It’s every girl’s dream.
A doll you can dress, accessorize, assign a personality and, you know, use as a camera.
Mattel’s new Photo Fashion Barbie functions not only as a blond companion, but also as a point-and-shoot camera. She is equipped with a lens on her back and a screen on the front of her shirt to display the images. These pictures can then be uploaded to the computer.
At last, Mattel has moved to model its merchandise after modern society, matching the evolving young person’s psyche.
No, of course I’m not talking about promoting a healthy sense of self through anatomically accurate dolls.
I’m talking cramming electronics into tiny hands.
A front-page article in the Sunday New York Times discusses the latest in gadget-centric toys, which are vying for childrens’ attention in the age of the iPad. A drop in toy sales has kicked the elves at Hasbro and Mattel into full-techno gear.
Voilà, Photo Fashion Barbie.
Now, I’ve never been a “Barbie-girl”. My Little Mermaid doll was the only doll I bothered to play with when I was young, and by “play” I mostly mean catapult at other children at the public pool. I also mean that I projected my warped sense of my orange-haired self on the only Disney Princess to which I thought I could relate.
And as an adult, I’ve come to understand Barbie as a sort of unrealistic symbol of the ideal woman: An anatomically disproportionate creature, whose feet are perpetually heels-ready, whose career is more novel than empowering.
Though I am no fan of Barbie’s, I find this addition to her stomach alarming. With the growing presence of technology in classic toys, the capacity and drive for creativity is shrinking (so much for “imagination, life is your creation).
Instead of inventing a function for Barbie —be it a veterinarian or the amateur hair dresser’s first client —children are again redirected to the computer. It is also somewhat disturbing that Barbie, already technically an object and a symbolic testimony to objectification of women (“you can brush my hair”), is being even further defined as a “thing”. Not as a potential friend and/or role model, as previously marketed, but as a camera attached to plastic breasts.
I can only hope that some especially cool children will transform this Barbie’s backstory into that of a social-outcast cyborg, an intelligent independent woman who just happens to have a camera lens in her back but discovers that what makes her different makes her extraordinary.
Somehow I doubt this will be the case.
Kids now are born with the technological equivalent of a silver spoon in hand. While I think there are many advantages to this, that technology affords great opportunities for budding creativity, it frightens me that classic toys— even if it is Barbie— are fighting for their lives for childrens’ interest. Because why create, when the technology does it for you? Why invent a life for Barbie when her stomach attempts to capture yours?