Mattel’s Barbie has often been accused of promoting an unhealthy body image, and given the target clientele mostly consists of young girls, the damage it could have done to impressionable minds over the years is staggering. A 2015 study, reports The Guardian, found children in the UK as young as eight reporting body dissatisfaction and almost 40% of 14-year-old girls admitting to regular dieting—though Barbie is not the only factor behind this, given its popularity, there is no doubt it is one of the primary ones. There are instances of women undergoing very expensive and potentially damaging plastic surgery to look more like the unrealistically-proportioned doll—separate studies have shown that Barbie would have lacked the body fat to be able to menstruate normally and be capable of standard bipedal locomotion with her body type. And then, the doll has been sold with merchandise like a book advising primary-school children to go on damaging diets to lose weight.
Therefore, Mattel unveiling three new body types in the interest of a “broader view of beauty”—that ditch her skeletal frame in favour of ones that show more realistic body fat content—is a welcome move. With real life racial diversity in mind, Mattel is also giving the new Barbie a much wider range of skin tones and hair colour and styles. Whether it is the popular doll’s falling global sales that has prompted its dramatic reimagining or whether Mattel has woken up, belatedly, to its role in promoting healthy body image in young girls, the move is definitely going to help young girls not fall prey to body dysmorphic disorder or anorexia. Sure, as long as preference for “size zero” or the practice of photoshopping celebrities is around, there are enough such traps. But, the new Barbie may help young girls realise real beauty lies beyond body types.