Marilyn Motz's The Barbie Doll

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Since the dolls inception in 1959, Barbie’s longevity and popularity has remained unique within the toy industry. Given that today a Barbie doll is sold somewhere in the world every two seconds, the doll provides a profound insight into how Barbie has evolved in response to changing cultural values. Referred to as “a doll that is duly famous for her capacity to constantly change, as well as her paradoxically concomitant capacity to always remain the same” (McDonough, 82), Barbie commercials document her progression from Prom Queen to career woman over the past fifty years, while simultaneously projecting an image of the idealized American woman. Motz argues the Barbie doll serves as a cultural icon that symbolically conveys to children and…show more content…
From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, when innocence, maternal instinct and domesticity were high valued in women, baby dolls were the overwhelming favorite toy of girls and parents. The baby doll represented cultural values to adults and taught them to children, placing motherhood as the central experience to women’s lives. Later in the twentieth century, American society had shifted its focus from woman as mother to woman as sexual and social being; embodied by the popular sex icon of the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe. Moreover, the ‘50s brought forth the concept of adolescence as a separate phase in the life cycle. For the first time young adults were perceived as “teenagers”, whose behavior was celebrated for being different from that expected by either children or adults. Adolescence developed a culture of its own and the teenage girl “became the star of the social scene” (Motz, 225). To many Americans, the teenage girl represented the epitome of feminine attractiveness. As Rogers states, Barbie encompasses this as “she is a perennial teenager… yet leaps past the limits of actual adolescence” (Rogers, 16). Barbie encapsulated the current cultural trends; her stylish consumption and clean-cut middle class values found a mass of eager consumers among girls and their parents alike. Particularly as the doll became a visual symbol for consumption of material goods, voyeuristic sexuality and a lifestyle focused on personal pleasure and eternal

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