Battle with Barbie Imagery

Updated: Feb 17

When people think of media in the modern-day, it's often toxic, which should not be the case. Every adult over fifty had brought up the good old times where not everyone focused on media, technology, and appearance and how wonderful that was. Today we see even the youngest generations manipulated by the media, especially young women, and their desire for the "perfect image." For many young girls, including myself, I would enjoy playing with barbies, and I would constantly receive them as gifts. Many children don't know any better they aspire to be like a barbie or want to have that lifestyle because of how amazing it appears.

The original Barbie in 1959
The original Barbie released in 1959

The media portrays Barbie to look a certain general way which is unrealistic to many women. It is young women who experience this media influence, but the male Barbie Ken creates a masculine pressure for men to strive to look like buff, muscular men. The pressure to be so perfect also comes with the gender assumptions and that boys should not even want to play with Barbies or that girls should not be building Lego sets. The beliefs and manipulation viewed through media deprive children of the true joy these toys should bring to them. Instead, they are so worried about being unsatisfied with themselves and want to look a specific way. People may not believe that it affects children at such a young age, but body image is something that many young adults and children constantly struggle with. They think Barbie is thin, and Barbie is blonde, yet they do not realize that Barbie represents a figure that most girls are not. Barbie in real life is likely that "she would stand at 5'9", have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips, and a size 3 shoe, and she would be considered anorexic. This is not the role kid's toys should be playing in their lives. Instead of allowing kids to play for enjoyment, it makes them want to appear differently" (Health Reference Center). Kids do not deserve to worry about the perfect way to look; it's just not right. Yet, they still fear the companies that lack change and diversity and only show what the picture-perfect woman or man looks like. Children do not know any better they have heroes and idols. The media never shows the actual reality of those people in which is children aspire to be.

As the media has changed over time, so did the issue of representation.

Stick-thin women represented mothers, daughters, businesswomen, and everything in between. This gave the idea that skinny was not only the norm but expected no matter the age. The destruction of children because of expectations is not a way one should live. A young girl wrote down plans for what she wanted to achieve in her "diyet," saying, "Mothers have discovered "diyet" plans penned by their 7-year-old daughters and passed around on the playground, instructing them to perform "seventeen poosh-ups" and "run up and down the driveway," while allowing them to eat "two peewee froots" [sic] (Rehabs). At the age of seven, a young girl is trying to begin a diet; this is not healthy, but it is the reality of how brainwashing and toxic the media can be for someone at such a young age. When children watch television or see commercials, there is always that perfect actor who is thin, tall, and pretty. Many people, especially young kids, don't know how much time and effort goes into the actor's look before being seen through the media. We are only censored to what the world and mass media want us to see, and that is where kids become hopeless because they cannot help but have the desire to be like someone on television or someone famous who may be their hero.

Barbies and celebrities are only some of the pieces to the body image issue puzzle, which many are trying to change for the better. Still, there will always be an expectation and pressure out in the media.

Rehabs. (n.d.). An Epidemic of Body Hatred. Rehab Centers for Drug & Alcohol Addiction - Treatment Information.

"Body-image/self-image." Health Reference Center, SAGE Publications, 2016.


Erin Fleming is a sophomore at Sacred Heart University. She took a media literacy course where many of the events in media today were discussed.

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