Is the latest controversy over a Barbie doll a Class-5 hurricane or a tempest in a teapot? Barbie puts out versions of its popular doll in various nationality outfits and with accessories including passports. Strangely, it seems to be the idea of the passport that rankles people the most.
Mexico Barbie hit shelves with a ruffled pink dress, semi-permed hair, passport and pet chihuahua, and many Mexican Americans have spoken out against the stereotype.
While all the dolls in the collection come with a passport, some critics say Mexico Barbie is culturally insensitive, rather than an educational tool that "teaches girls about the culture, traditions and ancestral dress of Mexico," as described by Mattel on its website.
Jason Ruiz, a professor of American studies at Notre Dame University told ABC News he finds common representations of Mexican Americans in pop culture as feisty, lively characters, associations that he says have outlived their time. "[Mexican Americans] are tired of being seen as merely colorful," he said.
Although Ruiz didn't find the passport offensive, he said he understood why some people might have a problem with it. "It is a point of contention and great sensitivity for people of Mexican origin, especially Mexican immigrants," he said. "Papers decide everything for immigrants from Mexico."
Despite the backlash, Mattel stands by the doll. (source)
Sure, the doll represents a stereotype. If you're going to produce one doll to represent an entire population of a country, it has to be a stereotype, but hopefully not a negative one. I know this particular line of Barbies displays Barbie in traditional costumes, and in that sense it's no different from the Indian Barbie who is wearing a sari.
It's not intended to represent Mexican-American girls, who of course wear jeans and skirts and shorts just like other American girls, but, after all, it's the Mexican Barbie, not the Mexican-American Barbie.
At least it's not a Klaus Barbie doll!
What do you think?