Culture

IF A DOLL CAN GET IT, SO CAN YOU—BARBIE GETS REAL ABOUT RACISM, WHITE PRIVILEGE, AND MORE ON YOUTUBE

Barbie trended very recently for her insightful vlog on the continuing struggles of the black community and of white privilege. In recent years, the iconic brand has definitely branched out of the image it has created as an impossible standard for young girls by opening up on difficult topics that kids, and a lot of adults, need to hear.

/ 9 October 2020

The ‘Barbie’ brand has been around for decades and has been a cultural icon for young girls throughout generations. Created by Mattel, the fashion doll started out just any other toy that kids can dress up, and play through different scenarios. But throughout the years, the brand has taken a more progressive approach as it started including dolls of different skin colors, sizes, and hair textures to represent young girls all around the world, accessories pointing to different careers to showcase the endless possibilities for women, and a multimedia franchise with several movies and TV shows in tow. After six decades in the industry, Barbie’s brand has become so much more than just the typical product of social constructs and unrealistic expectations.

This is taken even a step further with Barbie’s YouTube channel, an avenue for fans to see more of their favorite fashion doll in a different light. Produced in the classic vlog-style format with some awkward cuts here and there, the library of videos feature candid moments with friends and family, and reflects some of the most iconic content themes on the platform: house tours, makeup tutorials, challenges, and sit-down discussions.

From a marketing point of view, this is a brilliant move from Barbie’s team as the channel evolved from typical brand promotions to a whole new platform that gives more personality, attitude, and depth to her character and brand. Through her raw and honest videos, they’ve taken her brand to a whole new level of authenticity and relatability — two of the most powerful themes in today’s content-driven world.

As a cultural icon, Barbie has significant influence over young children, and this is something that is not taken lightly by her team whatsoever. In fact, they’ve wholly embraced it by opening up heavy but important topics on the channel, with the aim of educating her audience with things like mental health, gaslighting, and the most recent one, racism.

Although these stories are told from the point of view of a fictional character online, and a doll initially created to showcase the “perfect woman,” the videos effectively resonate with millions of people worldwide as these are things that people experience, one way or another. The topics are also handled respectfully and with grace, and shows off a very real side to Barbie.

To keep us all up to speed with the channel’s most impactful videos, here’s a list of some of the things she has brought to light on YouTube that you should definitely check out:

 

Racism and White Privilege

 

Barbie gave Nikki the floor to talk about her “real-life” experiences on racism. The episode is short but packed with Nikki’s stories on racial profiling, discrimination, and Barbie’s reactions to herself never getting those treatments even if they were doing the exact same thing. It’s a very important conversation that also brings to light the Black Lives Matter movement, as Nikki talked about the impact of people coming together to fight for their rights.

 

Being Honest About our Feelings

 

In the middle of this pandemic and everything happening around the world, Barbie released a very raw vlog just talking about her feelings, and how unmotivated she’s been feeling to do anything — something we’ve all felt at some point during quarantine. She opened up about things not being okay, how that’s perfectly normal and okay, and how being honest about her feelings helped her get through it, day by day.

 

“Sorry”

 

In one of her rare long videos, Barbie opened up about girls’ reflex to say sorry all the time, even on things that aren’t their fault, or anyone else’s for that matter. She emphasized how girls have been trained to feel like they have to apologize when asking for something, when showing any kind of emotion, or for just occupying space. The video then went on to document a challenge she presented to her friends to not say sorry for one whole day.

Instead, she encouraged them to re-frame the situation and thank people for their understanding, if the situation calls for it: “Thank you for understanding my feelings,” rather than “Sorry that I’m feeling this way.” This approach, as Barbie shared, will make girls feel more positive about themselves, and not like they’re a burden to other people.

 

Sexism in the workplace

 

For International Women’s Day, the topic on “finding your voice” was highlighted by Barbie to bring to light the very relevant issue of women not being heard in the workplace. She shared her experience of sharing her ideas in a meeting, and being ignored by the leader, and Ken stepping in to repeat her ideas and bring the focus back to her. However, when the leader heard Ken share these ideas, he loved them! This reflects the struggles of many women who are disregarded and silenced everywhere, and Barbie eventually ended the video with some heartwarming advice on how to get past it, and how to demand to be heard — by supporting each other.

 

Gaslighting

 

One of Barbie’s most viewed vlogs is her video on people’s instinct to take out the “I’m only Joking” card when they offend someone. This one is particularly interesting because instead of the usual format where she speaks about something that was done to her, she reflected on her actions that caused someone else to be hurt. She shared how she began to realize that telling someone “hey, I’m only joking” or “I didn’t mean anything bad by it” completely invalidates the other person’s feelings, and takes the power out of their hands.

As someone who hates being treated that way, it shocked Barbie how it was her first instinct to use the same thing on someone she cares about. Eventually, she decided that her summer resolution would be to tell people when something’s not okay, and take a second before doing something to think about how it might affect other people.

 

Honorable mentions:

Forgiveness: How to Forgive Someone

Labels and Putting People in Boxes: What Does it Mean to be Yourself?

Not Listening to Bullies: Power and Empowerment / We Can Walk Away from Bullies

Massive props to the award-winning team behind Barbie’s YouTube channel for these videos, and for being so creative in their storytelling and animation style. As the videos have been produced in such a real and authentic way, its messages are also delivered effectively and with impact — which are very important when talking about such serious topics like the ones mentioned above.

We’re all behind Barbie on this one, and rooting for her mission to teach people how to take care of one another, how to be comfortable in their own bodies and emotions, and basically the foundations we need for an all-inclusive and respectful world. Let this also be a challenge to all brands and characters with such influence as Barbie to use their platform for good, and speak out on important topics.

As Barbie says at the end of her videos: Peace!