Friday Fun (But Is It Fun?): Barbie Princess Power

The lengths Mattel will go to, to revive their stuttering sales…

Photographer Jeff O'Brien Stylist Jennifer Shaw. From Mattel website.
Photographer Jeff O’Brien
Stylist Jennifer Shaw. From Mattel website.

Meet Barbie Princess Power. The following sentences are from their marketing material.

Kara is a modern-day princess with an everyday life. One day, after being kissed by a magical butterfly, Kara soon discovers she has amazing super powers allowing her to transform into Super Sparkle, her secret, crime-fighting alter ego who flies around the kingdom ready to save the day!

Her secret weapon: kindness, niceness and friendship. She transforms the baddies by appealing to their inner ‘nice guy’ – which, obviously, must come to the fore when they see the outfit she is wearing!

As if girls haven’t had enough of being told for generations that they need to be ‘nice’, friendly, kind, even when all around them the others aren’t. To keep a marriage together even if the husband is unkind, unloving, cheating, a bully, a drunk because ‘at least he doesn’t beat you.’ To continue to ‘seduce’ the husband with feminine wiles (and expensive make-up, depilation and lingerie) so that he doesn’t stray. To flatter the male CEO and not be too loud or self-assured in meetings. I’ve seen it in far too many of my friends – and in myself – that we are so concerned with making life comfortable for all the people in our lives, we are so busy bolstering everyone else’s ego, so keen to avoid conflict … that we are not doing ourselves any favours!

‘Nice’ people become martyrs. They most certainly do not win in life. Assertiveness does not mean we’re not ‘nice’.When can we have a superheroine Barbie who can be grumpy on occasion, strong, opinionated, as well as empathetic and gentle? When can we tell our daughters it’s fine to be demanding and selfish and real?


14 thoughts on “Friday Fun (But Is It Fun?): Barbie Princess Power”

      1. I have a daughter but she is ‘grown up’ now …..pinkness wasn’t such a thing when she was little ….and fortunately her heroines were Matilda and Olivia from BFG …thank heavens for Roald Dahl !! This pinkness thing is more recent ….a patriarchal backlash ?!?!

  1. Oh, please, don’t even get me started, Marina Sofia! Having raised a daughter, I can tell you that it’s a constant struggle to help a girl/young woman avoid those horrible messages and media images. I really dislike all of this ‘Barbie’ stuff!

  2. It’s odd – it felt as if things were improving on the toy marketing front for a while, but the last decade or so it seems to have really regressed. But you must admit the boots are quite cool… 😉

  3. Wow. I can’t say that it surprises me that Mattel would do this. It does constantly surprise me that Barbie and the American Girl franchise are both owned by Mattel. The two couldn’t be more different even though they have the same target market.

    I will admit that the idea that she gets her superpowers from a butterfly kiss makes me laugh, groan, and roll my eyes. The feminine equivalent of a radioactive spider bite?

  4. I was lucky enough to have an older sister who despised all dolls. There was the odd decapitation or two so they never got into our home! It always struck me that action man was leading a much more interesting life than Barbie.

    1. I did collect dolls when I was a child: but they were dolls in national costume from different countries. It was the folklore I was more interested in, even back then, and the dolls didn’t really get played with. Some haircuts may have taken place though…

  5. I hate these things and I agree with you: assertiveness is good, nice doesn’t mean anything. And all this pink and princess dream for girls makes me sick. We still have a lot of work to do for equality. But it’s our role as women and mother to resist this: we don’t want our daughters to be doormats, we don’t want them to think that CEO is a man’s job and that the best place for a woman is at home with kids.

    The worst of it is that this pink mania goes on when you’re adult. I’ve bought boys sneakers and men sport jackets for me because I couldn’t find any without pink or purple on it.

    PS: Have you read Cinderella Ate My Daughter? Fascinating. (There’s a billet on my blog and on Caroline’s) The princess theme seems worse in the US than in Europe.

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