Tokidoki Barbie's pink hair and tattoos angered parents when the doll was released in 2011. While some individuals praised Mattel for fighting the stigma of body art, concerned parents thought the Barbie would corrupt youngin's minds. According to Mattel, the edgy doll—and cactus-covered pet Bastardino—were targeted toward an older audience as collectors items.
Mattel produced pregnant Midge (complete with a bulging belly and small plastic baby) to teach children about family life. But Mattel forgot to include one little thing: a wedding ring. Not surprisingly, Midge was vilified for promoting teen pregnancy and was quickly pulled from the shelves.
In order to teach children about puberty, Mattel created Growing Up Skipper. If you twisted her left arm, she grew bigger boobs, a slimmer waist, and became taller. If you twisted it back again, she went back to her “normal” size. How educational! The doll was basically like sex-ed class. Still parents weren’t thrilled. We can’t possibly understand why.
Barbie’s impossibly large boobs, tiny waist, long legs, and pointed feet have helped create unrealistic beauty standards, but back in 1965, the doll was even less subtle about the pressures to look perfect. Slumber Party Barbie came with a book called How to Lose Weight that said “don’t eat” on the back cover. She also carried a bathroom scale that was always set at 110 pounds, which would be approximately 35 pounds underweight for a woman matching Barbie’s real-life height. Barbie’s dimensions haven’t changed but at least she no longer explicitly tells girls how to have an eating disorder. I guess you can say that’s progress…
Teen Talk Barbie was released in 1992 and was programmed to speak a number of phrases, one being “Math Class is Tough!” Although not all Teen Talk Barbies said this phrase (some Barbies found math to be fun and easy!), the American Association of University Women was displeased. Soon after, Mattel had a firm talk with Barbie and told her to keep her mouth shut and luckily, she remained on the shelves. It was offered that if anyone owned Teen Talk Barbie with that specific phrase, they could swap it out for a new doll.
Oreo company Nabisco collaborated with Mattel to launch cross-promotional Barbies, outfitted in Oreo cookie gear. What started as a sweet idea turned racially sour as the word “Oreo” can be a derogatory term for a black person that “acts white.” Styling an African American doll in Oreo cookie gear suddenly took on a dark meaning and unsurprisingly resulted in negative backlash. Mattel recalled the unsold stock and turned their cross-promotional efforts to less controversial snacks, like Ritz crackers.
Apparently the folks at Mattel think that nothing says childhood playtime like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Not only is The Birds Barbie modeled after the main character in the horror flick, it also replicates the movie’s famous terrifying scene. Talk about inspiration for a game of “let’s pretend!”