Barbies official website does feature an adult doll collection of “Dolls of the World” which has a slightly more diverse range of images, but even these dolls are fairly uniform in style: the Asian doll is decked out in a midriff-bearing sexy, sari, for example, but looks just like a regular Barbie.
In terms of body image, the typical Barbie doll has branched out to slightly more diverse interests than fashion: Barbie now skis and surfs, and even rides dirt bikes. Barbie is athletic, as well as feminine, in the official image she projects to young girls, suggests that one can be outdoorsy and girlish at once. Barbies “I can be” collection features a Barbie news anchor and computer engineer, the latter in plastic pink geek chic glasses. Barbies adult line now features less artificial looking dolls that are supposed to represent famous characters from film and fiction, including the recent blockbuster Twilight (the fact that adult Twilight vampire dolls like Victoria look more realistic than the real woman Barbie is somewhat disturbing). Regardless, Mattels attempts to respond criticisms about Barbies artificial proportions pale in comparison to how actual consumers use Barbie in an ironic fashion.
After studying in Barbie in greater detail, I would probably be less apt to give her as a gift to a young girl. However, I do notice that even young children who like to play with Barbies often do so in a ways very different than as suggested on the Mattel website — one reason girls seem to request Barbie so much as a gift is because they are tempted to cut off her hair, draw on her with magic markers, pull off her limbs, and torture her in a manner that suggests a desire to subvert or control her perfect image.
Barbie. Official Website. Mattel. June 23, 2010.
“Barbie: Dolls of the world.” Barbie Collector. June 23, 2010.
“Black Barbies are all dolled up.” Jezebel. July 2009. June 23, 2010.
“I can be.” Official Website. Mattel. June 23, 2010.
“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Victoria.” Barbie Collector. June 23, 2010.