Toy Market Diversity: ‘No Child Left Out of Playtime’
Jessica Pellegrino – General Assignment Reporter
Last week, Mattel, one of the largest toy brands on the market today, made a bold move when they released six new forms of Barbie dolls. The new Barbies include dolls of different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.
Over the years, Mattel had been under fire for producing Barbie with an unrealistic body shape. Some believe that introduction of toys like Barbie to young girls causes a damaged body image later in life. No one could look like Barbie.
A few days after the initial release, Barbie also released an Abby Wambach Barbie. Abby Wambach is a soccer player and a lesbian. The doll is even complete with Wambach’s signature short blonde hair.
In the wake of the new released Barbies, LEGO also released a groundbreaking toy. For the first time ever, a LEGO kit will include a mini figure of a character in a wheelchair. This is not LEGO’s first dip in the toy diversity pool. Last year, the company release a blind mini figure complete with a guide dog on the side. This new figure, however, made a huge impact worldwide. Toys like these create visibility for children with disabilities.
The organization called “Toy Like Me” is a group dedicated to the diversifying of children’s toys. When asked about the LEGO release, a representative of the group said, “We’ve got genuine tears of joy right now … Lego have just rocked our brick-built world!”
“Toy Like Me” suggests that parents modify or hand make toys for their children to better suit their needs.
Mattel is not being accepted with such open arms. Critics of the company believe that pairing the dolls’ release with a TIME Magazine spread and a storm of press release suggests that the company used this release as a marketing ploy. According to Fortune Magazine, the dolls’ release came a mere week after the quarterly numbers came in, which reported Barbie sales dropped for the third consecutive year.
LEGO made no waves about their release of “Wheelchair Guy,” as the figure is aptly named. The company released it inside a kit with no extra marketing or attention put on the new creation.
In the past, Mattel has made some suspicious choices when it comes to Barbie. In past sets, Barbie’s accessories included a book titled “How to Lose Weight.” When you opened the book, it simply says “Don’t Eat.”
In recent years, however, Barbie seems to be cleaning up her act, including Career Barbies which exist with every job imaginable.
So why is it important for toys like diverse Barbie and disabled Lego guy to exist? In this day and age, kid need and deserve to be represented. Skinny, able-bodied white children are not the only children playing with toys so they should not be the only ones represented. To a little boy in a wheelchair forced to play with toy representations of able-bodied children, this is life changing.
If this trend continues, soon, no child will be left out of play time.
Photo Credit: Mike Mozart