Iconic toy manufacturer Mattel Inc., the creator of Barbie, announced on Jan. 28 the famous doll will now come in three new body types alongside the original stick-thin doll: tall, petite and curvy. The new dolls also come with a variety of skin tones and hair types.
The decision to give the Barbie doll a makeover came after years of criticism that the doll did not reflect realistic body types. This led the company to release 23 new dolls with the updated and varied body and skin types, USA Today reports.
While the move was praised by many on social media, others found the labels of the new dolls problematic and argued that Mattel has given into political correctness.
Mattel has not given into political correctness with its new Barbie models, but rather, the company has successfully responded to the past criticisms about the Barbie doll. It has done so in a way that is also a potentially savvy business move.
One of the criticisms about the new dolls came from a commenter online who said they force "adult hang-ups" on children, according to the Daily Mail. But ultimately, this criticism seems to explain why young girls wouldn't care about the changes. Because concern about body image is one of the "adult hang-ups" in question, it will not stop young girls from wanting to play with the new Barbie dolls.
Another criticism was the use of labels such as "curvy" and "petite" to describe the different body types of the new dolls, Daily Mail reports. But the labels are ultimately meant for the ease of businesses and consumers to identify and purchase the new dolls.
Mattel's move, in addition to addressing the various criticisms surrounding Barbie in the past, is also a good business move. Why is that?
It is because Barbie's sales have been slowing in recent years and have cut into Mattel's earnings, according to MarketWatch. As young girls gravitated to other dolls, such as those based on the Disney movie "Frozen," Barbie's 57-year run without any significant changes was likely to end at some point.
But with the new dolls, Mattel has provided consumers with many different new options, as well as the possibility of "collecting" all 33 new dolls the company plans to introduce in 2016. If Barbie's sales numbers increase this year, there is no doubt Mattel's move will be seen as a smart one.
Ultimately, Mattel's move should not be seen as pandering to political correctness. The company had a PR problem and an underlying business problem beforehand, and the new Barbie line is a way to address both concerns.