Barbie Got Back: Part One
There has been a lot of talk about the issue of body image, especially with women. There’s also been a lot of Barbie trashing, an easy target what with the doll’s obvious impossible proportions which are totally unlike the impossible proportions of many of our models and actresses, and never, ever shown as ideal in the media. But Barbie is a doll meant for children, so parents especially have been griping about this since Barbies were first created. (The idea of the doll came from an “adult toy” for bachelor parties. I can’t understand their complaints at all.) So anyway, one would think they’d be happy when finally, toy companies started making dolls that approach a more natural likeness to a real human body.
You’d be wrong of course! One of the first dolls to get media attention back in 2014 was the Lammily doll, created by Nickolay Lamm, a guy so conceited he named the doll after a combination of his name and family! Totally unlike what Barbie’s creator did, what with naming Barbie and Ken after her children. It had to be tough being her kids. Especially when your mom romantically linked you. But never mind that, back to the unfortunately named Lammily, which sounds like an ointment for sheep. In spite of her name, this is an groundbreaking doll. You see, Lamm decided it’d be interesting to see what Barbie would look like if you made her proportions more like an average of the proportions of a real 19-year-old woman. Note I said an “average” of the statistical measurements of a woman of this age. Meaning some are bigger, some are smaller, yadda yadda. But then he confused it a little by saying “Average is beautiful” as part of the campaign. And you know what Americans think about average.
No one is average! We should all strive for perfection that we can never attain, not settle for realistic dreams! How dare we suggest a girl be content with being “average”. Not even a mathematical average of human body types. But there were enough people who wanted a doll that didn’t make them or their kids feel like fatties wearing size, omg, 12 (The beginning size for plus-size models. I wish I was kidding here.) So in one day, his kickstarter campaign far surpassed what was needed to start the project. When Lammily arrived, the doll the media hyped to no end, calling her the alternative to Barbie, or even better, “fat” Barbie, there were a lot of mixed reactions. Some people were happy. But most were annoyed – on either side of the political spectrum.
Some were disappointed that this doll, started by one guy and a handful of dollars and helpers, did not come up with a huge range of body types and ethnicities with his pilot project. Because yeah, that’s what all small companies are capable of doing. He also made her, omg, white, but at least he made her brunette, and not wearing pink! Also no make-up! A plus, right? Nope. Now the ones who wanted a “family friendly modest doll” said she was “plain” and her clothes were boring and what kid (or parent) would want to play with that? Also, not every girl looked exactly like the Lammily doll. Which would mean – not every girl is average? Just like not every girl has crazy proportions? (There are some women who are naturally long legged, tall, skinny and perfect looking. It’s called the genetic lottery.) And then were the people, many of them women, who said this doll was “fat”. A doll statistically made by mathematical averages of a real female.
Even worse, he came up with a package of stickers with everything from cellulite to acne to various wounds (broken leg, scars, bruises – is Lammily in a bad relationship?) to help kids identify with the crap that puberty throws their way by sticking them on their dolls. Personally, I think I would have loved this as a kid. In fact, I might have to still order these stickers, if only to enjoy slapping them on Barbie and the Disney Princesses myself. Because it just makes the world feel a little more fair, that’s why.
So basically, Barbie is bad because she has too much makeup and no pimples, is too sexualized, and has a body that is not natural. And Lammily is bad because she has no makeup and has pimples, is not sexualized, and has a body that at least approaches natural. And then there were the people who, inexplicably, said Barbie is great and they were never, ever influenced to think they had to have a body like her. These are some of the same people who said Lammily was fat. Are you sensing a bit of disconnect here? Cause I sure am. Sorry, Lamm, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
What’s most ironic is that when you hear or see actual stories of how kids play with these dolls (not the ones in advertising, but actual stories) the kids really don’t care that much. UNLESS the parent makes it a big deal. For instance, one youtube video, labeled “Kids react to ‘Fat’ Barbie”, shows a woman purposely sticking Lammily marks on the doll before showing it to her small child along with a Barbie in a fancy dress. Guess which one the kid picked? Yeah, she chose the fancy one, and I’m sure she was not at all influenced by mom’s body language or purposeful attempts to make the Lammily doll more unattractive. I think this is one insecure lady. God forbid she gain weight herself one day.
So in response to the very, very horrific examples of human-kind seen in the comment sections of many articles and reviews on these dolls, I bought a Lammily. Because that’s the kind of research I will do for my fans, and not because I like buying dolls anyway. I bought her an extra set of clothes to experiment with as well, since she doesn’t fit in any of Barbie’s “no ribs” fashions. Thing Two announced that Lammily (Who has been renamed “Meg” by the Things. But not, as Thing Two vehemently insists, “Megyn.”) looks like me. I think that’s a compliment. I’ll take it as one, because Lammily has some nice muscular legs (which mine are not any longer) and a young, pretty face.
I have to admit, when I first saw this doll I thought she looked strange. She was thicker, without much of a waist (the hips probably could have been a little more hippy – girls do actually have hips) an actual butt, and (gasp) thighs. And then I realized with startling clarity that I had looked at myself for years, even back when I was a young, very thin woman, as someone with enormous thighs. So much so that I did not, and still do not, wear shorter dresses or skirts. To realize that this was normal was amazing, and somehow this doll showed it better than anything else I had experienced, possibly because I could physically hold this thing in my hand and compare it with other dolls. The Things were amazed as well. Forgive the nudie pics but it is the best way to see the comparison between body types. For actual doll porn, please see the rest of the Internet.
“Good grief, her legs are like pencils, Mom!” Thing One said, looking at Meg and then Barbie. And this is a kid who is thin, but with legs that can actually support her. Thing One immediately made Meg one of her super flexible yoga Barbie’s younger sister. Because why not? Both can live together, as they do in the real world. They are still toys, and not just political agendas. It might be nice to let the kids decide what they want and don’t want. And even it is only the parents who really like Lammily, and not kids, that’s okay – cause guess who has the money to buy the dolls? The parents. But parents can do best by their kids by just letting the dolls go, and seeing what happens – without preconceived notions. It’s an opportunity to talk with your kids about what they think, and why. And it’s a chance to play again. Which more adults should do – in my humble opinion.
P.S. No I haven’t been blind to Mattel hopping on the body image bandwagon with a brand new line of fashionista Barbies – a tall, a petite, and – oh oh – a curvy. More on them in part two.