Ever since Barbie made her debut in 1959, certain questions have weighed on our minds: Why doesn't she look anything like real women? What would a real woman with her proportions actually look like?! What if her proportions were actually based on a real woman's? And beyond all that, what kind of negative effect -- if any -- is her distorted, unrealistic body having on the legions of little girls who've grown up playing with Barbie dolls for decades?
Artist Nickolay Lamm is addressing all of these Qs with his creation of "Normal" Barbie, aka a 3-D model created from CDC measurements of an average 19-year-old woman. He explained his rationale to us: "I created this 'Normal' Barbie, because I feel that if there's even a small chance of Barbie negatively influencing girls, and if normal Barbie looks good, why doesn't Mattel make 'normal Barbie'? ... I want to show people that normal Barbie can look even better than real Barbie. Average is beautiful."
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It's true. His "Normal Barbie" looks stunning, doncha think? And a lot more, I don't know, real?
Still, shockingly, at least judging from comments under one story about Lamm's "Normal Barbie" experiment, some people think there's absolutely no negative effect -- and therefore no need for Mattel to make a more realistic doll. They argue that Barbie's "just a child's toy," and write, "If a little girl is dumb enough to think she's supposed to look like an 11-inch tall doll, that's her problem." Wow. No. It's not her problem. It's Mattel's and parents' and everyone's problem, because the downstream effects of what a little girl believes is beautiful and attractive and acceptable are tremendous. It could be a piece of the puzzle influencing whether she spends her life dreaming of finding the cure for cancer -- or pining after plastic surgery.
To that kind of thinking, Lamm says:
Some people think it's okay to tell real human beings how skinny they look, yet refuse to lay the same criticism on Barbie even though young girls are probably much more exposed to her than advertisements with skinny models. ... Just because we think something isn't affecting us, doesn't mean that's the case. I feel a lot of our actions are based on things we don't even think about.
Cheers to that! But the thing is ... we should be thinking about them, and that's what an artistic experiment like Lamm's aims to do. It gets a conversation going and gets us thinking about how we and our daughters and future generations of girls' body images and perceptions of beauty may be molded by Barbie's warped body -- perhaps in ways we never even realized.
What do you think of Lamm's experiment? Do you think there's a need for a "Normal Barbie"? Do you believe Barbie negatively influences girls?