A Brief History Of Barbie's Most Questionable Life Choices And Controversies


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Hello, my name is Erika Marie, and I am a Barbie fanatic. 

Don't misunderstand me: I'm not one of those people who has to store all of my clothing in bins on a garage shelf because my closet is wall-to-wall dolls. It's just that since I learned how to drag myself across the floor as a child, I have adored adding to my Barbie collection. When Mattel released its signature I Love Lucy dolls, you best believe I got the Vitameatavegamin version. (It's still in its original packaging.) When it came out with its Dolls of the World Collector's Series in 1993, I was all over it. And when I heard that Mattel was creating a Frida Kahlo Barbie doll last month as part of a series highlighting iconic female role models, I almost passed out. 

(Seriously, my mother is a G for putting up with my Barbie obsession.)

Barbie has empowered girls and women like me, young and old, for years. She's had more jobs than the Jamaican "Hey Mon" family from In Living Color. She's showed kids that you can be an astronaut, paleontologist, firefighter, surgeon, dentist, football coach, and even a See's Candies cashier. Whatever your heart's desire, if Barbie can do it, so can you. 

Still, even I can acknowledge the fact that Mattel's made some questionable choices over the years. Read on to see the most controversial highlights (or lowlights, depending on how you look at them) from its decades-old Barbie lineup.

Slumber Party Barbie (1965)
1 / 8

Slumber Party Barbie (1965)

This doll came with a bathroom scale set to 110 pounds and a book titled "How to Lose Weight." (One of its tips was simply "Don't eat.") Nothing like subliminal fat-shaming language via your favorite doll's accessories to encourage an eating disorder at a young age!

rapping barbie
2 / 8

Rappin' Rockin' Barbie (1991)

At least Mattel tried including as many ethnicities as possible in this series. (It even looks like they gave Ken a tan!) However, it was a risky move considering how much *ahem* certain communities *ahem* vilify rap culture, blaming that hippity-hop for violence in the streets. This Barbie looked like she was out here looking for Kendrick. (Full disclosure: I had this doll and remember driving my mother crazy by playing that mini boom box, but that's besides the point.)

Barbie Wash & Watch Dishwasher (1991)
3 / 8

Barbie Wash & Watch Dishwasher (1991)

You know what I like to do as I prepare to load my pre-washed plates into the dishwasher? Put on some pink heals, make sure my hair is done just right, and get dressed in my favorite apron-skirt hybrid. What a great example for young girls!

4 / 8

Oreo Fun Barbie (1997)

In one of its most questionable moves ever, Mattel partnered up with Nabisco to release two versions of an Oreo Fun Barbie in '97 — one of which was black. My mother and I had quite a few discussions about why the doll was racially insensitive. (If you didn't already know, calling a black person an "Oreo" implies that they act white; that they're "white on the inside and black on the outside." I can't even count how many times I've been called an "Oreo" as a "compliment.")

Yeah, Mattel missed the mark with this one. I was so mad when it came out because I overdosed on Oreos every week and would've been down with the doll if it wasn't so blatantly wrong. (Not gon' lie, though — if I saw that Oreo bag on the racks at the mall, I would buy it without hesitation.)

5 / 8

Barbie Happy Family Pregnant Midge & Baby (2002)

Mattel couldn't have America's most influential doll giving birth out of wedlock, so it decided to go for the next best thing: Midge, Barbie's best friend since 1963, got pregnant in '02. The pregnant Midge doll came with all sorts of awkward accessories, like a detachable belly that held a newborn crammed inside. Unsurprisingly, so many parents complained about this one that Walmart wound up pulling it from its shelves.

Barbie Forever and Tanner the Dog
6 / 8

Barbie Forever Barbie Doll With Tanner The Dog (2006)

The reason I don't have a dog isn't that I don't think they're adorable; it's because I'm lazy and I can't imagine having to walk a creature and pick up its poop every day. If Barbie the dog owner was supposed to help kids understand the responsibilities of having a pet, those children were in for a rude awakening when faced with reality. It's too bad that certain parts of the magnetic pooper scooper were deemed choking hazards, resulting in this Barbie's recall.

Barbie Video Girl (2010)
7 / 8

Barbie Video Girl (2010)

I was already an adult and not really into this Barbie when it was released, but I was intrigued by the controversy it caused: While it was never linked to any crimes, the FBI issued a warning about the doll because it contains a hidden camera, which could be used to create child pornography.

8 / 8

Barbie 10th Anniversary Tokidoki Barbie (2015)

These heavily tattooed, kawaii Tokidoki Barbies were created for adult collectors, but that didn't stop parents of young Barbie fanatics from raining on their/my parades. Moms and dads were concerned that little Jim Bob and Sue Anna were going to be influenced by the doll's brightly colored hair and "evil" skin ink. 



Detroit born. Los Angeles raised. Dark. Lovely. Spiritualist. Diviner. Crafter. Etsy seller. I'm interested in all things mysterious and macabre. True crime writer, spoken word poet, storyteller, social activist. Insta: @earthtoerikamarie & @xoearthie - Snap: MsErikaMarie - Twitter: @EarthToErika - etsy.com/shop/xoearthie


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