Barbie is still a bit traumatized by what happened to her in 2010.
In a book by Mattel called I Can Be A Computer Engineer, Barbie was portrayed with a pink computer in tow, trying to design a game, but needing the help of boys to turn it into a reality. She also totally ruined her sister’s computer by infecting it with a virus. Engineering is so hard.
The book was widely panned and Mattel eventually pulled it from the shelves, with the following apology: “The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for.” And to the toy company’s credit, it’s been working to develop other ways of portraying Barbie as tech-savvy, taking on any career that she chooses.
This year, in the Career of the Year Barbie, she’s been reincarnated as a video game programmer. And this time, Mattel appears to have done its homework. Game Developer Barbie embodies many aspects of gamer culture.
She has pretty typical gamer style: quirky-dyed hair, trendy glasses and sneakers (and with no tiptoe high heel shaped foot!). Her accessories include a tablet, a laptop, and a headset. (None of these items are pink; contrary to what we were previously led to believe, Barbie is capable of purchasing gender-neutral technology.) While other Barbies currently on the market are all about cute outfits–there’s an entire Fashionista range–this version seems singularly focused on her job. In fact, the display on her computer screen shows real code.
Game Developer Barbie appears to be a hot commodity. The toy is already sold out on Amazon and it’s selling for just under $100 on eBay. Perhaps more importantly, women in the tech industry say that this doll isn’t just a superficial take on what it’s like to be a gamer; it accurately reflects the norms of their work. But if Mattel is truly committed to inspiring all girls to be whatever they want to be, they’ll need to make a non-white Barbie rocking a tech career.