Whether you think Barbie is a good role model for little girls or not — and if you’re in the latter camp, maybe you’d prefer “Average Barbie”? — there’s no denying that on her road from surgeon to princess to McDonald’s drive thru worker, Barbara has had a few brushes with controversy.
Nothing controversial about a Barbie that babysits (no matter many jobs she’s had over the years, babysitting forever seems to be Barbie’s main source of income), but why babysitter Barbie reads a book called How to Lose Weight that advises, “Don’t eat!” is a different issue.
2. Slumber Party Barbie
Two years later, in 1965, Barbie is still reading How to Lose Weight, but now she’s going to sleepovers! And one of her slumber party essentials a pink scale that is permanently set at 110 lbs (which has been calculated to be 35 lbs underweight for a 5’9” woman).
3. Pregnant Midge
You’ve heard of Barbie’s best friend Skipper, but she has a lesser best friend named Midge too. And in this nightmare incarnation of Midge, she’s pregnant People said Midge was too young too be pregnant and that the doll might encourage teen pregnancy.
4. Growing Up Skipper
Growing Up Skipper was advertised as, “2 dolls in 1 for twice as much fun!” But when you rotated her arm — to make her “grow from a young girl to a teenager — most of the growing too place in the chest area. She ended up an inch taller and developed small boobs.
5. Oreo Barbie
The Oreo Barbie resulted from a partnership with Oreo cookies. But when Mattel released a black version of the doll, people quickly brought up the fact that Oreo can be a derogatory term for a black person who “acts white” (or is black on the outside and white on the inside, like an Oreo).
It’s bad enough that Teen Talk Barbie’s main phrases included, “Will we ever have enough clothes?” and “I love shopping!” but the American Association of University Women took personal offense to, “Math class is tough!” (Mattel has since taken that phrase out of Teen Talk Barbie’s lexicon.)
7. Share a Smile Becky
Barbie becomes even more inclusive with the doll’s first wheelchair doll, Becky. The only problem? A 17-year-old high school student, Kiersti Johnson, realized Becky’s chair wouldn’t fit into the elevator at Barbie’s Dream House. (Mattel said they’d fix this too.)
8. Barbie Forever and Tanner the Dog
Ah, yes. Barbie’s brief foray into professional dog walking. While the fact that Tanner the dog could eat his food and then “poop” it out (only for Barbie to pick up with her pooper scooper) probably didn’t make Barbie’s LinkedIn profile, it was the loose magnets in the scooper that became a choking hazard and forced Barbie Forever to be recalled.
9. Totally Tattoo Barbie
Like anyone with a Chinese symbol tattoo they think means “Inspiration,” Barbie has a few regrets about getting inked. Parents thought “Tokidoki Barbie” might encourage kids to get tattoos. Then there was Totally Tattoo Barbie, who came with temporary tattoos, including, what many call, a “Tramp Stamp.”
10. Barbie Video Girl
“Video Girl” might not be the best name for any type of Barbie — a video girl is an “actress” in a bikini who dances around in the background of rap videos — but it was the real video camera inside the doll’s chest that made the FBI worry the toy might be used to create child pornography.
To expand Mattel’s “Dolls of the World” collection, Barbie took a trip south of the border. Unfortunately, Mattel’s interpretation of Mexico — a fiesta dress, a pink passport, and a Chihuahua — was more stereotypical than authentic. Eventually, they reissued Mexican Barbie wearing a Mariachi outfit.
12. “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue” Barbie
When you look at the long list of women who have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue — Kate Upton, Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, Barbie — one of those things is not like the other. Mattel claimed it was an “opportunity to own who Barbie is, celebrate what she has done, and be #Unapologetic.”
13. Girl Scout Barbie
The Boy Scouts have enough controversy to worry about, but the Girl Scouts got into some hot water when they made a multi-million dollar partnership with Mattel. But it wasn’t the Scouts fault this time! Because of everything else (see points 1-12), organizations critiqued Mattel for being a “terrible role model” for girls.
14. Computer Engineer Barbie
In one of her newest professions, Barbie decided to become a computer engineer! But in the book Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, she mostly just infects computers with viruses and can’t fix anything without the help of her male coworkers. The Internet saw fit to re-caption pages from the book and turn her into the superior #FeministHackerBarbie.
Smarten up, Barbie!
Speaking of life being fantastic in plastic, Jennifer Lawrence says the soundtrack to her life is “I’m a Barbie Girl.” Find out why: