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Sat, Sept. 21

Bluhm: Iconic Barbie turns 60, and shows no signs of slowing down
Around the Bluhmin' Town

Judy Bluhm, Courier Columnist

Judy Bluhm, Courier Columnist

Happy Birthday Barbie! Yes, the iconic Barbie doll has turned 60 years old! And she shows no sign of slowing down, moving into a retirement community, or letting her hair go gray. Mostly, she still wears high heels. To be fair, Barbie has gone through a major transformation and is looking a little different these days. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “normal,” but there are several new Barbie body types and seven skin tones. Oh, and it seems Barbie has gained a little weight. Well, age will do that.

Millennial moms weren’t buying the “freak of nature” that Mattel created when they made a tall, slender, buxom, blonde bombshell of a doll who couldn’t even stand on her own two feet! Poor Barbie’s feet are horribly shaped to fit permanently into stilettos, not the usual footwear of busy moms or young girls. Some say Mattel is “brilliant” for this feminist rebranding. And it’s about time.

Back in the late 1950s and 1960s, ninety-nine percent of all little girls, ages three to ten had a Barbie. It was on most girl’s Christmas list. Who knew that this blonde, impossibly beautiful, slender (with a figure like a Playboy Bunny) doll would become a cultural phenomenon? How many times have we heard the references to “Barbie Doll” good looks, or the perfect couple looking like “Ken and Barbie?” Of course, the truth is that most of us never actually met anyone who looked like Barbie.

Body image is a tricky thing. Hopefully, our role-models are real people with genuine accomplishments and value. We aspire to be like them. Somehow a plastic doll has morphed into an icon, a standard for young girls to look up to. Some psychologists have claimed the “Barbie effect” has impacted entire generations of young girls who continually measure themselves against a blonde hot mess of a toy. Yikes! Is that one of the reasons why we are a looks-obsessed culture?

God made us all in different shapes and sizes! Beauty is only skin deep! Do not judge a book by its cover! It is what’s inside a person that matters! Be yourself and embrace your curves! Yes, we probably have all heard and said these messages as a counter attack on impossible beauty standards that are dangerous, unhealthy and unreal. But then, lurking in a small girl’s bedroom is the “beauty of all time” Barbie that looks like she might be a chorus girl in Las Vegas. Hate to say it, but that Barbie is a fake!

Shares of Mattel, Inc. have soared since they introduced the “New Barbies.” Yes, various body sizes, many skin and hair colors, a disabled Barbie in a wheelchair, an astronaut, a pilot, a Olympic champion are but a few of the ways that Barbie has evolved. A billion Barbie dolls have sold world-wide and at age 60, she looks “new” again.

Yes, dear readers, Barbie is teaching us that instead of growing old, or looking dated, just reinvent yourself. The world has changed since 1959 . . . . one doll at a time.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at

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