Life

Mommy's Grounded

Will the fabulous new Ken dolls be a total flop?

By Bianca Bujan

(YouTube screengrab)

(YouTube screengrab)

The words “Barbie. Ken. Meet the new crew” splash across the screen as `80s-style night club music serenades the new line of Fashionista dolls recently released by Mattel.

A dark-skinned Barbie doll with afro puffs poses for the camera, sandwiched between Man-Bun Ken and what looks like the original blonde-haired, blue-eyed Ken’s younger, slimmer brother.

A taller Barbie enters the scene with a bleached blond, almost-shaved head, and raises one arm with the swagger of a confident woman.

A darker Ken appears on the stage donning cornrows and strikes a pose with his chocolate-haired partner, who dons a half-top-knot ‘do. Then suddenly, a brunette Barbie wearing a denim pinafore does “the sprinkler” as her crew cheers her on from the sidelines. The dance party comes to a close as a rainbow of diverse Barbie and Ken dolls line the catwalk and strike a pose.

Is this the synopsis of a strange dream I had after a late night of drinking? A hallucination after a long day of shopping for gifts for my three kids?

Nope. It’s the promotional video that plays on Mattel’s website, introducing the latest line of Barbie and Ken dolls to the world.

Mattel’s Fashionista fellas and broader Barbies are a refreshing reboot of the blonde girl-boy duo of my childhood. When I was growing up, I rejected the Ken doll altogether, opting instead for my cousin’s GI Joe figurine as my Barbie’s main mate.

Mattel has just launched 15 new Ken dolls, with eight hair colours, nine different hairstyles, in three different body types: broad, slim, and original, and they make me want to relive my childhood again, this time with a whole slew of male pals for my modern-day Barbie.

The new line of Ken dolls reminds us that body image issues and a desire for more diverse representation in toys isn’t just a female thing, and thanks to Mattel, men can now see themselves reflected in their children’s toys - well, almost.

I applaud Mattel’s diverse lineup of man dolls, but I also worry that the success of this launch will be short-lived.

Shining a spotlight on each variation of Ken in an equal way will be impossible. Trying to feature all fashion-forward fellas in the upcoming animated blockbuster, or creating advertisements for the dolls that are as inclusive as Mattel attempts to be with the 15 variations of the dude doll just won’t happen.

While the cutting-edge Ken dolls come with a melange of mane types, and in a rainbow of skin colours, they seem to maintain the same slim, toned stature. While I do appreciate the new broad-bodied Ken, I’d love to see more ethnicities represented, and where’s Bald Ken and Dad Bod Ken?

Overall I think the new Ken dolls are fabulous, but they may just be a flop once the fanfare is over.

Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, and a writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @bitsofbee and at bitsofbee.com. Comments: bitsofbee@yahoo.ca.