In honor of National Barbie Day, it would be fitting to do a retrospective on all of the ways the doll has evolved and changed along with our society, and all of the ways that Barbie has contributed to the development of America’s youth.
Buuuut, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to take a look at some of the more bizarre moments in Barbie history — moments that were both controversial and perplexing. Because, despite being one of the most beloved toys in history, Barbie is as susceptible to fuck-ups as any of us.
From the ill-advised pregnant Barbie, complete with a compartment belly, to the cringe-worthy, Chihuahua-toting Mexican Barbie, let’s reminisce about the Barbies that most of us (thankfully) never got to play with:
1. Ken & Barbie as “Romeo & Juliet“
Um … I’m not sure if anyone at Mattel ever finished Romeo and Juliet for their high school English class, but I feel like this particular couple really has no place being in the “Together Forever” collection.
I have no idea who Mattel thinks they’re fooling with this allegedly “space-themed” doll, because this is absolutely the unofficial “Drag Queen Barbie” we’ve all been waiting for. I mean, just look at her! She would definitely make it into the top three contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
3. Happy Family Barbie
OH MY GOD, MAKE IT STOP. THERE IS AN ALIEN BABY CURLED INSIDE MIDGE’S NON-EXISTENT STOMACH. (Not surprisingly, the particular doll was recalled — not because of nightmares, but because parents believed it promoted teen pregnancy.)
So, let me just say: this is what happens when you have a bunch of middle-aged white people making decisions about “diverse” toys. Naturally, this doll came about as the result of a partnership with Nabisco. However, when the company came out with a black Oreo Fun Barbie, it was apparent that they were not aware of the implications that went along with the phrase “Oreo” — i.e., a slang term for a black person who behaves like a white person. Not Barbie’s best or most racially-sensitive moment.
Gee, I guess doll collectors everywhere weren’t terribly concerned about Mattel romanticizing the relationship between 14-year-old Priscilla and 24-year-old Elvis Presley! Or the fact that Elvis was essentially forced into the marriage! It’s an all-American love story!
6. Growing Up Skipper
Growing Up Skipper was easily the weirdest Barbie, second only to Pregnant Midge. In this particular iteration, Skipper started out as a young, pre-pubescent girl — however, when her arm was pulled, her torso would extend, and (honest to God) small breasts would pop out on her chest. Essentially, this was the Skipper Puberty Doll. Which, in retrospect, could have been a valuable educational tool, if the whole thing hadn’t seemed so creepy.
Ah yes. The “Barbie Needs To Fire Her Stylist” doll. I have no idea what’s going on here, but just looking at this dress is threatening to give me a seizure. I’d bet 100 bucks that Barbie’s “rendezvous” in question is just talking to herself in the mirror, probably.
8. Barbie Forever with Tanner the Dog
At one point, Mattel decided to give Barbie a dog — which was a reasonable move, all in all. I’m sure Barbie is an animal-lover, and kids love cuddly puppies. Seems like a slam-dunk. But somehow, Mattel managed to fuck up this prime marketing opportunity by giving Barbie a dog that actually poops. Yes, you read that correctly. Tanner the Dog accepted pellets in his mouth, and whenever his tail was pushed, those pellets would come right back out of his asshole. Barbie then got to clean up her dog’s “poop.” Unless this was some sort of complex narrative about the glaring disappointment of reality, it’s probably a wise choice to leave animal poop out of children’s toys, mmkay?
9. Haunted Beauty Ghost Barbie
OH, SHIT. BARBIE IS DEAD AND SHE’S HAUNTING YOUR FUCKING HOUSE.
This version of Barbie featured a hidden camera in the doll’s necklace, which was then projected on a video screen in her backpack — presumably so Barbie could spy on her friends? Guess the name “Big Brother Barbie” was already taken!
11. The Birds Barbie
Yes, The Birds is a fantastic movie. However, it is also about birds that attack and kill people. Therefore, it seems kind of weird to place a Barbie version of Tippi Hedren in a box alongside several violent plastic birds (in place of any typical Barbie accessories). It’s like the equivalent of saying, “Now you can stage your very own gruesome bird murder, from the comfort of your home!”
12. Shaving Fun Ken
This Ken doll allowed you to sponge off his “rugged” stubble in an imitation of shaving — which is a weird move, because, to my knowledge, little boy aren’t clamoring for Ken dolls. So, the doll was effectively teaching girls how to shave a man’s face? I don’t know, anytime pubic hair is involved with a doll, it gets weird.
13. Teen Talk Barbie
Ah, Teen Talk Barbie. This was one of the most controversial dolls, as she was meant to imitate (you guessed it) the lexicon of modern teenage girls — unfortunately, Mattel seemed to think that included phrases such as “Party dresses are fun!” and “Math class is tough!” Which really speaks volumes as to what toy companies think of women, huh?
14. Mexican Barbie
Whoops, spoke too soon about offensive Barbies! The Mexican Barbie wore a flouncy pink, floor-length dress, carried a CHIHUAHUA, and came with her own passport. Basically, it was pretty damn racist, and amounted to a caricature of actual Mexican culture. (I’m going to have to do a deep dive to see if Donald Trump had anything to do with this, but I’m not excluding it from the realm of possibility.)
This version of Barbie is a cat burglar who steals high-end shoes, like some sort of deranged Carrie Bradshaw. Because I guess felonies are cute and relatable? Never mind the fact that this Barbie seems severely unhinged if the only thing she is stealing is designer footwear (not that I totally blame her).
16. George Washington Barbie
BARBIE, STOP IT. GO LAY DOWN. GO TAKE A NAP. THIS IS JUST SILLY NOW.