Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Welcomes A Real Doll

The forthcoming Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue, on newsstands Feb. 18, celebrates its 50th anniversary with a lineup of previous swimsuit issue alumnae such as Christie Brinkley and Heidi Klum.  Joining them for the first time will be none other than Mattel's Barbie, in a marketing campaign that essentially flips the bird to those who've criticized the magazine for being a sexual come-on.

The Barbie #Unapologetic billboard
erected in Times Square.
Called "Unapologetic," the campaign's message as framed by the toymaker, is one of empowerment (that word again!), placing Barbie in the pantheon of independent women "who have gone on to break boundaries, build empires, and shape culture.  Under constant criticism, posing in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to celebrate who they are, what they have done, and being #unapologetic. An unexpected pairing and a multi-faceted partnership, Barbie and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit remind girls of all ages that anything is possible."

(After all this talk about sisterhood, they are being called fellow legends?)

All this is a prelude to the launch of the SI Swimsuit Barbie doll, coming to a store near you, following a "Barbie Beach House Party" in New York the night before the swimsuit issue is released for sale.

All the pink-tinged glamor aside, it's important to remember that Barbie's enduring popularity co-exists uncomfortably with an exaggerated anatomy that heightens her sexual features and contributes to an unrealistic "thin-ideal" imagery that isn't good for girls.

And it's unfortunate that Barbie, who's had dozens of careers and can make a legitimate claim to being a female action figure, has now thrown her lot in with the pinup set.

Mattel's Barbie and Lamm's vision of her
everyday counterpart.
If Barbie were more like the girls she's marketed to, she might look like this, as visualized by artist Nickolay Lamm -- a beautiful girl by any and all accounts.

“If Barbie looks good as an average woman and even there’s a small chance of Barbie influencing young girls, why can’t we come out with an average sized doll?” Lamm told TIME magazines in 2013. “Average is beautiful.”