As ideas around femininity shift towards empowerment, Barbie have made a move to become more culturally relevant. Their recent “Imagine the Possibilities” campaign seems to position the doll as a force of enablement for young girls – but do they make a big enough leap?
The new campaign features young girls taking on adult jobs such as a university lecturer and a sports coach, and captures the adult audience’s bemused reactions on a hidden camera. The campaign encourages young girls to be confident in following professions that may have previously felt more “male”, which is a huge step forward from a Barbie who lives to shop. The brand has even started to address Barbie’s impossible figure – with football Barbie boasting newly articulated ankles and feet that allow her to kick. Clearly they have recognised the importance of representing a wider range of opportunities beyond that of a leggy blonde model.
However, Barbie still seems steps behind other brands. We’ve seen the Always “Like a Girl” and Sport England “This Girl Can” campaigns, which encourage women to be strong and confident. Artist Wendy Tsao’s “Mighty Doll” project takes Bratz dolls and turns them into empowered female icons – such as Nobel Prize winning teen activist Malala – in a bid to create authentic superstars for young people to look up to. Indeed, the wider doll industry is starting to step up with the likes of inventor doll GoldieBlox, and the ethnically diverse Naturally Perfect Doll.
Although Barbie has been smart with this culturally switched on move, it feels like they could have pushed the issue much further. As a toy which plays such a central role in many young girls development, we feel they have the right to become more active. By readdressing the Barbie blueprint,t and taking inspiration from the women who are shaping today, we feel they can transform Barbie into a truly modern icon.