Call them dolls or action figures, the point is we all played with some lifelike human toy when we were younger. Barbie — a waifish blonde with a hulking boyfriend — was often the default for girls. She's become the most recognizable doll in the world, but could her measurements be hurting girls' self-image? A Pittsburgh artist thinks so, and has created a realistic version of the blonde bombshell to show the difference.
Nickolay Lamm's Barbie doll has the measurements of the average 19-year-old woman, according to the measurements provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The differences between Lamm's doll and classic Barbie are stark, and they highlight the sobering truth that our ideas of physical normalcy often come from something as simple as a toy.
New Barbie has a number of body mods compared to her predecessor, which Lamm constructed in Photoshop after creating a 3-D model with the CDC's measurements. New Barbie has a smaller head, thicker neck and torso, wider hips and waist, and she stands considerably shorter than the current Barbie. She seems almost stout compared to her impossibly proportioned cohort.
"If we criticize skinny models, we should at least be open to the possibility that Barbie may negatively influence young girls as well," Lamm, 24, who has worked on recreating dolls' appearances before, such as digitally removing their makeup, told the Huffington Post in an e-mail. "Furthermore, a realistically proportioned Barbie actually looks pretty good."
If the normal-sized Barbie's proportions look pretty good, it's probably because they're more natural, more practical. The original Barbie had a number of measurements that would have rendered her all but paralyzed if she were a real woman. Her neck would be too thin and brittle to support her oversized head. Her measly 3.5-inch wrists could support no weight. The bones in her six-inch ankles and dainty feet — which would fit into a child size 3 shoe — would be crushed under the weight of her skeleton. She would have to walk on all fours to avoid paralysis.
Young girls, of course, seldom know or care about these facts. This is probably Lamm's strongest motivator throughout the project, as he believes lifelike toys — such as dolls and action figures, as opposed to cartoonish animals or monsters — leave lasting impressions on kids' self-image.
"Some people think it's okay to tell real human beings how skinny they look, yet refuse to lay the same criticism on Barbie even though young girls are probably much more exposed to her than advertisements with skinny models," he said. "Just because we think something isn't affecting us, doesn't mean that's the case. I feel a lot of our actions are based on things we don't even think about."
Lamm's hope is that Barbie's manufacturer, Mattel, will recogize the importance of a realistically proportioned doll and begin producing it on a large scale. Lamm said the doll is still marketable despite her physical changes.
"If there's even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average-sized woman in America," Lamm asked, "what's stopping Mattel from making one?"