The Evolution of an Icon: A Comparison of the Values and Stereotypes Reflected in the Original 1959 Barbie Doll and the Curvy 2016 Barbie Doll

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In January 2016, Mattel introduced a new Barbie doll that comes in three different body types: petite, tall and curvy. After many years of critique on Barbie’s unrealistic body, the introduction of the curvy Barbie is seen as a radical change by many. This thesis analyses the original 1959 Barbie doll and the curvy 2016 Barbie doll together with one commercial from both time periods in order to see what cultural values and stereotypes are embedded in the dolls and whether these values and stereotypes have changed or not. The 1959 Barbie doll reflects progressive values, such as an independent and unmarried life, but at the same time the doll also creates a stereotypical image of women by overemphasizing the importance of appearance and beauty. The 2016 curvy Barbie doll shares this focus on looks, but beauty as defined by this doll is a broader concept because of the addition of different ethnical features and body types. However, the body of the curvy Barbie differs very little from the original Barbie and therefore the term curvy is problematic. The changes in the values and stereotypes reflected by the Barbie doll in 1959 and 2016 show us that the Barbie doll is changing into a more inclusive toy, but this change comes in small, not radical, steps. Keywords: Barbie doll; gender studies; women in popular culture
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