In A Barbie World…A History

Barbie has been a subject for many discussions. Ater all, she is something else. She has been blamed for the development of eating disorders and for holding back feminist development. Barbie is quite often seen as an ‘air head’, a dumb blonde without a real career. For a long time Barbie couldn’t be more than a stewardess or a nurse, and it took some time to get the creators of Barbie to allow her a career as a pilot or a doctor. In truth, the All-American girl is moving up the social ladder! Next stop, Barbie for President!

barbielotsBarbie professions…she’s done it all!


B.B (Before Barbie)

In ancient times, the Greek’s left their weak babies behind. Archaeologists hardly found evidence of toys. It may seem harsh and cold-hearted, but childhood is a relatively modern invention. Until the 18th Century, children were seen as mere ‘mini-adults’ with miniature grown-up clothes. Many children died young; therefore classing children as a distinctive group with their own special needs probably didn’t occur to most adults.

English School Phesant children MChildren were, for a long time, seen as mini-adults.


In the 18th and 19th Century, the notion of ‘children’ became more and more a www.historicalportraits.comsubject of importance. In 1762, the French enlightened writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau published ‘Emile’. Within his writing, he tried to ‘stick up’ for the needs of children and their upbringing. However, it was not until the Industrial Revolution that the idea of a ‘childhood’ was really invented. In the hard times of the dangerous factories, the child was seen as a saviour of humanity, and angel and symbol of freedom.

Children As Consumers

The invention of plastic sped the process up. In post-war USA, the notion of the ‘child’ was re-invented, this time by marketing. The child became a consumer. The child-consumer was an important aspect in the rise of the plastic adult doll, Barbie. Barbie (full name Barbara Millicent Roberts) is a powerful icon of American mass-culture. The plastic blonde is well off, she never gets fat, has no nagging kids, her skin will never wrinkle and she won’t die of too much alcohol. But most of all, she won’t ever go out of style!

il_fullxfull.383934331_3a3rIntroducing…Barbie and Ken!



Barbie was inspired by a trashy German plastic pin-up, called ‘Bild Lilli’, who appeared in the German ‘Bild Zeitung’ as a cartoon. Lillie was a platinum blonde with big breasts, and was having a marvellous time in post-war Germany! In 1959 Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, created Barbie; a teenage-doll, named after her daughter Barbara. Barbie looked a lot like Lillie, but Barbie was to become a decent girl, unlike slutty Lilli. Fifties Americans were practically obsessed by virtuousness. In essence, Barbie became the ‘All-American’ girl.

ruth-handlerRuth Handler: creator of Barbie


Barbie was different from dolls that were fabricated before. She didn’t need care, like the baby-dolls girls played with before. Barbie was an independent doll, who could be who she wanted to be by simply changing her clothes. She made her own money and loved to spend it on fashion. There is no evidence of parental figures and she has a sorry excuse for a boyfriend, Ken. But, why was Ken ever produced? Well, what would a decent girl in the fifties be without a man? A failure!

Lets Get Physical…

Barbie has incredible physical proportions. In fact, she wouldn’t ‘t be able to stand if she was for real! The first Barbie dolls had enormous boobs, however, the latest dolls seem to have undergone a reduction! And she has tiny feet…she would literally topple over in real life!

sidebysidebarbieActual Barbie Vs Average Woman


Her face was completely changed in 1971. Before, Barbie always had a shy look about her and she decently looked sideways. But now, we all know Barbie for her huge bright eyes, and her head-on stare!

Why I Love Barbie

I’m not ashamed to admit I own many Barbie friends, and why should I not? To be honest, Barbie is an inspiration. She has stood the test of time, and little girls still play with her until this day. She has evolved. I used a great book about Barbie as reference for this article. It is called ‘Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography Of A Real Doll’, by William Morrow and Company Inc. ( Copyright 1994, M.G.Lord). Please do have a read. It is fascinating stuff!

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