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A letter to Mattel

Dear Mattel,

Your Barbie movies have been a part of our household for the past 4 years.  Dancing princesses, princesses and paupers, fairies and mermaids….all of these have been embraced by my two daughters with complete and utter adoration.  My girls sing the songs, they dance along, they wish for magic lands and sparkly adventures.

But tonight? You suck.

Because my two little brown haired daughters realized, after some bazillion Barbie movies, that all the villains have dark hair.  I GET it that Barbie is blond, with her Caucasian features, unrealistic proportions and freakishly arched feet.  However, how blatant must you be that a 4 year old picks up on the intricate detail that each and every villain in your movies is a brunette?

Rachael – I want to be in a Barbie movie, I want to dance in the diamond castle.

Peyton – You can’t be Barbie, ‘cause Barbie has yellow hair. You have to the bad girl. ‘Cause she gots dark hair like you.

Rachael – I don’t want to be a bad girl!  (Can we all just applaud that notion?)

Peyton – Barbie is always yellow. She’s the princess.


Thanks to you, my 4 year old has an idea that to be a good girl you have to have blond hair.  Which, let’s all be honest, we know that Barbie’s about as natural blond as RuPaul.  Yet, we don’t ever get to see Dark Roots Barbie or Salon Barbie…where she starts out brunette but when you pour warm water over her head she goes blond….OR what about Goes Back To Her Original Color Barbie!

Pick one, run with it, people.

I’ve got nothing against blonds. As a Korean child adopted into a Caucasian family, there was nothing more fascinating than blond hair, preferably with curls….for some reason I had the idea that I would have Nellie Olson banana curls, which led me to beg for my first perm, which my mother agreed to but chose to take me to the hairdresser that did my grandmother’s hair and I spent the next 2 years growing out some freakish Annie hairdo that should never have happened. I think all pictures of that time have been burned.

I digress, Mattel.

Just once, I’d like to see Barbie make a poor choice and for her smarter, yet somehow unappreciated brunette friend Ethel to step in and save the day.  I want for the villain to be blond haired and blue eyed, to show that the bad girl doesn’t have to look any one particular way, even the pretty can be mean.  I will not have my daughters self-images tainted at 4 and 7 years old.

I can tell them over and over again that they are beautiful, they are special, they are exactly what the GOOD GIRLS are made of…but you are the seed of doubt being planted.

And I’m not having it.  I am thankful for movies like Penelope.  Rachael came home from seeing that movie and told me that she thought Penelope should be proud of her piggy nose, because it was what made her different and stand out from everyone else.  She also picked up that regardless of what Penelope looked like, someone fell in love with her for who she was, not what she looked like.

Mattel, you are dropping the ball here.  Your token ethnic dolls that comes out once a year, usually in some really authentic costumes that identify it as separate-from-the-real-Barbie, aren’t good enough.   You are excluding millions of little girls who want to identify with your icon, but can’t because you can’t get off your pursuit of the ideal image.

Don’t even get me started on the feet, that’s a letter for another day.

Sincerely wishing you’d get a clue,
Anissa Mayhew

20 Comments on “A letter to Mattel”

  1. #1 inthefastlane
    on Sep 7th, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Love the letter! luckily my beautiful brown haird daughter, never picked up on that. We seem to be through the barbie stage. might i suggest some american girl dolls?

    inthefastlanes last blog post..And Sunday is a Day of Rest

  2. #2 Rocks In My Dryer
    on Sep 7th, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    As someone who alternates monthly between blonde and brunette, I say, “hear, hear!”

    Rocks In My Dryers last blog post..Eternal Truths of Parenting: Volume 3,923

  3. #3 brittany
    on Sep 7th, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Perfect letter! AT least with Bratz dolls, all the dolls are equally skanky despite hair color and ethnic features.

    brittanys last blog post..The Pregnant Pause.

  4. #4 RC
    on Sep 7th, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Hi – Popping over from inthefastlane’s site!

    LOVE the letter! I’m brown-haired and brown-eyed and have the older sister with blond hair and green eyes. To this day (and I’m in my 30s now), I can’t shake the feeling that I’m the “darker, evil version.” Thank you Barbie, and during the 70s, every other doll maker out there.

    RCs last blog post..Memory of Trees

  5. #5 Karalyn
    on Sep 7th, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I am laughing really hard over here.
    But you are so right!
    Brunettes of the world-Unite! I too, want to be a princess.

  6. #6 Marie
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 6:10 am

    You’ve got to get your girls into the old 80’s cartoon Jem. The baddie had green hair. GREEN!
    But yes you are right, Barbie always has and always will continue to perpetuate the white blond bimbo stereotype. Why don’t we see some of her token ethnic friends in those DVDs?

  7. #7 Double Agent Girl
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 8:04 am

    YES! Jem and what? The Rockstars? I totally remember that. I totally agree that Barbie (forever) has been sending the wrong messages to the children of the world.Imagine tho, that it was Peyton who picked up on that difference. Good on you, for teaching your children to be thoughtful about the messages they are receiving. Now, on to teaching them about the callous things corportations do JUST to make money! Your girlies ARE princesses.

    Double Agent Girls last blog post..Fly

  8. #8 alayna
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Amen, sister! I can’t believe that Peyton picked up on that! As a child, I would get so excited whenever I saw a doll with brown hair & eyes, but they were few & far between. And you’re so right about the ethnic dolls, but ashamedly I have to admit that I never noticed it before. But I’ve also never noticed that all the bad girls were brunettes in those movies either, but we’ve only been watching them the past year or so, so I’ll use that as my excutse instead of admitting I’m just not quite as quick as Peyton! My only girl is blond-ish, although I suspect it will turn darker as she gets older – it has with all the boys. While I was reading this post, Lily-Grace came in just as I was getting to the pictures of the girls and she said, “Ohhh! Look at those girls!” When I asked her what she thought about them she said, “Beautiful!” Thankfully, she hasn’t been too polluted yet by Mattel! But, then she paused and said, “But the little one needs a bigger dress.” So, maybe she has been somewhat influenced by the fashion! Better big dresses than Bratz fashion! I love your letter and you should send it to Mattel – or did you already?

  9. #9 Debbie
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Oh Ha! I had the exact same “freakish Annie hairdo” for awhile – when I was about 10. I had knee-length straight brown hair, and I got sucked into the whole “curls-are-better” mindset of my fellow 5th graders. So, mom took me to her hairdresser, who said that she could not perm my hair unless I cut it shorter. Well, I’m kid, like I know that she means REALLY short. So, yeah, I had the Annie hair, and I hated it! Ha! Those pictures are buried somewhere. I didn’t have normal hair again until my sophomore year.

    Now, I whole-heartedly agree with the rest. And that Peyton – she is quick. I hate to admit that I never noticed that all the villains in those movies are brunettes. Being that all three of my kids are dark haired, you’d think one of us would’ve noticed, huh? You know, I’ve been sitting here wracking my brain, and I am having a hard time coming up with a blond villain in ANY movie. Surely there is at least ONE somewhere.

    I think perhaps you should send that letter to Mattel. I live in a city that is probably 60% Hispanic, and I know good and well that they would love to have a barbie that doesn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes. Mattel is missing the boat here.

    Have a great day!!!

  10. #10 Dawn
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    You tell ’em Anissa. Print off a hard copy of this and post it to them as well as sending them an e-mail. MAYBE they might just get the message! We can live in hope.

    Well done Peyton for picking up on something most of us hadn’t even thought about. You’re not only a beautiful girl but VERY SMART too!

    Praying for a better week for all of you. BTW, if you run into that Mum again at the school gates just give her your blog address so she can have a look at what you’re all about. Maybe she’d enjoy reading all the comments your friends have written about her! LOL

  11. #11 Jennifer (KCC)
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I never liked Barbie. I played Ninja Turtles & Captain Planet with my brother.

    But I LOVED Princess Jasmine…with all that pretty dark hair. She’s still my fave!

    Jennifer (KCC)s last blog post..‘laxin in the big bath tub

  12. #12 Holly at Tropic of Mom
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Oh yeah. And it’s not just Barbie.

    How many times do you see a brunette with brown eyes portrayed as a princess or heroine? I can only think of a few right now: Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Garner, Keira Knightly (when she chooses to be brunette), Julia Roberts (when she’s not red)…? The majority of female leads have light coloring.

  13. #13 Dan Cohen
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    In my eyes, your daughters are the true dolls, not Barbie.

    I think that we should start a new line called the Mayhew dolls.

  14. #14 Brandy
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Just have your girls play with my kids. Being evil comes very natural to my blonde hair blue eyed children.

  15. #15 Brandi
    on Sep 8th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Oh my gosh!

    That’s why I’m a blonde now!

    I noticed that my behavior had been really bad and no matter how hard I tried to change I just couldn’t be good.

    Well, guess what! The Lord gave me really dark brown hair! What was he thinking?

    I went blonde and wouldn’t you know it…I’m now a perfect angel, everyone likes me and I stopped eating all sweets!

    But, I actually am not having more fun now that I’m blonde like I thought I would.

    Brandis last blog post..PLEASE!!!

  16. #16 Heather
    on Sep 9th, 2008 at 12:38 am

    I never really liked Barbie. I liked to play with the Donnie and Marie dolls. Purple socks anyone.

    Heathers last blog post..Tampon in the purse

  17. #17 jen
    on Sep 9th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    ooo…the barbie movies.
    ugh, it’s the “outtakes” that get me…gag. (but i still manage to laugh…a little).

    even my blonde haired blue eyed daughter wishes that she could be a princess like barbie…”because then i’d be pretty!” (said in a whiny tone). blech. there’s no winning.

    but i completely agree with you…bring on the brunettes! bring on the homely barbie! bring on the barbie in a wheelchair! give my daughters someone unique to epitomize!

    jens last blog post..woulda-shoulda-coulda

  18. #18 Normal to Natalie
    on Sep 9th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    oh that is so true and i hope that the barbie people will stand up and take note! good for you for writing this. my daughter has made comments like that too.

    i think you have also inspired a post for me. i need to tell disney thank you for making the only ones that smoke be the villans! my daughter now believes that smoking = evil. as far as i am concerned that is a great thing for her to think although i have had to explain her thoughts a couple of times when she has gasped and said “YOU smoke?” and then had a look of fear. 100% of the time the smoker has agreed and confirmed to her that smoking does = evil!

    Normal to Natalies last blog post..Tell All Tuesday – Week 22

  19. #19 Evon Mease
    on Sep 9th, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    How about red heads? We need to be represented too you know! I always hated Barbie dolls….every year my parents would get me some for Christmas and every year I would try to sell them 🙂

    Great letter Anissa!

  20. #20 Average Girl
    on Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I giggled reading this!!! I am the blonde!!

    You want to see some real Barbies? Google:

    “Redneck barbie”
    “Divorced Barbie”