Passport Please

barbie

                In 1959, Mattel invented the beloved Barbie doll, treasured by generations and an icon recognized worldwide.  The Barbie doll has had many incarnations over the years, and has been in many different types of media ranging from movies to video games.  Recently Mattel launched its newest line of Barbie dolls in the “Dolls of the World” line, started in 1980, which has Barbie dressed in different clothing from countries throughout the world.  This new line did not come without its controversies, though; the company revealed its new Mexico Barbie doll, complete with a chihuahua – and more interesting, a passport. 

                The passport is where all the controversies stem from in this new line of Barbie dolls.  Every doll in the line of “Dolls of the world” comes with a passport, but in light of the recent debates over immigration reform, which is affecting millions of Mexicans in the United States right now, was it a smart move by Mattel to allow this accessory right now?  Alan Hilowitz, spokesman for Mattel, stated that while every doll comes with a passport and animal companion, Mattel did consult with the Mexican embassy before the doll was launched.  Hilowitz goes on to say that the goal with the “Dolls of the World” Barbie dolls is to “celebrate cultural differences and tradition, introducing girls to the world through play.”  While some parents don’t have a problem with the doll, stating that they won’t count on toys to educate their children on history or culture, many more believe that it is insensitive in this time of delicate issues.

                While Mattel was attempting to celebrate different cultures of the world, including the passport with the Mexico Barbie doll was an obtuse move amid immigration reform in the United States.  For the doll to be released with that type of accessory, right now, only marginalizes Mexican Americans and immigrants alike by demonstrating that anybody who has roots in Mexican culture is not from here.  Mattel should have considered current events before allowing Mexican Barbie to be released with a passport.  While not discriminating solely against Mexicans, the “Doll of the World” line does reinforce negative messages to children, such as any doll that doesn’t look like the original Barbie must be different; and with the current theme of immigration reform, this can lead to the idea that any doll of a different race or culture is not as good.

 

Rainone, Cathy. Amid Immigration Debate, Mexico Barbie Sparks Outrage. NBC, 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/national-international/NATL-Mexican-Babrie–202551021.html&gt;.

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One thought on “Passport Please

  1. You captured well the (unintended) consequences of representations, particularly given the broader immigration context. It would be helpful if this spurred a broader discussion in Mattel too!

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