Boy Stars in New Barbie Commercial – yes it got my attention when that headline showed up in my Facebook feed.
The first sentence of the Advocate article on the commercial says the new Moschino Barbie is “breaking boundaries."
How can you argue with that?
Yes, there is a boy in a Barbie commercial and yes, it’s made headlines.
No, it’s not groundbreaking.
As I watched the commercial, I felt disappointed in Mattel for totally missing the mark! Instead of being a beacon of inclusion, the commercial just marginalizes the “boy who plays with dolls." With his line of "Moschino Barbie is so fierce!", his gelled hairdo and a slight lisp, he’s a parody. The message is simple: Barbie + boy = sissy.
The commercial feels like an attention grab, a ploy for headlines and is definitely not the progressive message I so wish was actually happening in modern media.
As I worked in the children’s retail industry for many years, I know just how narrow the consumer’s mindset can be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone dismiss a science set because it wasn’t “for a girl” or a kitchen set because it wasn’t "for a boy." It is a strategy written by marketers: Make it pink! Make it blue!
But how much does that color coding cost our kids?
It is especially important for kids, especially younger kids, to play with a diverse set of toys, from dolls to blocks. Pretend play toys (including dolls such as Barbie) teach kids empathy, communication and allow them to work out difficult situations in an interactive and safe way. As an example, when kids play doctor dress up or with a doctor doll, they can alleviate their own fear of going to the doctor by making it more familiar and accessible. Building toys such as blocks and bricks bring their own set of early learning benefits. That dreaded crash of the blocks to the floor is, in fact, a great lesson in cause and effect. Play isn’t just fun for kids, it’s learning.
With the segmentation of the toy market, it seems that boys, especially, lose this chance at understanding others and their world. Instead, they are faced with an onslaught of super heroes that generally do not solve their problems in a realistic way. Playing with Barbie or other dolls in (near) real-life situations could go a long way in fostering understanding of others.
I had hoped the new Barbie commercial would be an invitation to appreciate our differences. Instead, it seems to have simply highlighted them.