Thursday, July 23, 2009

Darker Shade of Black - Mattel's First Malibu Christie

Mattel has had its share of "regrettable" moments in doll history. By "regrettable," I mean moments when the toy buying and critiquing market responds with anger or outrage. The bottom line is selling product so that the company continues. So few companies actively seek to alienate their clients. Here are some examples we can look at:

Ken - absent penis which lack provides constant negative commentary.

"Colored" Francie - OMG! Barbie has COLORED relatives!

Growing Up Skipper - budding breasts are EVIL!

Kissing Barbie - we won't investigate what she is selling, tsk.

Earring Magic Ken - lavender vest + earrings on a male doll - not for my kids!

"Oreo" Barbie - Oreo is not JUST a cookie, Tom.

Pregnant Midge - nobody's fooled by that silver ring on her left hand, get out the stones! Add pregnant married women to the EVIL list.

BUT I have to give Mattel a hand for an act of quiet significance. Back in 1973, somebody actually paid attention to details. Somebody looked at the Mattel doll line and then looked at the world. So when the Malibu Sun Set dolls were created with suntan (light brown) complexions, Christie also got a darker complexion. Oh. Pause to allow the significance of this event to penetrate. Someone at Mattel recognized that brown Christie could become a darker shade of brown after spending a lot of time in the sun. See the original Christie and the first Malibu Christie here:

Christie: Shades of Black

Is that paying attention? Thanks mysterious somebody or some bodies at Mattel for taking the time to get that detail right and to see that Christie dolls went out suntanned, as did Barbie, Ken, Skipper, and Francie. I don't know if anyone else noticed that "getting it right" moment so if they didn't, then 36 years later, I write, THANKS!


Dolls of Color said...

lol... loved this list...

why was Kissing Barbie controversial?

I have the pregnant Midge - her removable tummy amuses me endlessly LOL

some of the terminology is sooo dated! c'mon... Colored Francie? lol the irony... coming from someone with a website called dolls of color :P

speaking of dated terminogy, I just gots me an Oriental Barbie XD

D7ana said...

Kissing Barbie wasn't one of the bigger controversies, but there was some fuss about Barbie kissing. She is on a lot of pornography sites. Shrug. I thought it was a stupid activity for a doll to "do," but I didn't get why it was offensive. Somebody didn't have anything else to do LOL.

The U.S. Walmarts actually put out a different Midge from the ones sold in TRU. Some parents thought the pregnant Midge promoted teen pregnancy. Oh yeah, those pregnant teens all got the idea from doll life. Grr ... but the stupidity of it eventually makes me laugh.

In the 1960s, people with any known African ancestors were called "Colored." The doll was called "Colored Francie" so that's the name and the reference I used about her. The mindset then was that there were "Coloreds" and there were "Whites." Nope, nobody else existed. (Cringe.)

Actually the most publicly stated problem with "Colored Francie" was that she wasn't her own person and that she was "White" Francie produced in brown vinyl. Sigh. So I provided an alternate problem with her that - IMHO - was just as legitimate as the others for being a reason why the doll was so controversial. This was well before Black or Asian or Hispanic versions of Barbie existed. Barbie was White and that was that.

"Colored" is more historical than insulting. It is way less offensive than "oreo" or the n-word. Those are what some people would call "fighting words." Shrug. The words exist. People will come across them in documents and old films; it's better people know the words and the reaction to the words so they can use or not use them judiciously.

Dolls of Color is a whole other scene. I consider it an inclusive, embracing term that crosses race and ethnicity.

Last I heard, rugs were "Oriental," but people were "Asian." Thanks for that reminder about the "Oriental Barbie" whose naming did raise a slight ruckus.

Don't you love how culture and people's thinking at different times are revealed by dolls? That's part of the fun of collecting for me ;-D

Niel Camhalla said...

I don't know which will have a more negative feedback, Ken having a penis or his current state. Haha.

I heard the Earring Magic Ken was a hit in the gay community. Also I think the pregnant Midge is cool.

Of course, I'm not speaking as a parent.

I just find it funny that some people are against Barbie because she is so unreal but according to the the article on the pregnant Midge, some people don't like her because she is 'too real'. Funny.

It was nice of you to note what Mattel did right. I hope there are more. ^_^

D7ana said...

Ken was created in 1961. If you think America 1961 - Barbie caught on in spite of her having breasts! - then you realize, no way could a toy company produce an anatomically correct male doll. So it's always struck me as unfair that Ken should be ... placed at fault? held accountable? for being as he was made.

Yes, Earring Magic Ken was/is a big hit in the gay community.

Barbie critics - eh, they want to blame toys for the "problems" in society. Easier than having to look at their own actions or to make others responsible. Dolls reflect us; they don't compel us to act.

Half my collection is Mattel produced. Mattel is far from perfect, but sometimes they do right. If I can fuss about the wrongs, I can point out the good. Only being fair ;-D