Happy 50th Anniversary, Barbie!

March 11, 2009

This week marks Barbie’s 50th Anniversary and – lucky lady- she doesn’t look a day over 30. In honor of the big 5-0, Mattel has planned a series of global events throughout the year including a runway show featuring 50 designers who paid tribute during New York’s Fashion Week, product lines available from Fred Segal, Sephora and Stila, partnership with Bloomingdales, and a birthday party tonight at a real Malibu Dream House planned by celebrity event planner Colin Cowie, styled by interior designer Jonathan Adler, and featuring DJ AM spinning the tunes for the birthday girl. And of course, the special 50th Anniversary Barbie doll. That’s quite the celebration.

Barbie’s big day got me thinking about my childhood. My friend Leah and I would play “Barbies” for hours on end, our record being somewhere around eight hours. I had Barbie’s home and office and a pink Cadillac convertible; Leah had the TV broadcast studio and an airplane.  Between the two of us and our modes of transportation, we had many amazing adventures together.

There is the never-ending debate about Barbie and body image. On the one hand, Barbie sets an unrealistic and unattainable expectation of what a woman should look like. Diversity has also been a point of contention in the Barbie world. The doll most think of when they think of Barbie is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed bombshell.  The argument is that this sends a powerful message to young girls who don’t fit this mold.  As an adult, it’s interesting to partake in this discussion of the impact this has on young people.  Though in thinking back to my experience growing up, I don’t recall Barbie in the light that adults debate.  What I remember is endless hours of playing with my best friend; of countless adventures in both real and make-believe locations throughout the world; of sorting through relationship dilemmas with Ken and Skipper; of carefree days cruising in my convertible; and the ever-changing careers in which we placed our dolls, from CEO to TV news anchor, flight attendant to rock star.

What I remember most about Barbie is the storytelling and imagination she inspired. It’s as if I envisioned what I wanted for myself- a successful career doing something I loved, a great relationship with a significant other, a life filled with adventure, and a never-ending supply of shoes — and created this through my playtime with Barbie.

I think there is definitely cause for the conversation as adults. We want children to grow up with healthy attitudes about what is realistic, but we also want children to actively use their imaginations and to create  life filled with dreams come true — even if that is just for one afternoon with a best friend. I was lucky enough to do this and I think I turned out OK. Would I like to lose five pounds? Sure. But do I blame Barbie? Absolutely not. I blame M&M’s for that.

So, out of respect to dear Barbie who brought me much joy in my earlier years, I thought I’d share a link where you can get to know Barbie a bit better. Then you, too, can partake in the great Barbie debate.  As for me, I’m glad I got to know Barbie. http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/mar/09/barbie-trivia/life/

Happy Anniversary, Barbie! I look forward to all you’ll accomplish in the next 50 years.