Dolls never appealed to me, so I probably lack proper appreciation of the subject. But I am keen on social trends, cultural practices, icons and stereotypes – plus aspects of marketing and so forth. Which is how this story catches my eye: the “Dolls of the World” series is offering an RCMP Barbie.
As reported by CTV:
Barbie appears serious about her career move into law enforcement, as she’s dressed in a close replica of the uniform Mounties currently wear: scarlet tunic with cross strap and belt, navy breeches with a yellow stripe, Strathcona riding boots and a Stetson, which “can be removed to reveal her bright red hair,” according to the official RCMP retail site.
The RCMP Heritage Centre has announced that the ‘Mountie Barbie’ is now on sale at its gift shop.
While RCMP Barbie is officially licensed by the RCMP Foundation, the noted fashion plate has been allowed to maintain her sense of style. Her red hair would normally have to be worn pulled back in a bun, and her heeled boots would, of course, be flat.
The Mountie Shop is a Not-For-Profit Corporation (830595-1 Corporation) established in 2007 to support and enhance the RCMP Foundation’s initiatives. The Mountie Shop specializes in providing high quality, Officially Licensed RCMP products representative of Canada’s iconic National Police Force to both the RCMP and the public. Net proceeds from the purchase of sales from The Mountie Shop go toward supporting community organizations who partner with local RCMP members to implement programs aimed at investing in Canada’s youth at risk.
This post could easily end up reading like free advertising for Barbie dolls, for which I apologize.
I’m mostly interested in how images are presented, as with the 203 dolls currently in the “Dolls of the World” series.
The waists are still anatomically impossible. The Hawaii Barbie wears (what else?) a hula dancer’s grass skirt and little else. Check out the Japan Ken doll as a samurai. There are 21 dolls in various stereotypical costumes in something called a Princess collection. (The word collection is used very intentionally, no doubt hoping you will buy them all!) It goes on and on.
I suppose we are seeing progress of sorts. Once upon a time the vast majority of dolls sold in the U.S. and Canada lacked diversity, in terms of race or doll-depicted vocations. That’s no longer the case, although some of that expansion is mostly about how to sell more product.
Of course, dolls span the globe and come in many, many brands. But Barbie is North America’s own special cultural mirror. There’s a Wikipedia page devoted to Barbie’s careers. No less than the New York Times grants Barbie her own “topics” page, so large does that doll loom in our cultural landscape, feminist critique, and so forth. Here’s a line from the topic intro:
Barbie has morphed into a legend and an icon. For Barbie is both mirror and model, reflection and avatar.
So I have a bunch of doll questions for any readers who are still with me. Does it bother anyone beside me that RCMP Barbie is wearing high heeled boots?! Do young kids play much with dolls anymore? As parents or grandparents, do you put thought into what particular dolls might represent before buying any for your young friends?
Or have we all started to over-think toys? Should we just get out of the way and let kids play with whatever catches their fancy?
Bonus question: Did you play with dolls in general – or Barbie in particular – and can you remember what that may have symbolized to you at that time?