That She's Not Presidential
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    While she hasn't held office (yet!), she's run for president a half-dozen times. She also has a 60th Anniversary Political Candidate doll. In fact, she first ran for office in 1992, but her transformation into a more and more realistic-looking candidate is certainly an interesting one. 

  • That She Has Ideal Measurements

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    That She Has Ideal Measurements
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    In real life, the original Barbie wouldn't be able to stand up straight. "If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe. She likely would not menstruate ... she'd have to walk on all fours due to her proportions."

    Now that there are different Barbies -- curvy, tall, and petite, in addition to original -- the dimensions are slightly more realistic. Emphasis on slightly.

  • That She's Too Old for Social Media

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    That, at 59, she’s too old for social media
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    Have you checked Barbie's Instagram account? She's got more going on there than any of us -- and at 2 million-plus followers, hers was one of the fastest-growing Insta channels to date. (Check @barbiestyle to see why.)

  • That Her Film Career Is Over

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    That her film career is over
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    Sure, she was in all those Toy Story movies. But now what? Something big, actually. There's a live-action Barbie movie slated for 2020, starring Margot Robbie. She's also had several franchises with straight-to-video series. 

  • That She’s Passé

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    That she’s passé
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    Hardly. Word is that, somewhere in the world, three Barbies are sold every second. She's still a $1 billion global business, and kids everywhere -- as well as adult collectors -- are still snapping up her amazing looks regularly.

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