Yeah, you read that right. Mattel, begrudgingly admitting that maybe, just maybe, girls also like superheroes, has turned its flagship doll character into one herself. Thus when someone is in trouble, Barbie transforms from her ordinary, blonde, pink-wearing self to a super... blonde, pink-wearing superhero, I guess.
Okay, we gotta talk about this. Let's first all agree that this is not an inherently bad idea. We may wish Mattel had executed it differently, but at the end of the day, girls have a fun new hero who can take care of everybody's problems herself. That ain't bad. Although it is kind of pitiful that it took Mattel this long to figure it out — from an article at Toy News Online:
Barbie in Princess Power arrives in answer to a recent survey conducted by Mattel that revealed that nine out of ten girls around the globe 'wished there were more superheroes for girls.'
First of all, the next time you hear any movie executive or toy company executive say girls don't like superheroes, kick them in their fucking souls. Second of all, if you're wondering why Barbie is still so pink and non-ass-kicking:
However, the hybrid nature of the new range is a result of the finding that more than half of those girls asked disagreed that 'superheroes are more fun than princesses.'
"Interestingly, girls' responses were split as to whether superheroes were more fun than princesses and we know girls like to explore multiple roles when engaged in imaginative play, said Michael shore, Ph.D, vice president and head of global consumer insights at Mattel.
"Unlike other female superheroes, Barbie is the only one designed through the eyes of girls."
Yeah, that's some bullshit. Super Sparkle may be the only female superhero that strictly adheres to ancient gender biased play stereotyping, in that she's for girls and thus she's pink and cannot be shown as being aggressive in any way, to the point where she doesn't have muscle, which is very fucking different. Which is how we get adventures of Super Sparkle like this:
If for some reason you can't watch the cartoon, or keep bludgeoning yourself into unconsciousness before it finishes, here are the superheroic acts Super Sparkle engages in: 1) fixing a skateboard, 2) doing her friend's hair, 3) stopping time so one friend can do her chores in order to hang out with another friend — things that could easily accomplished by some wood glue, a brush and maybe a flat-iron, and a fucking organizer (which wouldn't have the admittedly impressive benefit of stopping time, but would at least adhere to the laws of physics). None of these things are particularly super, let alone heroic. Helping a friend in need isn't being a hero; it's just being a friend.
If you need any more of an indication that Super Sparkle here was designed by a boardroom mostly full of 60-something white men who think they know what 6-year-old girls want more than actual 6-year-old girls do, please take a look again at Super Sparkle's outfit.
To me, it looks like a Lisa Frank unicorn vomited on her, but I'm a white dude of advanced age myself. So I checked with a few of io9's female lady staffers, who happen to be women, for their opinions:
• Lauren: "She's like a knockoff wonder woman with a poor sense of color coordination."
• Meredith: "It's like Jem's sad cousin."
However, even I can notice how the outfit is so bad they change it significantly for the cartoon:
That's actually a solid outfit. There aren't five shades of pink, she doesn't have a big honkin' tiara glued to her mask, and best of all, she's not wearing a corset. She has a fucking shirt on, teaching children the radical idea that women can be superheros without showing off their cleavage.
Look, making Barbie a superhero was — and is — a great idea. Even the cartoon design is solid. But the toy itself — the complete lack of awareness why girls are attracted to superheroes — all these things are failures. The sad truth is that many girls would love to get their hands on more female superhero toys, as Mattel's research has shown. But this is just another Barbie that wants to do her friend's hair. Whether she does it in a costume or not makes no difference at all.
[Via Idle Hands]