In a lame attempt to compete with the eternal popularity of Disney princesses, Mattel partnered with high-end fashion line Moschino to increase sales this holiday season. While Disney offers princesses with superpowers, Mattel offers chicks with super wardrobes. But it isn’t her outfits that make Moschino Barbie a standout in the crowd. It’s the fact that she’s no longer marketed just to girls. Jumping on the gender fluidity bandwagon, Mattel has decided to market their latest dolls to boys.
Boys, mind you, with George Michael-esque hairdos that require more product and styling than most women employ for their weddings. “Moschino Barbie is so fierce!” he declares as he loops a leatherette purse over Barbie’s shoulder.
A second commercial features a series of girls enacting various professions. Taking the emasculation of the next generation to a new level, one is the coach of an all-male soccer team. That’s right, girls aren’t girls unless they’re giving the orders. And boys aren’t boys unless they’re playing like… girls?
An NPR segment on the commercials is telling when it comes to the motives of both Mattel and Barbie’s feminist critics. If you think these folks give two wits about boys, think again. In their mind, boys are a mere foil for their target market. Boys only exist to make girls feel better about themselves, whether by imitating their feminine behavior or taking their orders. Boys have never and will never be the target market for female doll makers. They are simply pawns used to play up to a target market’s parents’ politically correct notions.
So, if you let your little boy play with girls’ dolls are you giving in? A more realistic dual-gendered commercial would feature boys playing with Ken, boys beating Barbie up with G.I. Joes, or better yet, boys sneaking a peek up Barbie’s sweater. (Don’t think girls didn’t look there, either, albeit for completely different reasons.) Is this ad in any way culturally relevant for the majority of American boys?
The answer is: It isn’t. That’s why Mattel will never air the ad during prime kid TV time. In fact, the ad was the creative brainchild of Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott. The boy in it was fashioned after the gay designer whose biopic reads like a Lifetime movie of the week, and whose fashion is a stereotypical pop culture smash. Kids might never see the Mattel version of his alter-ego, but they’ll get plenty of the real thing thanks to Katy Perry and the like. Despite his professed hipster nihilism, Scott believes fashion should be transgressive. Who wouldn’t want their eight-year-olds violating social acceptability through imaginative play?
But, the Barbie brand as-is isn’t selling. Transgression, it would seem, is Mattel’s only choice. So, the girls that are their target market are not being taught to trust boys as strong, independent providers. Rather, they are being taught that the only safe boys to be around are the ones who act girly, just like them. Moreover, they are learning that they must take control over men in order to be respected and remain safe. Where’s the fun in all that?