A new Barbie ad is pulling at viewers heartstrings by showing young girls aspiring to careers like soccer coach, curator, businesswoman, veterinarian and college professor, but critics say the adorable marketing lacks substance.
The ad, posted on the official Barbie Facebook, begins with a question: “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?”
Then, cue the cuteness.
College students take their seats, with hidden cameras posted around the room, according to the official post, before a young girl takes the floor at the front of the class and confidently introduces herself as “Gwenyth, and I’ll be your professor for today.”
The unsuspecting students eye each other. When Gwenyth announces she’ll be “talking about the brain,” the adults burst into giggles.
Next, Doctor Brooklyn, a veterinarian introduces herself to her first human customer. When he’s not quick to bite, Brooklyn proves her credentials by pointing to her handmade nametag that reads “Doctor,” scrawled in sharpie.
There’s a motivating soccer coach named Maddie, an authoritative businesswoman and an eager museum curator, all out to show the world they’re all business and fit to be bosses.
But a commercial featuring kids wouldn’t be cogent without a couple kids-say-the-darndest-things moments.
Gwenyth informs her class: “The dog’s brain can’t think as much as the human’s brain, because there is no high school for the dog.”
The misinformed curator tells guests Peter, the triceratops, is “one years old,” and that T. rex Sally is “one thousand, two million, two hundred and 52 years old.”
Brooklyn makes the false claim her cat can fly, and when Maddie’s soccer players don’t show enough enthusiasm while jogging in place, she urges them to lift their knees up “like unicorns.”
Of course, the plot twist comes at the end, when Gwenyth asks the class how big a brain is, and she raises her Barbie’s hand. It’s revealed she’s been talking to her Barbies within the confine of her bedroom the entire time.
And isn’t that what Mattel’s been having us believe the past 50 years? Young girls’ career fantasies are meant for make-believe, role-playing games, and for the women who have leaned in, professionally speaking, too often, too many of their ideas are met with you’re-too-cute winks and smiles.
Just last year, Mattel released computer engineer Barbie who came with a book compiled with the sexist mantra that women can only succeed with help from men, The Guardian reports.
“I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game.”
Emily Coyle, a visiting developmental psychology professor at Beloit College, tells Yahoo! Parenting the latest ad reminds her of a study she conducted with Barbie and young girls.
“I tried to use Barbie to make girls more interested in particular careers, including math and science careers, but basically it didn’t work,” she tells Yahoo! Parenting.
“We found that there is something so reinforcing or appealing about Barbie and how feminine she is that, even when using Barbie in a career-oriented game, what girls take away is not information about becoming an astronaut, or whatever job we’re talking about, but information about becoming Barbie.”
Aurora Sherman, an associate professor of psychology at Oregon State University, “admits the ad is clever,” Yahoo! Parenting reports, but points out Barbies with progressive careers aren’t models typically found on department store shelves, but figurines parents have to do some serious web digging to find.
“There’s nothing preventing any child from taking a Barbie in any outfit and changing her into a doctor coat,” Sherman says, “but if you don’t see the idea that you can be a doctor or professor or entrepreneur on the Barbie shelf, you won’t think you can play that way.”
The video ends with the tagline: “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.”
Keep in mind, imagining all possibilities means possibilities without Barbie, and Mattel can’t have that. Instructing an imaginary classroom is achievable with Beanie Babies, or even Mrs. Potato Head. They may even be more stimulating than Barbie.
What to you think of the Barbie ad?