Friday, July 12, 2013

"Real" Barbie

I saw this on a few news sites, and it caught my attention. The short version is that an artist, Nickolay Lamm, has made a prototype of what Barbie would look like with proportions matching an average woman's.

By and large, I'm generally a defender of Mattel's when it comes to Barbie's design (more on that in a minute), but that doesn't mean I don't love what Lamm's created here. His doll is awesome - I'd love to see this (or something like it) appear in toy stores. It'd be great to have a realistic option along with the more stylized Barbie.

In addition, as many will no doubt notice, the doll looks far more realistic in a bikini than her official counterpart. But therein lies the defense for Mattel's doll: Lamm's version wouldn't work as well in most other outfits.

Mattel takes a lot of heat for making Barbie in unrealistic proportions. It's important to keep in mind that the clothes Barbie wears are also in unrealistic proportions. Namely, the fabric is about six times thicker than what humans wear - it has to be, since it's generally real fabric tailored to fit a twelve inch figure.

If you want a fashion doll to look normal (or at least close to normal) in a flowing ball gown, you actually want to skew the doll's proportions and make her inhumanly skinny. If you put a 1:12 scale dress on Lamm's doll, it wouldn't look right (unless the dress was carefully tailored using extremely thin fabric, but that would introduce several issues in a production run).

Of course, Barbies aren't solely packaged wearing dresses: they're also produced wearing swimsuits like the ones above. In those cases, I think the above image makes it perfectly clear a realistic proportioned doll would result in a far better product. Speaking as a toy collector, I'd far rather have the one on the right standing on a shelve than Mattel's.

I understand that Mattel has a lot a factors to consider when designing dolls (including trying to maintain a small number of body molds to keep costs down), but there are a lot of people out there who boycott Barbies due to the body shape who might be interested in another option. In addition, there are quite a few collectors - young and old - who'd like some diversity in their collection.

I sincerely hope Mattel - or one of its competitors - takes a good long look at Lamm's mock-up. It's extremely cool, and I'd love to see something like it available for purchase.

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