Reading too much into Barbie's tattoos

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 October, 2011, 12:00am


The world has had a love-hate relationship with Barbie, the doll with the impossibly sleek yet bosomy physique. The present furore over the new 'tokidoki' Barbie is the latest in a long string of controversies dating back almost to her birth in the late 1950s.

Sporting tattoos on her back, down her neck and across her chest, the new pink-haired Barbie has parents, educators and media pundits up in arms. Here is an edgy Barbie, poles apart from the all-American doll most people usually have in mind.

But it's hard to see what all the fuss is about. In the age of Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry, even Barbie needs to adapt. The new dragon-tattooed Barbie is a limited edition aimed at adult collectors, not children.

Perhaps people should spend more quality time with their children than fretting over tattooed Barbie or violent computer games.

In any case, it has often been the standard Barbie that has proved most controversial.

Foreigners think she represents a white feminine ideal they can never achieve. Feminists believe the doll imposes an unrealistic standard of beauty on young girls. Parents are worried when their daughters become obsessed with the doll to the exclusion of homework. Adults, it seems, project their own issues and emotions onto this 28cm-tall doll, while girls - at least those from families of means - often go through a Barbie phase.

Despite all the criticism, Barbie remains beloved around the world, one of the few truly authentic toy icons for more than half a century. In an industry where a hot toy in one Christmas season is landfill garbage the next, Barbie - dressed in evening wear, tennis togs, bikini or, yes, tattoos - is as close to a toy immortal as they come.